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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
  5. Method
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. References

This study adopted social exchange theory to investigate whether work-to-family enrichment functioned as a mediator between work support (supervisor support, co-worker support, and organisational support) and job satisfaction among 543 employees in two cities in China. A series of confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) supported a 10-item Work Support Scale measuring supervisor support, co-worker support, and organisational support. Structural equation modelling (SEM) results showed that work-to-family enrichment fully mediated the association of supervisor support and organisational support with job satisfaction. Based on multiple group comparisons, the proposed model fit both genders and family types (single living with extended family vs. married living with family members). The critical ratios for parameter differences indicated that the relationship between work-to-family enrichment and job satisfaction was significantly stronger for females than for males. The implications of findings and directions for future research on work–family enrichment are discussed in the paper.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
  5. Method
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. References

Work and family are the most central and salient domains in one's life. Given the increasing number of dual-earner couples and single-parent workers, as well as greater elder care responsibilities, the work–family interface has become an important but also complex issue in contemporary societies. In line with the development of positive organisational behaviour (POB; Bakker & Schaufeli, 2008; Luthans, 2002), there is a growing consensus for an expansion of the work–family paradigm to include the positive side of the work–family interface rather than merely the negative side (see the review by Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux, & Brinley, 2005). Work–family enrichment has been suggested as the best positive work–family construct because it captures the mechanism of the positive work–family interface with instrumental and affective paths and is conceptualised as “the extent to which experiences in one role improve the quality of life in the other role” (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006, p. 72). This emerging focus on enrichment supplements the dominant conflict perspectives by identifying new ways of cultivating human resource strengths. It is thus important to investigate the potential antecedents and outcomes of work–family enrichment.

Kossek, Baltes, and Matthews (2011) have recently suggested that there is limited international sampling in work–family studies. Cultural characteristics and the macro-environment in Chinese society may elicit different opportunities for individuals to achieve work–family enrichment than in Western societies. Reciprocity, or bao, is a social belief in Chinese culture (Leung, 2010). Under the influence of Confucianism and Buddhism, when Chinese employees perceive that they have positive work–family interfaces, they may perceive their organisations/supervisors to be more supportive and may reciprocate with positive feelings towards their jobs and organisations, such as higher job satisfaction and lower strain (e.g. Salanova, Agut, & Peiró, 2005). We thus believe that China is a suitable context in which to examine work–family enrichment processes. In the study reported here, we adopted social exchange theory (which explains a mechanism similar to reciprocity or bao) to examine the mediating role of work-to-family enrichment between work support and job satisfaction among Chinese employees.

Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
  5. Method
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. References

Work–Family Enrichment, Domain-Specific Resources/Outcomes, and Social Exchange Theory

Carlson, Kacmar, Wayne, and Grzywacz (2006) described the bi-directional and multidimensional concept of work–family enrichment whereby work and family provide individuals with somewhat distinct resources that can be used to improve role performance and quality of life in other domains. Following a dominant model in the work–family literature (Frone, 2003), the bi-directional constructs of work–family enrichment are empirically distinct and have “domain-specific” patterns (Byron, 2005). That is, predictors stem from the originating role domain, and consequences belong to the receiving role domain. Wayne, Grzywacz, Carlson, and Kacmar (2007) introduced the Resource-Gain-Development (RGD) perspective, which is consistent with the domain-specific model on the generating process of work–family enrichment. From the RGD perspective, the key enablers of growth and development—and consequently also of work–family enrichment—are personal and environmental resources in the originating domain. Accordingly, as the core component of resources is from the originating domain, work-based support is considered to be a crucial driver of the affective and instrumental work–family enrichment process (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007; Greenhaus & Powell, 2006; Grzywacz & Bass, 2003) because it fosters employees' growth, learning, and development that enhances the quality of family life, and generates positive affect and facilitates individuals to achieve their goals.

