Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 517–530 | Cite as

Examining the Relationships Between Personality, Coping Strategies, and Work–Family Conflict

  • Boris B. Baltes
  • Ludmila S. Zhdanova
  • Malissa A. Clark



The purpose of this study was to examine the processes through which personality characteristics may influence work–family conflict (WFC). Specifically, the mediating effects of selection, optimization, and compensation (SOC) behavioral stress-coping strategies on the relationship between personality characteristics and WFC were tested.


A snowball sampling technique was used to recruit 289 working adults, who completed online questionnaires. The proposed model was tested using path analysis.


Conscientiousness and agreeableness were related to greater usage of work and family behavioral coping strategies, and these behavioral strategies influenced levels of experienced WFC. Negative affect was found to have direct effects on work interference with family (WIF) and family interference with work (FIW), and emotional stability was found to have a direct effect on WIF conflict.


Findings suggest that different processes underlie the influence of specific personality characteristics on WFC. These findings can have implications for the effectiveness of training programs and interventions aimed at reducing work–family conflict levels of employees, in that trainers and managers should take into account the strong influence of individual factors on a person’s choice of coping strategies.


The examination of the processes through which personality characteristics may influence work–family conflict (WFC) has not received adequate attention. This article advances work–family conflict research by examining the mediating role of behavioral strategies aimed to cope with competing demands of work and family roles in the relationship between individual difference variables and WFC.


Work–family conflict Work–family interference Coping strategies Personality Stress 


