Why Work-Family Balance is So Important

By Janelle Caponigro, Neha John-Henderson, Matthew Brim | December 3, 2010 | 1 comment

Summaries of new research on the link between positive workplaces and positive families, how to protect yourself from life's woes, and the key to positive interracial interactions.

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* This Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.


Positive Workplaces, Positive Families

"A Meta-Analytic Review of the Consequences Associated with Work-Family Enrichment"

McNall, L.A.; Nicklin, J.M,; Masuda, A.D. Journal of Business and Psychology, Vol. 25 (3), September 2010, 381-396.

With more women in the workforce and more dual income families than ever before, the pressure to maintain work-family balance is especially high today. This study offers new evidence for the importance of getting this balance right: The benefits of a good day at work are actually felt at home, and visa versa. Researchers reviewed 21 studies and found that a positive experience in one setting—either at home or at work—can enrich life in the other. In addition, this positive relationship between work and family is also associated with greater job satisfaction, commitment to achievement, and family satisfaction. What’s more, this relationship is cyclical: When positive experiences at work extend to home, you are then more likely to feel even more positively about your job. The results suggest it’s important for employers to encourage and support work-family balance and decrease work conflict, as this will lead to happier families—and, in turn, happier employees. —Janelle Caponigro

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Stress Protection

"The Absence of Positive Psychological (Eudemonic) Well-Being as a Risk Factor for Depression: A Ten-Year Cohort Study"

Wood, A.M.; Joseph, S. Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol. 122 (3), May 2010, 213-217.

This study investigated whether positive well-being—including qualities such as self-acceptance, autonomy, purpose in life, positive relationships with others, and personal growth—helps people remain in good psychological health. The researchers found that individuals who reported low positive well-being were twice as likely to develop depression 10 years later than those who rated themselves as having greater positive well-being. In addition, the results suggest positive well-being can help someone maintain psychological health even when faced with stressful situations such as financial difficulties or problems with physical health. These findings point to the influential role of positive well-being, which is different from basic psychological health, in protecting people from the effects of negative life experiences. —Janelle Caponigro

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The Key to Positive Interracial Interactions

"Routes to Positive Interracial Interactions: Approaching Egalitarianism or Avoiding Prejudice"

By Plant, E.S.; Devine, P.G.; Peruche, M.B. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 36 (9), September 2010, 1135-1147.

This study examined what factors contribute to more positive interracial interactions—an important topic, given the increasing diversity of the United States. It found that people who are more internally motivated to respond to interracial interactions without prejudice—that is, people who deeply believe that all individuals are equal—tend to act in a way that promotes equality, and, as a result, these interactions are perceived by the minority group as less prejudiced. Conversely, people who are more externally motivated—that is, mainly concerned about being perceived as racist by others—tend to approach interracial interactions by actively avoiding negative outcomes like prejudice. Ironically, it is these people who are actually more likely to be perceived as prejudiced by others. —Janelle Caponigro

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