Considering outcomes, cross-domain theory is widely adopted (e.g. Wadsworth & Owens, 2007). This theory is consistent with the domain-specific model in that it considers work-to-family enrichment to predominantly affect the family domain, whereas family-to-work enrichment mainly affects the work domain. However, there are some empirical and theoretical reasons to suspect that this may not hold true in all situations, particularly in the case of affective consequences such as satisfaction (Amstad, Meier, Fasel, Elfering, & Semmer, 2011; Shockley & Singla, 2011; Wayne et al., 2007). Recent studies have found that the role from which enrichment originates is more strongly related to various outcomes than the role from which the enrichment is received (McNall, Nicklin, & Masuda, 2010; Shockley & Singla, 2011). Shockley and Singla (2011) proposed the matching-domain hypothesis, and found that work-to-family enhancement was correlated with job satisfaction rather than family satisfaction, whereas family-to-work enhancement was correlated with family satisfaction rather than work satisfaction. It may be that when individuals make attributions about the benefits of one role over the other, the primary result is positive affect and behavioural investment in the role seen as providing the benefit (Wayne, Musisca, & Fleeson, 2004). In sum, domain-specific resources should be matched with domain-specific outcomes (Hakanen, Peeters, & Perhoniemi, 2011).

Social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) can be employed in the workplace to explain these relationships. This theory states that individuals seem to reciprocate in the form of more favourable attitudes towards the domain that is perceived to be the originator of the resource generation. Applying this to the work–family interface, employees and their organisations are two exchange counterparts. When employees perceive that their organisations are helping them to integrate their work and family roles, they perceive those organisations to be more supportive and consequently feel obligated to reciprocate with positive feelings about their jobs and organisations (Aryee, Srinivas, & Tan, 2005; Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002). In other words, employees will attribute their increased efficiency and performance in the family to the organisation that provides family-friendly support, and will hence respond favourably to the organisation in the form of positive job attitudes such as feeling more satisfied with their work.

Work Support, Work-to-Family Enrichment, and Job Satisfaction

Work resources may instigate a motivational process leading to positive organisational outcomes (Salanova et al., 2005). Allen (2001) and Behson (2002) indicated that a supportive work–family culture (support from one's organisation, direct supervisors, and colleagues) could make the organisation a more pleasant place in which to work, which can positively affect employees' well-being. This implies that work support can derive from various sources, including support from supervisor, co-workers, and the organisation. In this study, these three supports were grouped under the umbrella term of “work support”.

Recent empirical studies have tended to provide separate evidence for the positive relationship between the three types of work support and job satisfaction. It has been found that supervisory support has both direct and indirect positive associations with employee job attitudes (Allen, 2001). Because supervisors administer organisational family-supportive benefits, their willingness to allow employees to take advantage of those benefits influences job attitudes as well. Previous studies have also shown that social support from peers or co-workers increases the likelihood of being successful in achieving one's work goals, alleviates the impact of work overload on strain, and enhances job satisfaction (Bakker & Demerouti, 2008; Ducharme & Martin, 2000). In terms of organisational support and job satisfaction, it has been argued that a supportive environment creates a resource base for employees covering time, flexibility, and advice, as well as psychological resources including self-acceptance, which develop positive affect towards work (Premeaux, Adkins, & Mossholder, 2007).

Some empirical findings point to the plausible positive relationship between work support (work resources) and work-to-family enrichment. Supervisor support, co-worker support, and organisational support are crucial antecedents of work–family enrichment (Aryee et al., 2005; Baral & Bhargava, 2010; Beutell & Wittig-Berman, 2008; Lapierre & Allen, 2006; Wadsworth & Owens, 2007) because social support at work can alleviate most work-related tension and strain (Viswesvaran, Sanchez, & Fisher, 1999). Such support potentially provides the energy and psychological resource base for employees to participate in family-related activities and enhance their satisfaction and performance in the family domain, suggesting work–family enrichment. According to Greenhaus and Powell's (2006) model of work–family enrichment and the study by Marcinkus, Whelan-Berry, and Gordon (2007), work-to-family enrichment and work support, both dual-path processes (instrumental and expressive), relate to positive work outcomes. These findings suggest that work–family enrichment might be a mediator: the effect of work resources, such as work support, through perceived work-to-family enrichment will spill over to the family and will generate positive feelings at work.

Taken together, with reference to existing studies which suggest that a supportive organisational environment and supportive relationships at work may have a significant association with employees' positive feelings about work, we therefore formulate the following hypotheses:

  • H1: Work support (supervisor support, co-worker support, and organisational support) will be positively related to job satisfaction.
  • H2: Work-to-family enrichment will be positively related to job satisfaction.

