Stress of unemployed spouse can affect job performance of other spouse

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WASHINGTON - The stress of an unemployed spouse can affect the productivity and home life of the employed partner, according to a new study.

University of Colorado Boulder associate professor Maw-Der Foo, who studies employee workplace issues and interpersonal relationships, and lead author Professor Zhaoli Song of the National University of Singapore examined married couples in Shenyang, China, where one partner was employed and the other was not. The daily stress felt by each spouse was assessed.

The interaction between marital life and professional life of the unemployed spouse and the employed one was examined. Since both the partners responded to the experiment, the researchers could compare them and come to conclusion.

The researchers found that the couples were better at sharing the burden than helping to alleviate it.

“If you feel bad at home there is going to be spill over at work where you will also feel lousy. Going into the study we thought that marital support might help alleviate the stress of unemployment on the family unit, but it didn’t turn out to be the case,” said Foo.

He said the study shows workplaces should be more sensitive and supportive when their employees have family members - particularly a spouse - who are unemployed.

“Organizations can implement family-friendly policies to help their employees fulfil their family roles, which in turn may increase the employee’s productivity,” he said.

One of the unique parts of the study is that they studied couples’ interactions daily for two weeks.

In particular, they looked at what is called the ‘crossover effect’, a situation when each partner catches the stress of the other.

The researchers hope that the findings may provide practical insight to family counsellors, psychotherapist and other experts who aim to prevent relationship breakdown.

The study was published in the January edition of the Journal of Applied Psychology. (ANI)

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