According to the US Census Bureau, in 2002, 55% of mothers with infant children and 72% of mothers without infants were part of the labour force. In addition, 62% of married couples with children are dual career (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007). It is therefore not surprising that in 2004 roughly two million children in the United States were cared for in one of 729,040 childcare centres across the country during the bulk of their parents’ working hours (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). In addition, 704,000 children were enrolled in full-day childcare in 21,800 centres in England in 2005 (U.K. Office for National Statistics, 2007). This large number of working parents, as well as the number children cared for in childcare centres, illuminates the importance of reliable, good quality childcare. Without childcare, most parents are unable to work. Furthermore, if parents are not satisfied with their childcare arrangements, they may not be able to fully engage in their work. Correspondingly, employers should be concerned about adequate childcare and parents’ satisfaction with these arrangements (Goff, Mount, & Jamison, 1990; Kossek, 1990; Kossek & Nichol, 1992).
Work-family researchers have acknowledged the importance of child rearing (e.g., Byron, 2005), childcare (e.g., Milkovich & Gomez, 1976), and childcare satisfaction (CCS; e.g., Buffardi & Erdwins, 1997) on the work-family interface. For example, CCS has been associated with work-family conflict (WFC; Buffardi & Erdwins, 1997), job satisfaction (Goff et al., 1990), turnover intentions (Glass & Estes, 1996), and well-being (Ruben, 2006). In fact, some researchers have speculated that ‘what appears to matter more for role conflict perceptions is not so much the type of arrangement used but the satisfaction with the caregiving arrangements’ (Kossek, Colquitt, & Noe, 2001, p. 42). However, no research has attempted to empirically test why CCS is related to these outcomes. Based on conservation of resources theory (Hobfoll, 1989, 2001), we propose childcare is an essential resource for working parents and satisfaction with certain characteristics of childcare will relate to theoretically relevant outcomes. We further speculate that time- and strain-based family interference with work is important explanatory mechanisms for these relationships. The purpose of our study is to empirically test these propositions in order to gain a deeper understanding of why organizations should be concerned about their employees’ CCS.
Our research responds to calls in the literature to examine the processes linking the work and family domains (e.g., Lambert, 1990). Our study also responds to calls for an examination of both the directionality and form of WFC (Allen, Herst, Bruck, & Sutton, 2000; Ford, Heinen, & Langkamer, 2007), how family variables affect employee behaviours (Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux, & Brinley, 2005), the multidimensionality of CCS (Buffardi & Erdwins, 1997; Poms, Botsford, Kaplan, Buffardi, & O’Brien, 2009), as well as the need for additional psychometric evidence for work-family measures (Casper, Eby, Bordeaux, Lockwood, & Lambert, 2007).
For dual-career parents, finding adequate and quality childcare can be quite challenging (Fuqua & Labensohn, 1986; Skinner, 1980). Even after childcare arrangements have been made, how parents feel about the arrangement can be a source of anxiety and strain. CCS is an evaluative judgment of one's caregiver and the conditions of the childcare arrangement. Bradbard and Endsley (1986) noted all childcare is not created equal and multiple factors are likely to affect CCS including type, quality, cost, and convenience.
Building on Bradbard and Endsley's (1986) work, Buffardi and Erdwins (1997) developed a 20-item measure of CCS that included three factors: caregiver communication, dependability, and attentiveness. Satisfaction with caregiver communication indicates parent's evaluation of the information provided about the child's day as well as how the parent feels about interactions with the caregiver. Satisfaction with caregiver dependability refers to parent's evaluation of the extent to which the caregiver is available on a regular basis to provide service. Satisfaction with caregiver attentiveness reflects a parent's evaluation of the amount of attention that a child receives from his or her caregiver and the number of other children that are also cared for. Buffardi and Erdwins (1997) demonstrated differential relationships between these dimensions and organizational commitment, job satisfaction, inter-role conflict, and maternal separations, further validating their distinction.
Taking an economic perspective, which emphasizes the costs associated with work and family demands (Drago & Golden, 2006), Poms et al. (2009) added a fourth factor to Buffardi and Erdwins’ (1997) CCS measure, caregiver cost, which taps parent satisfaction with financial considerations surrounding childcare. They further demonstrated support for a high-order model in which an overall CCS construct comprises four factors.