The empirical evidence obtained on the potential mediating role of work–family enrichment in the link between work support and work well-being has mostly been indirect. The Marcinkus et al. (2007) study on midlife working women indicated a weak partial mediation of the general work–family balance on the relationship between social support (work-based and personal) and work outcomes. The weakness of the partial mediation could be attributed to the unmatched domains from where the mediator came. It is reasonable to believe that the role of work support on positive work outcomes (e.g. job satisfaction) may arise from the effective functioning of the work-to-family enrichment (Baral & Bhargava, 2010). Hence, we propose the following hypothesis:

  • H3: Work-to-family enrichment will be a mediator between work support (supervisor support, co-worker support, and organisational support) and job satisfaction.

The proposed theoretical model of the study is depicted in Figure 1.

figure

Figure 1. Proposed model of the study.

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The Present Study

Most research on the work–family interface has been conducted in Western working populations and there is a paucity of similar studies conducted in China. As the population of China is about one-fifth of the world total, it is valuable to obtain data from Chinese employees for comparison with Western findings in work–family enrichment research. In addition, as China is transforming into a society oriented around a market economy and social modernisation, it is also experiencing rapid change in both work and life styles, resulting in more interference and interactions between the work and family domains (Lu, Shi, & Lawler, 2002; Siu, Spector, Cooper, & Lu, 2005). Compared with their individualistic counterparts, Chinese tend to place more emphasis on work than on leisure, have less concern about work intruding into non-work situations, and see work as contributing to the family rather than competing with it, leading to family member appreciation and support that helps alleviate work–family pressure, and thus less work–family conflict (e.g. Spector, Allen, Poelmans, Lapierre, Cooper, O'Driscoll, Sanchez, Abarca, Alexandrova, Beham, Brough, Ferreiro, Fraile, Lu, Lu, Moreno-Velázquez, Pagon, Pitariu, Salamatov, Shima, Simoni, Siu, & Widerszal-Bazyl, 2007; Yang, 2005). Along with this greater emphasis on work, one would expect the relationships among work support, work-to-family enrichment, and work-related outcomes to be even stronger in Chinese than in Western samples.

A number of work–family studies have been conducted in China, or have compared Chinese and Western societies, but results have been inconsistent (Lu, Siu, Chen, & Wang, 2011; Lu, Siu, Spector, & Shi, 2009; Spector et al., 2007; Siu, Lu, Brough, Lu, Bakker, Kalliath, O'Driscoll, Phillips, Chen, Lo, Sit, & Shi, 2010; Yang, Chen, Choi, & Zou, 2000). For instance, Lu et al. (2009) found that childcare responsibilities, working hours, monthly salary, and organisational family-friendly policy were positively related to the conflict component of work–family balance; whereas new parental experience, spouse support, family-friendly supervisors and co-workers had significant positive effects on the facilitation component of work–family balance. Furthermore, only two studies have examined work–family enrichment (Lu et al., 2011; Siu et al., 2010) and one has partly examined work–family facilitation (Lu et al., 2009). None of these studies investigated any distal outcomes of work–family enrichment. The current study is the first comprehensive study to examine the antecedents, outcomes, and mediating role of work-to-family enrichment in a larger sample of male and female employees from different occupational groups in a Chinese context.

Moreover, in collectivistic cultures, specifically Chinese cultures, the family has been envisaged as a major source of ego strength for individuals, and traditional views of gender roles are more likely to be found. It would be interesting to investigate the gender roles and family types in contemporary Chinese employees by comparing males and females as well as those who are married and live with a spouse and/or a child (or children) to those who are single and live with an extended family or family of origin (i.e. with their parents). In other words, a novel aspect of our study is its examination of whether the mediating role of work-to-family enrichment applies to both genders and different family types. To reiterate, the purposes of the study were first to conduct an empirical investigation of work-to-family enrichment, which plays a mediating role on the psychosocial path from work support to job satisfaction. Second, we sought to extend Western theories of work–family enrichment to a Chinese sample. Finally, we set out to investigate the mediating role of work-to-family enrichment for different genders and family types.