  1. Andreassi, J. K., & Thompson, C. A. (2007). Dispositional and situational sources of control: Relative impact on work–family conflict and positive spillover. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22, 722–740. doi: 10.1108/02683940710837697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baltes, P. B., & Baltes, M. M. (Eds.). (1990). Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baltes, P. B., Baltes, M. M., Freund, A. M., & Lang, F. R. (1999). The measurement of selection, optimization, and compensation (SOC) by self-report: Technical report 1999. Berlin: Max Planck Institute for Human Development.Google Scholar
  4. Baltes, B. B., & Dickson, M. W. (2001). Using life-span models in industrial-organizational psychology: The theory of selective optimization with compensation. Applied Developmental Science, 5, 51–63. doi: 10.1207/S1532480XADS0501_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baltes, B. B., & Heydens-Gahir, H. (2003). Reduction of work–family conflict through the use of selection, optimization, and compensation behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 1005–1018. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.88.6.1005.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The Big Five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 41, 1–26. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1991.tb00688.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brief, A. P., Butcher, A. H., George, J. M., & Link, K. E. (1993). Integrating top-down and bottom-up theories of subjective well-being: The case of health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 646–653. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.64.4.646.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bruck, C. S., & Allen, T. D. (2003). The relationship between big five personality traits, negative affectivity, type A behavior, and work–family conflict. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 63, 457–472. doi: 10.1016/S0001-8791(02)00040-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Butt, Z. A., Strauss, M. E., Smyth, K. A., & Rose-Rego, S. A. (2002). Negative affectivity and emotion-focused coping in spouse caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 21, 471–483. doi: 10.1177/073346402237633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Caligiuri, P. M. (2000). The big five personality characteristics as predictors of expatriate’s desire to terminate the assignment and supervisor-rated performance. Personnel Psychology, 53, 67–88. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2000.tb00194.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carlson, D. S., Kacmar, K. M., & Williams, L. J. (2000). Construction and initial validation of a multidimensional measure of work–family conflict. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 56, 249–276. doi: 10.1006/jvbe.1999.1713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clark, M. A., Bal, A., Zhdanova, L., & Baltes, B. B. (2009, April). A qualitative analysis of strategies for coping with work–family stressors. Interactive poster presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, New Orleans, LA.Google Scholar
  13. Connor-Smith, J. K., & Flachsbart, C. S. (2007). Relations between personality and coping: A metaanalysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6, 1080–1107. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.93.6.1080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dierdorff, E. C., & Ellington, J. K. (2008). It’s the nature of the work: Examining behavior-based sources of work–family conflict across occupations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 883–892. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.93.4.883.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eby, L. T., Casper, W. J., Lockwood, A., Bordeaux, C., & Brinley, A. (2005). Work and family research in IO/OB: Content analysis and review of the literature (1980–2002). Journal of Vocational Behavior, 66, 124–197. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2003.11.003.Google Scholar
  16. Edwards, J. R., & Rothbard, N. P. (2000). Mechanisms linking work and family: Clarifying the relationship between work and family constructs. Academy of Management Review, 25, 178–199. doi: 10.2307/259269.Google Scholar
  17. Fletcher, T. D., Selgrade, K. A., & Germano, L. M. (2006, May). On the use of partial covariances in structural equation modeling. Paper presented at the 21st Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Dallas, TX.Google Scholar
  18. Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1980). An analysis of coping in a middle-aged community sample. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 21, 219–239.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (1998). Selection, optimization and compensation as strategies of life management: Correlations with subjective indications of successful aging. Psychology and Aging, 13, 531–543. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.13.4.531.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2002). Life-management strategies of selection, optimization, and compensation: Measurement by self-report and construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 642–662. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.82.4.642.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Friede, A., & Ryan, A. M. (2005). The importance of the individual: How self-evaluations influence the work–family interface. In E. E. Kossek & S. Lambert (Eds.), Work and life integration: Organizational, cultural, and individual perspectives. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  22. Frone, M. R., Russell, M., & Cooper, M. L. (1992). Antecedents and outcomes of work–family conflict: Testing a model of the work–family interface. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77, 65–78. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.77.1.65.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frone, M. R., Russell, M., & Cooper, M. L. (1997). Relation of work–family conflict to health outcomes: A four-year longitudinal study of employed parents. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 70, 325–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Goldberg, L. R. (1999). A broad-bandwidth, public-domain, personality inventory measuring the lower-level facets of several five-factor models. In I. Mervielde, I. Deary, F. De Fruyt, & F. Ostendorf (Eds.), Personality psychology in Europe (Vol. 7, pp. 7–28). Tilburg, The Netherlands: Tilburg University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Greenhaus, J. H., Allen, T. D., & Spector, P. E. (2006). Health consequences of work–family conflict: The dark side of the work–family interface. In P. L. Perrewe & D. C. Ganster (Eds.), Research in occupational stress and well-being (Vol. 5, pp. 61–98). Amsterdam: JAI Press/Elsevier.Google Scholar
