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Congruence in Preferences and Expectations of Work-Family Role Management: Operationalization and the Relation with Work-Family Balance and Spousal Support


Employees with children differ in how they want to manage their work and family roles. By integrating the literature on boundary management and role prioritization, we develop a visual measure to assess five such preferences: work-centric (i.e., prioritizing work over family), family-centric (i.e., prioritizing family over work), and three dual-centric preferences (i.e., emphasizing both roles to a similar extent), which differ in the degree to which working parents aim to blend their work and family roles, resulting in merging, integrating, or segmenting preferences. We test the validity of our measure in two studies (ns = 156 and 172) with employed German parents. Next, in Study 3 (n = 146, two measurement points), also with employed German parents, we propose and empirically support that congruence between employees’ preferences and spouses’ expectations on how they should combine their work and family roles relates to employees’ satisfaction with work-family balance and perceptions of spousal support. Overall, our results point to the importance of similarity between how one wants to manage work and family roles and how spouses expect one to manage these roles. Thereby, the measure developed in the present studies represents an economical way to assess these preferences and expectations, which can serve as a starting point for interventions to increase congruence.

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We thank Tammy D. Allen, Alina S. Hernandez Bark, Antonella Marsella, and Farida Youssef for their feedback on earlier versions of the present article.

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Correspondence to Nina M. Junker.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

An ethics approval was not deemed necessary for the present studies based on the authors’ institution’s ethical approval guidelines. The study design and all steps followed the standard procedure and APA guidelines. All participants in Studies 1–3 were fully aware of all the study details at any time. Participants in all studies were not deceived and they knew that they could quit their participation at any time. Participation was completely voluntary and anonymous. No personal information such as names was obtained at any stage of the studies. Email-addresses were collected in Study 3 to invite participants to the second questionnaire. However, the email addresses were collected and saved in a separate questionnaire. Therefore, no links between data and email addresses could be made. Participants were not put under any stress at any time. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in Studies 1–3.

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Junker, N.M., van Dick, R. Congruence in Preferences and Expectations of Work-Family Role Management: Operationalization and the Relation with Work-Family Balance and Spousal Support. Sex Roles 82, 644–658 (2020).

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  • Boundary management
  • Work centrality
  • Family centrality
  • Congruence
  • Work-family balance
  • Spousal support