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Latino Men, Women Differ on Work-Family Conflict

But they saw both as a means to well-being, study finds

MONDAY, Aug. 6, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Low-wage male Latino workers report less conflict between work and family than white middle-class households, a new study found.

The disparity may be due to differences in attitudes about the relationship between work and family, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine wrote in the August issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

In contrast, female Latina workers reported clear conflict between the needs of work and of family.

Work and family conflict covers a broad arena of issues in which the needs of work and family are not compatible. For example, the needs of a sick child may put a worker in conflict between the needs of family and his or her employer or work-related stress may cause trouble at home.

"Work-family balance is a popular topic, yet very little is known about the work-family experiences of Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of the work force and a population that frequently finds themselves in difficult work arrangements," lead author Joseph G. Grzywacz said in a prepared statement. Research typically focuses on white families, he said.

The researchers interviewed 226 recent immigrants from rural communities in Mexico and Central America who were employed in the poultry processing industry. The survey covered questions about how much the physical and psychological demands of poultry processing work affected family life, including episodes of work-family conflict, the degree to which such conflicts contributed to poor health, and how much gender influenced the severity of work-family conflicts.

"In the United States, there's this idea that work and family are diametrically opposed -- people think that it has to be one or the other," Grzywacz said. "In white, middle-class America, everyone is talking about how combining work and family is so stressful."

Not so for Latino families, reported the researchers, at least according to the men interviewed. The surveyed workers viewed work and family as integrated, with work as a means to family well-being. As a result, there is little to no work-family conflict, especially for men. The study provided evidence suggesting that workers and their families arranged their lives in ways to minimize conflicts between work and family.

Latinas told a different story. While the men frequently reported that work had little or no effect on their families, some of the women were able to give clear examples of work-to-family conflict, citing stress and pressures from the job and supervisors. The results suggested that cultural ideals about women's responsibilities for family care elevated the potential for conflict to occur for the women, the researchers said.

More information

To learn more about work-related stress, visit the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, July 29, 2007
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