Method

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
  5. Method
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. References

Participants and Procedures

Data were collected through a self-administered questionnaire survey of employees in Hong Kong and Hangzhou. A total of 978 completed questionnaires were received for a response rate of 87 per cent. Our primary goal of recruiting participants in two Chinese cities was to enhance the overall generalisability of our findings. Recently, it has been reported that there are more similarities than differences in work-related values across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and that Confucian-related values are still deeply rooted in the three regions (Chia, Egri, Ralston, Fu, Kuo, Lee, Li, & Moon, 2007). We thus did not intend to conduct a comparative study. After excluding the responses of those participants who reported that they were “living alone”, as well as those questionnaires with missing data, 543 completed surveys were used. The respondents were drawn by a purposive sampling method from different occupational groups including high technology companies, hospitals, schools, factories, and government through a designated person in a chosen organisation/company. Among the 543 employees there were 232 males (42.7%) and 309 females (56.9%) in service industries in Hong Kong (n = 300, 55.2%) and Hangzhou (n = 243, 44.8%). Their mean age was 37.2 years (SD = 9.94), with an average work experience of 9.3 years (SD = 8.91). Concerning marital status, 22.1 per cent of them (n = 120) were single or never married and living in an extended family or family of origin (i.e. living with their parents), and 77.9 per cent (n = 423) were married or cohabiting with a spouse and children (if any).

The survey instruments were in Chinese. The first two authors were responsible for the translation of the items from English to Chinese. Two final year students majoring in translation were responsible for the back-translation processes (Brislin, 1980). The first two authors then compared the two versions and fine-tuned the wording to ensure readability and validity of meaning. A survey booklet containing a cover letter explaining the purpose of the study and the questionnaire was distributed to all participants. The participants were assured of their anonymity and the confidentiality of their responses.

Measures

Work Support

A concise scale of work support, comprising supervisor support, co-worker support, and organisational support, was developed for this study by adapting existing Western scales. The scale comprised four items taken from the work–home culture scale (Thompson, Beauvais, & Lyness, 1999; Dikkers, Geurts, Dulk, Peper, Taris, & Kompier, 2007) to measure organisational support. They were “Managers in this organisation are generally considerate towards the private life of employees”, “In this organisation, people are sympathetic towards care responsibilities of employees”, “In this organisation it is considered important that, beyond their work, employees have sufficient time left for their private life”, and “This organisation is supportive of employees who want to switch to less demanding jobs for private reasons”. Participants rated their experiences on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = totally disagree, 5 = totally agree). Supervisor support and co-worker support were measured on the scales developed by O'Driscoll, Brough, and Kalliath (2004), with three items each. Three sample items are “How often do you get helpful information or advice from your supervisor?”, “How often do you get sympathetic understanding and concern from your supervisor”, and “How often do you get clear and helpful feedback from your supervisor?” The participants responded on a 6-point Likert scale (1 = never, 6 = all the time). The alpha coefficients for organisational support, supervisor support, and co-worker support were.77,.89, and.90, respectively. Higher scores indicated that the participants perceived more support from others.

Work-to-Family Enrichment

Work-to-family enrichment was developed and adapted from the measure established and validated by Carlson et al. (2006). Nine items were used to measure three dimensions: development, affect, and capital. Sample items were “My involvement in my work helps me to understand different viewpoints and this helps me to be a better family member”, for “development”; “My involvement in my work puts me in a good mood and this helps me to be a better family member”, for “affect”; and “My involvement in my work helps me feel personally fulfilled and this helps me to be a better family member”, for “capital”. The participants responded on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). The alpha coefficient for the nine items (α =.91) was high. Higher scores indicated that the participants perceived greater enrichment.

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction was assessed with the three-item job satisfaction subscale of the Michigan Organizational Assessment Questionnaire (Cammann, Fichman, Jenkins, & Klesh, 1979). The Chinese translated items were used by Siu et al. (Siu et al., 2005; Siu, Lu, & Spector, 2007) and found to be reliable. A sample item is “All in all, I am satisfied with my job”. Participants responded on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). The alpha coefficient for job satisfaction was.74, with higher scores indicating higher levels of job satisfaction.

Validation of Work Support Scale

We first conducted a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to examine the three-factor structure of the scale. The results suggested that the three-factor model fit best to the empirical data (df = 32, χ2 = 101.12, p <.001, SRMR =.026, NNFI =.97, CFI =.98, RMSEA =.063). In addition, that model fit significantly better than the alternative one-factor model: Δdf = 3, Δχ2 = 910.52, p <.001. We also fitted a two-factor model in which supervisor support and co-worker support were collapsed into one factor and another two-factor model in which supervisor support and organisational support were collapsed into one factor. It appears that the three-factor structure fit better than these two-factor structures (Δdf = 2, Δχ2 = 496.41, p <.001; Δdf = 2, Δχ2 = 397.98, p <.001). The remaining fit indices of the three-factor model were also slightly better than those of the two-factor models. Hence, it can be concluded that the hypothesised three-factor model of work support with supervisor support, co-worker support, organisational support as separate but correlated factors fit quite well to the data.