The one remaining factor identified by Bradbard and Endsley (1986) but not currently included in the CCS measure is convenience1. Satisfaction with caregiver convenience is a parent's evaluation of the location of the caregiver relative to home/work and the days and times childcare is available relative to the days and times the parent needs childcare. Like cost, convenience is also economic in nature because ‘time is money’ and transportation costs money. Previous research supports the importance of the location of childcare to the selection of a caregiver (Bagley, Woods, & Glatter, 2001; Folk & Yi, 1994). The institution of multiple ‘on-site’ childcare centres in which the centre is located within the same building or an adjacent building to the employing organization (Connelly, DeGraff, & Willis, 2004) conveys the perceived value of having childcare near one's place of work. Proximity of the childcare centre to the workplace determines how quickly the parent of a small child could get to the child in case of an emergency (Wolfe, 2007), to tend to special needs (e.g., breast feeding), to meet with the caregiver, or to visit with the child during the workday (e.g., share lunch); thus, convenience likely plays an important role in CCS. Correspondingly, we propose five factors of CCS.
- Hypothesis 1 : CCS is a hierarchical multi-dimensional construct, consisting of five latent subfactors: attentiveness, communication, convenience, cost, and dependability.
Directionality and source of WFC
WFC is a form of inter-role conflict where pressures from the work and family domains are incompatible, and therefore participation in one role is made more difficult by participation in another (Kopelman, Greenhaus, & Connolly, 1983). Demands or preoccupations with either role domain (work or family) can cross the boundary of the other, resulting in WFC (Crouter, 1984; Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992; Premeau, Adkins, & Mossholder, 2007). Correspondingly, researchers conceptualize WFC as a bi-directional process, with the demands from the work domain spilling over into the home domain (work interfering with family; WIF) and the demands of the family domain spilling over into the work domain (family interfering with work; FIW). Meta-analytic research supports this distinction (Mesmer-Magnus & Viswesvaran, 2009). The source of the conflict related to the need for childcare while at work originates in the family domain (cf. Goff et al., 1990). Therefore, we predicted CCS will relate most strongly to FIW.
Work-family researchers also distinguish between three sources or forms of WFC: time based, strain based, and behaviour based (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). The viability of the three forms of conflict has been demonstrated in many studies (e.g., Carlson, Kacmar, & Williams, 2000; Stephens & Sommer, 1996). Theoretically, CCS is expected to relate to time- and strain-based WFC, so we limit our examination to these two sources. To date, researchers have not examined the time- and strain-based components of WFC separately with regard to CCS.
Involvement in multiple roles, each with their own demands, creates competition for an individual's time (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Stephens & Sommer, 1996). Time demands from one role can make it physically impossible to participate in or meet the expectations of another role (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). In addition, pressures associated with one role can create a psychological preoccupation with that role even when an individual is physically trying to meet the demands of a second role (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985).
Theoretically, the effects of time-based conflict can be explained by resource drain or a transfer of finite resources such as time, energy, or attention from one domain to another (Staines, 1980). According to the conservation of resources theory (Hobfoll, 1989, 2001), individuals seek to acquire and maintain resources, including objects, personal characteristics, conditions, and energies. Stress occurs when there is a loss, or a threat of loss, of resources. Using conservation of resources theory to explain WFC, Grandey and Cropanzano (1999) proposed that resources (e.g., time, energy) ‘are lost in the process of juggling both work and family roles’ (p. 352). We speculate that managing childcare responsibilities depletes time and energy resources thereby preventing a working parent from responding in the workplace with a full range of these resources.
We conceptualize childcare as a time-related resource that temporarily emancipates parents from childcare responsibilities and allows them to allocate that time to work. In fact, one of the 74 key resources in Hobfoll's (1988) measure, Conservation of Resources Evaluation, is ‘help with childcare’. We extend the conservation of resources theory, by proposing that the characteristics or dimensions of resources (e.g., quality) are particularly important to the perceptions of WFC. Hobfoll focuses particularly on quantity of resources discussing losses and gains and the sufficiency of resources. Many resources are prefaced with the word ‘adequate’ in his measure (e.g., ‘adequate clothing’, ‘adequate food’, ‘adequate income’). However, he also hints at quality for a few resources: ‘good marriage’ and ‘good relationship with my children’.
