The Complexification of Work-Family Conflict Theory: A Critical Analysis

Susan Madsen, Scott Hammond


This paper provides an extensive review and categorization of the work-family conflict literature, followed by a discussion of paradigmatic assumptions found within that literature and critical recommendations. The article describes the five most widely utilized theories in the work-family conflict literature: conflict theory, spillover theory, gender role theories, identity theory, and role theory. It concludes by recommending that future research focus on becoming more complex by moving from simple to complex explanations focusing less on hierarchy definitions and more on interactions, less on accounting for singular causality and more on multiple (sometime indeterminate) causalities, use less determinant and more indeterminate language, and adopt a morphogenic view of change. 

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