  26. Grzywacz, J. G., & Marks, N. F. (2000). Reconceptualizing the work–family interface: An ecological perspective on the correlates of positive and negative spillover between work and family. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5, 111–126. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.5.1.111.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heckathorn, D. D. (1997). Respondent-driven sampling: A new approach to the study of hidden populations. Social Problems, 44, 174–199. doi: 10.1525/sp.1997.44.2.03x0221m.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hooker, K., Frazier, L. D., & Monahan, D. J. (1994). Personality and coping among caregivers of spouses with dementia. The Gerontologist, 34, 386–392.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hoyle, R. H. (1995). Structural equation modeling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  30. James, L. R., & Mazerolle, M. D. (2002). Personality in work organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  31. Jöreskog, K., & Sörbom, D. (2004). LISREL 8.8: User’s reference guide. Chicago: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  32. Kahana, E., Kahana, B., & Zhang, J. (2005). Motivational antecedents of preventive proactivity in late life: Linking future orientation and exercise. Motivation & Emotion, 29, 438–459. doi: 10.1007/s11031-006-9012-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kinnunen, U., Vermulst, A., Gerris, J., & Makikangas, A. (2003). Work–family conflict and its relation to well-being: The role of personality as a moderating factor. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 1669–1683. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00389-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kossek, E. E., Lautsch, B. A., & Eaton, S. C. (2005). Flexibility enactment theory: Implications of flexibility types, control and boundary management for work–family effectiveness. In E. E. Kossek & S. J. Lambert (Eds.), Work and life integration: Organizational, cultural, and individual perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  35. Lee-Baggley, D., Preece, M., & DeLongis, A. (2005). Individual differences in coping across time: Role of the Big 5 Personality Dimensions. Journal of Personality, 73, 1141–1180. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2005.00345.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lefcourt, H. M. (1991). Locus of control. In J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes (Vol. 1, pp. 413–499). San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  37. Loehlin, J. C. (1998). Latent variable models: An introduction to factor, path, and structural analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  38. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1986). Personality, coping, and coping effectiveness in an adult sample. Journal of Personality, 54, 385–405. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1986.tb00401.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McCrae, R. R., & John, O. (1992). An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications. Journal of Personality, 60, 175–215. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1992.tb00970.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Michel, J. S., & Clark, M. A. (2009). Has it been affect all along? A test of work-to-family and family-to-work models of conflict, enrichment, and satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 163–168. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.02.015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Noor, N. M. (2002). Work–family conflict, locus of control, and women’s well-being: Tests of alternative pathways. Journal of Social Psychology, 142, 645–662. doi: 10.1080/00224540209603924.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Parkes, K. R. (1986). Coping in stressful episodes: The role of individual differences, environmental factors and situational characteristics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1277–1292. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.51.6.1277.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pratt, A. K. (2006). Role of cognitive ability and personality factors in coping with work-family conflict. Doctoral dissertation, Wayne State University, 2006. Dissertation Abstracts International, AAT 3211006.Google Scholar
  44. Penley, J. A., & Tomaka, J. (2002). Associations among the Big Five, emotional responses, and coping with acute stress. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 1215–1228. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(01)00087-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pfeffer, J. (1998). Understanding organizations: Concepts and controversies. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 733–777). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  46. Rees, D. W., & Cooper, C. L. (1992). The occupational stress indicator locus of control scale: Should this be regarded as a state rather than trait measure? Work and Stress, 6, 45–48. doi: 10.1080/02678379208257038.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80, 1–28.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Somech, A., & Drach-Zahavy, A. (2007). Strategies for coping with work–family conflict: The distinctive relationships of gender role ideology. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 1–19. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.12.1.1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stewart, G. L., & Barrick, M. R. (2004). Four lessons learned from the person-situation debate: A review and research agenda. In D. B. Smith & B. Schneider (Eds.), Personality and organizations. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  50. Strentz, T., & Auerbach, S. M. (1988). Adjustment to the stress of simulated captivity: Effects of emotion-focused vs. problem-focused preparation on hostages differing in locus of control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 652–660. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.55.4.652.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Valecha, G. K., & Ostrom, T. M. (1974). An abbreviated measure of internal–external locus of control. Journal of Personality Assessment, 38, 369–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Watson, D. (1988). Intraindividual and interindividual analyses of positive and negative affect: Their relation to health complaints, perceived stress, and daily activities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1020–1030. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1020.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1994). The PANAS-X: Manual for the positive and negative affect schedule-expanded form. Cedar Rapids: University of Iowa.Google Scholar
  54. Watson, D., & Hubbard, B. (1996). Adaptational style and dispositional structure: Coping in the context of the five factor model. Journal of Personality, 64, 735–774. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1996.tb00943.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wayne, J. H., Musisca, N., & Fleeson, W. (2004). Considering the role of personality in the work–family experience: Relationships of the big five to work–family conflict and facilitation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 64, 108–130. doi: 10.1016/S0001-8791(03)00035-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wiese, B. S., Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2000). Selection, optimization, and compensation: An action-related approach to work and partnership. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 57, 273–300. doi: 10.1006/jvbe.2000.1752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Young, L. M., Baltes, B. B., & Pratt, A. K. (2007). Using selection, optimization, and compensation to reduce job/family stressors: Effective when it matters. Journal of Business and Psychology, 21(4), 511–540. doi: 10.1007/s10869-007-9039-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boris B. Baltes
    • 1
  • Ludmila S. Zhdanova
    • 2
  • Malissa A. Clark
    • 3
  1. 1.Wayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.Carleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Auburn UniversityAuburnUSA

Personalised recommendations