Borrowing further from conservation of resources theory, we propose that two time-related dimensions of childcare free time for working parents to devote to work. Unreliable and inconvenient care interferes with parents’ ability to work when and where they need to. Therefore, satisfaction with the time-oriented CCS dimensions is expected to negatively relate to time-based FIW.
- Hypothesis 2 : Caregiver (1) dependability and (2) convenience are negatively related to time-based FIW.
Time-based FIW as a mediator of CCS – withdrawal relationships
Childcare is critical for employed parents to be able to physically go to work. Illness of a child or difficulties finding accessible and reliable childcare can all interfere with a parent's ability to attend work (Fuqua & Labensohn, 1986). As a result, time-based CCS is expected to relate to an employee's physical presence and time at work. In this study, we operationalize presence at work as the opposite of the withdrawal variables absenteeism (due to childcare issues) and turnover intentions.
Consistent with this theorizing, researchers have shown that problems with childcare arrangements relate to absenteeism (Kossek, 1990). Furthermore, Goff et al. (1990) found employees who were more satisfied with the quality of their child's care experienced less WFC that was negatively related to absenteeism. Likewise, Hammer and Nguyen (1995) revealed a significant relationship between CCS and absenteeism due to childcare. Previous research also supports a negative relationship between CCS and turnover intentions (Glass & Estes, 1996).
Building on conservation of resources theory, Buffardi and Erdwins’ (1997) speculation, and theoretical models of the work-family interface (Frone et al., 1992; Higgins, Duxbury, & Irving, 1992), we propose time-based FIW as an explanatory mechanism for the CCS withdrawal relationships. In other words, the reason why CCS is related to work withdrawal is because discontent over time-based CCS leads to time-based FIW, which in turn results in work withdrawal. In other words, dissatisfaction with the (in)convenience of childcare leads to higher levels of time-based FIW that employees seek to reduce by not physically attending work. Consistent with this theorizing, other researchers have proposed that when employees experience FIW they are likely to withdrawal in an effort to reduce the conflict (Boyar, Maertz, Pearson, & Keough, 2003; MacEwan & Barling, 1994). Previous research supports a negative relationship between FIW and absenteeism (Hammer, Bauer, & Grandey, 2003; MacEwan & Barling, 1994), as well as turnover intentions (Allen et al., 2000; Boyar et al., 2003). However, not all researchers have incorporated the time- and strain-based FIW distinction in their research. We propose that time-based FIW is an important mediator of time-based CCS and work withdrawal relationships as depicted in Figure 1.
- Hypothesis 3 : Time-based FIW mediates the relationship between caregiver dependability and (1) absenteeism due to childcare issues and (2) turnover intentions.
- Hypothesis 4 : Time-based FIW mediates the relationship between caregiver convenience and (1) absenteeism due to childcare issues and (2) turnover intentions.
Strain-based WFC exists when a strain in one role affects an individual's performance in another role (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). Any work or family role can increase WFC. Strains can be either physical or psychological and hinder performance and/or the meeting of goals or expectations in another role (Stephens & Sommer, 1996).
Theoretically, strain-based WFC can be explained by spillover, or the idea that the influence of one domain on the other leads to similarities between the two domains (Zedeck, 1992). Spillover can take the form of affect, values, skills, and/or behaviours (Edwards & Rothbard, 2000). A number of researchers have speculated about and demonstrated empirical support for ‘psychological spillover’, or worry and preoccupation in one domain interfering with full participation or enjoyment in another domain (Carr, Boyar, & Gregory, 2008; Crouter, 1984). Control theorists refer to this as cognitive interference (Carver & Scheier, 1981), which can have adverse effects on attitudes and behaviours. Thus, in addition to physical presence, CCS is also expected to relate to an employees’ psychological presence at work.