Assessment of Common Method Variance

Considering the potential problem of common method variance, we conducted Harman's single-factor test to examine whether a general factor emerged and accounted for the majority of covariance among the measures. In this statistical procedure, all of the items were entered into an exploratory factor analysis with an unrotated principal axis factoring procedure. If a substantial amount of common method variance had been present, a single factor would have emerged from the factor analysis or one general factor would have accounted for the majority of the covariance among variables. The results showed that six factors emerged with eigenvalues greater than 1. The three unrotated factors together accounted for 59.42 per cent of variance, and the first component only accounted for 33.47 per cent of the total variance. Thus, common method variance was not of great concern and it was unlikely to significantly confound the interpretation of the results.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
  5. Method
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. References

Correlational Analyses

We first computed bivariate correlations to examine the associations among the main variables in this study. Table 1 shows that supervisor support, co-worker support, and organisational support were positively correlated with job satisfaction (r =.31, p <.001; r =.24, p <.001; r =.29, p <.001) and work-to-family enrichment (r =.37, p <.001; r =.26, p <.001; r =.42, p <.001). We also found that work-to-family enrichment was positively associated with job satisfaction (r =.42, p <.001).

Table 1. Descriptive Statistics, Correlations, and Reliabilities for Main Variables (N = 543)
 Mean SD 123456789
  1. Notes: * p <.05; ** p <.01; *** p <.001, Cronbach's alpha reliabilities are in parentheses on the diagonal where appropriate; Gender: 1 = Male, 2 = Female; Marital status: 1 = single or never married, 2 = married or cohabiting.

1. Gender        
2. Age37.209.94−.05       
3. Marital status.06.60***       
4. Tenure9.328.91−.07.59*** .39***      
5. Supervisor support3.241.03−.06−.12** −.19*** −.11* (.89)    
6. Co-worker support3.530.98−.03−.16*** −.25*** −.12** .60*** (.90)   
7. Organisational support3.010.76−.04−.06−.09* −.02.46*** .31*** (.77)  
8. Work-to-family enrichment3.47.70−.03.03−.00.01.37*** .26*** .42*** (.91) 
9. Job satisfaction3.48.74.03.09* .01.03.31*** .24*** .29*** .42*** (.74)

Model Testing

All of the structural equation modelling analyses were completed using Amos 19.0. The fit statistics for the models are shown in Table 2. First, the proposed model (Model A) in which the path coefficients among the five latent variables were freely estimated was tested. The absolute values of NNFI and CFI were well above.95, and those for SRMR and RMSEA were around.05 for Model A. Then, a series of alternative structural models were tested against each other. After comparing the baseline model (Model B), in which all path coefficients among the five latent variables were constrained to zero, to the direct model (Model C), in which all path coefficients to and from work-to-family enrichment were constrained to zero, we found that Model C produced a significantly better fit to the data compared to Model B (Δdf = 3, Δχ2 = 78.96, p <.001). In Model C, the path coefficients were significant from supervisor support and organisational support to job satisfaction, but insignificant from co-worker support to job satisfaction. Thus, Hypothesis 1 was partially supported. Then, Model D, in which all path coefficients from the three forms of work support were constrained to zero, was also compared to the baseline model (Model B). Hypothesis 2 was supported because Model D produced a significantly better fit to the data compared to Model B (Δdf = 1, Δχ2 = 114.68, p <.001) and the path coefficient from work-to-family enrichment to job satisfaction was significant. The full mediation model (Model E), in which all path coefficients from the three forms of work support to job satisfaction were constrained to zero, was also compared to Model C and Model D. The results showed that Model E produced a significantly better fit to the data compared to Model C (Δdf = 1, Δχ2 = 170.32, p <.001) and Model D (Δdf = 3, Δχ2 = 134.60, p <.001). Finally, the proposed model (Model A) was compared to Model E, and the results showed that Model A fit the data significantly better than Model E (Δdf = 3, Δχ2 = 13.70, p <.01). We thus concluded that our proposed model (Model A) provided the most parsimonious fit to the data.