The more satisfied employees are with their childcare, the less they will worry about their child during the day. As such, they should have lower levels of strain-based FIW. Specifically, we propose that quality-related dimensions of CCS will negatively relate to strain-based FIW. The demands of work can leave parents dissatisfied with the amount of childcare they can personally provide; as such, it is important for working parents to find attentive and invested caregivers (Anderson-Kulman & Paludi, 1986). We speculate that dissatisfaction with caregiver attentiveness is a source of strain for parents; this proposition is consistent with Buffardi and Erdwins (1997) who identified a relationship between satisfaction with caregiver attentiveness and reduced anxiety about separation from a child. It may lead parents to feel like they are failing in their role as a parent by not providing their own care or finding a suitable substitute (Crouter, 1984).
In addition to caregiver attentiveness, parents are likely to seek a caregiver who communicates with them and considers their input (Fuqua & Labensohn, 1986). Communication between the provider and parents helps parents feel informed and involved despite their physical absence. It also facilitates the parents’ ability to assess how well the caregiver is meeting the child's needs. Open communication likely reduces rumination about the child when the parents are at work, thus alleviating strain-based FIW.
Caregiver cost is also expected to relate negatively to strain-based FIW. High-quality childcare is expensive (Blau, 2001). As such, paying for this service can be a source of strain. When parents are satisfied with the cost of their childcare arrangement, they will likely experience less strain-based FIW, because they are less likely to worry about this expense (Carver & Scheier, 1981) or spend time trying to find a new childcare arrangement that they can afford.
- Hypothesis 5 : Caregiver (1) attentiveness, (2) communication, and (3) cost are negatively related to strain-based FIW.
Strain-based FIW as a mediator of CCS – well-being relationships
Building further on conservation of resources theory, we propose three quality-related facets of CCS (attentiveness, communication, and cost) relate to two well-being outcomes (job satisfaction and parent well-being) because they reduce strain-based FIW. Previous research has demonstrated a positive relationship between CCS and job satisfaction (Buffardi & Erdwins, 1997; Erdwins, Buffardi, Casper, & O’Brien, 2001; Poms et al., 2009). Likewise, CCS has also been linked to decreased anxiety about separation from one's child (Buffardi & Erdwins, 1997; Erdwins et al., 2001) and decreased role strain (Van Meter & Agronow, 1982).
To explain these patterns of relationships, we argue that parents who are not satisfied with the quality of their childcare experience lower levels of job satisfaction and well-being because they have higher levels of strain-based FIW. In other words, discontent with caregiver attentiveness, communication, and/or cost results in higher levels of strain-based FIW which in turn leads to lower levels of job satisfaction and parental well-being.
Satisfaction with quality-related dimensions of CCS frees psychological resources that can then be applied to work (Rothbard, 2001). Any parents who have left their child screaming with a provider can empathize with the negative affect and worry that follows their departure. This strain-based FIW can linger with parents during their workday, resulting in distraction or a loss of perceived mastery of the family domain while at work (cf. Carr et al., 2008). Strain-based FIW can be interpreted as a personal failure, which people are less capable or unable to maintain the work boundary (Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1997), letting family problems ‘spillover’ into the work domain. Furthermore, Premeau et al. (2007) posit that low-grade, persistent worry about balancing multiple roles, and the preoccupation with the work and family domains is taxing on a person, thus causing stress, strain, and dissatisfaction. Consistent with our theorizing, previous research supports negative relationships between strain-based FIW and job satisfaction (Carlson et al., 2000; Ford et al., 2007) as well as various forms of well-being (or lack thereof) including stress (Ford et al., 2007; Kelloway, Gottlieb, & Barham, 1999), negative physical symptoms (Netemeyer, Boles, & McMurrian, 1996), and physical and affective well-being (Lapierre & Allen, 2006).
- Hypothesis 6 : Strain-based FIW mediates the relationship between caregiver attentiveness and (1) job satisfaction and (2) well-being.
- Hypothesis 7 : Strain-based FIW mediates the relationship between caregiver communication and (1) job satisfaction and (2) well-being.
- Hypothesis 8 : Strain-based FIW mediates the relationship between caregiver cost and (1) job satisfaction and (2) well-being.