Table 2. Model Fit Summary and Nested Model Comparisons (N = 543)
ModelChi-square df p SRMRNNFICFIRMSEA
  1. Notes: SRMR = standard root mean square residual; NNFI = non-normed fit index; CFI = comparative fit index; RMSEA = root mean square error of approximation.

  2. Model A: the proposed model, no path coefficients among the five latent variables were constrained to zero.

  3. Model B: all path coefficients among the five latent variables were constrained to zero.

  4. Model C: all path coefficients to and from work-to-family enrichment were constrained to zero.

  5. Model D: all path coefficients from three work supports were constrained to zero.

  6. Model E: all path coefficients from the three work supports to job satisfaction were constrained to zero.

Model A502.00197.000.043.95.96.053
Model B764.98204.000.183.91.92.071
Model C686.02201.000.169.92.93.067
Model D650.30203.000.160.93.94.064
Model E515.70200.000.048.95.96.050

The paths and parameter estimates for the proposed model (Model A) are shown in Figure 2, which indicates that work-to-family enrichment had the greatest association with job satisfaction and the path coefficients from work support to job satisfaction become insignificant after adding work-to-family enrichment. It mediated the relationships between supervisor support and organisational support on the one hand and job satisfaction on the other, but failed to mediate the relationship between co-worker support and job satisfaction because the path coefficient between co-worker support and work-to-family enrichment was non-significant. As the direct effects of supervisor support and organisational support on job satisfaction were not significant, hence work-to-family enrichment fully mediated the relationship between them. To further confirm the mediating role of work-to-family enrichment, we used a bootstrapping analysis (sample = 1,000) to assess the significance of each indirect effect (Cheung & Lau, 2008). The results showed that the two-sided bias-corrected bootstrap confidence interval for the indirect effect of supervisor support on job satisfaction through work-to-family enrichment was [0.008, 0.104], for the indirect effect of co-worker support on job satisfaction was [−0.032, 0.044] and for the indirect effect of organisational support on job satisfaction was [0.073, 0.203]. Thus, the indirect (mediated) effects of supervisor support and organisational support on job satisfaction were both significant, whereas the indirect effect of co-worker support on job satisfaction was not significant, consistent with the aforementioned results. Thus, Hypothesis 3 was almost fully supported.

figure

Figure 2. Path diagram and standardised estimates (N = 543).

Note: Summary of standardised path coefficients for the hypothesised model with the full sample (N = 543). Solid lines represent significant coefficients, and dotted lines represent non-significant coefficients, * p <.05; ** p <.01; *** p <.001.

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To examine whether the findings based on the full sample were invariant across gender and marital status/living arrangements, a series of within- and between-group models was specified. For example, to examine invariance across gender, we first computed the model separately for males and females. Second, to examine whether the magnitude or direction of each hypothesised relationship was invariant across gender, we specified two simultaneous between-group models. In one between-group model, all of the parameters were freely estimated within each gender group. In the other between-group model, the hypothesised relationships were constrained to be invariant across gender. If the χ2 for the constrained model were to be significantly larger than the χ2 for the unconstrained model, the assumption of invariance would not be tenable (Bollen, 1989). The results of these analyses are provided in Table 3. Concerning gender, an examination of the within-group fit indices (Table 3, rows 5 and 6) reveals that the model fit both the male and female subgroups well. The χ2 values for the unconstrained and constrained simultaneous between-group analyses are presented on rows 7 and 8, respectively. The between-group χ2 difference test (Δdf = 7, Δχ2 = 21.53, p <.05) indicated that there was significant difference across gender in the parameter estimates for the hypothesised relationships. The path coefficients for two subgroups were compared, and the results are shown in Table 4. The critical ratio for differences (a statistic for testing the hypothesis that some two-model parameters are equal in the population) showed that the relationship between work-to-family enrichment and job satisfaction was significantly stronger for females than males, although the two parameters were both significant themselves. Concerning marital status and living arrangements, the within-group fit indices revealed that the model fit well for those respondents who were married/cohabiting and living in a nuclear family, and also those who were single and living in an extended family (see Table 3, rows 1 and 2). The χ2 values for the unconstrained and constrained simultaneous between-group analyses are presented on rows 3 and 4, respectively. The between-group χ2 difference test (Δdf = 7, Δχ2 = 4.93, p >.05) indicated that there were no significant differences across the two subgroups in terms of the parameter estimates for the hypothesised relationships.

Table 3. Goodness-of-Fit Information for Within- and Between-Group Comparisons (N = 543)
RowGroupChi-square df SRMRNNFICFIRMSEA
  1. Notes: Unconstrained between-group model means all of the parameter estimates were freely estimated within subgroups.

  2. Constrained between-group model means the hypothesised relationships were constrained to be invariant across subgroups.

  3. SRMR = standard root mean square residual; NNFI = non-normed fit index; CFI = comparative fit index, RMSEA = root mean square error of approximation.

  4. * p <.05; ** p <.01; *** p <.001.

 Marital status      
1Single (within-group, n = 120)323.25*** 1970.0670.920.930.073
2Married (within-group, n = 423)482.27*** 1970.0450.940.950.059
3Unconstrained between-group model806.40*** 3940.0670.930.940.044
4Constrained between-group model811.33*** 4010.0700.930.940.043
 Gender      
5Male (within-group, n = 232)432.33*** 1970.0520.910.920.072
6Female (within-group, n = 309)388.23*** 1970.0510.950.950.056
7Unconstrained between-group model820.65*** 3940.0520.930.940.045
8Constrained between-group model842.18*** 4010.0600.930.940.045
Table 4. Hypothesised Path Coefficients for Groups of Males and Females (N = 543)
 MalesFemalesCR for difference
  1. Notes: SS = Supervisor support, CS = Co-worker support, OS = Organisational support, WFE = Work-to-family enrichment, JS = Job satisfaction; * p <.05; ** p <.01; *** p <.001.

SS to WFE.19.19* −.62
CS to WFE−.05.08.88
OS to WFE.41*** .35*** −1.62
SS to JS.03.19* 1.18
CS to JS.07−.04−.83
OS to JS.25* −.01−1.66
WFE to JS.29*** .57*** 3.88***

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
  5. Method
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. References

Our main aim in this study was to investigate the mediating role of work-to-family enrichment in the relationship between work support and job satisfaction in a large sample of male and female employees from different occupational groups in a Chinese context. The results showed that work support (work resources of supervisor support, organisational support) and work-to-family enrichment were related to job satisfaction. These findings corroborated those of previous studies in Western societies (e.g. Allen, 2001; Allis & O'Driscoll, 2008; Behson, 2002; Salanova et al., 2005). Our results supported the hypothesis that work support (specifically supervisor support and organisational support) is an important antecedent of work-to-family enrichment, consistent with the existing work–family enrichment model (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006; Carlson et al., 2006). Among the three factors underlying the concept of “work support”, organisational support acted as the most proximal factor leading to work-to-family enrichment. Our results corroborate previous research findings in that the underlying norms pertaining to work–family enrichment will most likely influence the degree to which employees feel truly supported and experience positive affect at work to the benefit of their family lives (Behson, 2005; Wayne, Randel, & Stevens, 2006).

In addition, our results indicate that work-to-family enrichment has a significant mediating role in the relationship between work support (supervisor support and organisational support) and job satisfaction. This could be explained by social exchange theory in that when employees perceive that their organisations are helping them to integrate their work and family roles, they perceive those organisations to be more supportive and feel more obligated to reciprocate by feeling more satisfied with their jobs (Aryee et al., 2005).

As mentioned earlier, the results of studies on the work–family interface are somewhat inconsistent, particularly when satisfaction is a consequence. For instance, job satisfaction has been more related to work-to-family conflict than family-to-work conflict (Amstad et al., 2011), and work-to-family enhancement has been more related to job satisfaction than family satisfaction (McNall et al., 2010). These findings could be inconsistent because many researchers have mainly adopted cross-domain theory (e.g. Wadsworth & Owen, 2007). The consistent findings of our study using the work domain, work-to-family enrichment, and job satisfaction provide support for the claim that domain-specific resources should be matched with domain-specific outcomes (Hakanen et al., 2011; Shockley & Singla, 2011).

Contrary to the results of previous studies (Bakker & Demerouti, 2008; Ducharme & Martin, 2000; Lu et al., 2009), we did not find a positive association between co-worker support and work-to-family enrichment or a direct relationship with job satisfaction. Possibly, the support rendered by the immediate supervisor and organisation is more vital for increased satisfaction in the work domain because it benefits family issues rather than co-worker support (Lu et al., 2009).

Another aim of this study was to examine the gender difference and different family types in Chinese collectivistic culture. Work-to-family enrichment was a mediator between work support and job satisfaction for both genders and family types (those who are married and live with a spouse and/or a child/children versus those who are single and live with an extended family or family of origin, i.e. with their parents), which showed a good generalisation of the proposed model.

Our study also revealed two more interesting findings. There was no significant difference between two family concepts on the proposed full mediating model, which recalled the importance of the traditional family concept in China (the extended family). The model fit for the female subgroup was significantly better than for the male subgroup. The only significant difference was that the relationship between work-to-family enrichment and job satisfaction was stronger for female than male respondents, although the two parameters were both significant themselves. It is likely that for the female employees the contribution of and need for a family was much more important, and they were more satisfied with jobs that they considered to be family-friendly.

Research Contributions

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive study to assess the antecedent, outcome, and mediating role of work-to-family enrichment in a Chinese work context. The mediating process, from work support through work–family enrichment to job satisfaction, allows for a more detailed assessment of the effects of work-related resources on positive work-related outcomes. These findings indicated that work-to-family enrichment is an important factor that enhances job satisfaction, yet it has been largely neglected in research in Western and Chinese societies. In other words, supervisor support and organisational support do not necessarily promote employee job satisfaction by reducing work demands. Rather, supervisors and organisations at large could enhance employee job satisfaction by providing support that could plausibly increase the efficiency and functioning of one's family domain. This points to the possibility that the effects of work support through perceived work–family enrichment will spill over to the work and family domains, and hence will improve employee attitudes at work, supporting Western social exchange theory and reciprocity social belief (or bao) in Chinese culture.

We found that the proposed psychological processes seem to hold for both genders, which partially supports the findings of previous work–family studies in China (Lu et al., 2009; Siu et al., 2010) and extends the Lu et al. (2011) study, in which women alone were participants. As for individuals with different marital status and living arrangements, the proposed model equally fit for the two subgroups, indicating that the combination of work and family is relevant to both the conventional family concept (living with a spouse and/or child) in Western society and the traditional “extended family” concept (single, living with parents or family members) in contemporary Chinese culture. In other words, we find that the mediating role of work-to-family enrichment applies to both family types. To reiterate, this finding is another novelty in the work–family research.

Practical Implications

The practical implications of the findings of this study are that CEOs or HR management should nourish positive and caring climates in the workplace, create a cohesive team spirit so that staff will feel they receive more organisational support, and provide more work resources in the workplace such as family-friendly policies, supervisor support, and job autonomy. Organisations in Chinese societies should continue to offer supportive organisational policies and train managers and other employees to identify the array of sources and types possible and implement ways in which they can support employee efforts in integrating work and family, especially for female employees (Marcinkus et al., 2007; Siu & Phillips, 2007). Work–family enrichment appears to be an important construct with significant implications for managers who want to enhance job satisfaction in complex demographic workplaces.

Limitations and Future Research

This study has several limitations, and future directions warrant discussion. First, we did not assess a parallel mediating factor, family support and family satisfaction, which may bridge the relationship between family resources and work–family enrichment. Second, the study was based on self-reports that may raise questions of common method bias (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Third, the study was cross-sectional, which implies that no conclusion can be drawn regarding the causal direction of the relationships. Because the relationships among variables are associations, a longitudinal design is required to more accurately determine the direction of causality. Finally, this study did not examine work–family conflict. According to previous literature, work support can decrease conflict, which can result in higher job satisfaction. Measuring both work–family conflict and enrichment would have provided a more complete picture. Future research should focus on assessing both relationships over time, which would also offer the opportunity to gain insight into the dynamics of the work–family interface as it evolves and changes. It would also be beneficial to include objective indicators of job performance in future research to validate and expand our findings.

Conclusion

This study has revealed a neglected underlying mechanism of work–family enrichment processes by providing evidence that work support is an antecedent and job satisfaction is an outcome of work-to-family enrichment in a Chinese context, in line with both Western social exchange theory and the Chinese social belief in reciprocity (or bao).

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
  5. Method
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. References
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