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Work Conditions, Work-family Conflict, and Marital Quality among Male Firefighters

Meadows, Meagan Parrish

Firefighters routinely deal with multiple stressors that can place considerable strain on their family lives, particularly their marriages (Regehr, Dimitropoulos, Bright, George, & Henderson, 2005). Yet firefighters also often experience strong social support from their colleagues and supervisors, which can buffer negative individual and familial outcomes (Regehr, 2009). Prior research has not investigated the associations between firefighters' work conditions (stressors and support), work-family conflict, and marital quality. This study applies Spillover and Role Theories and posits that firefighters' work conditions affect their perceptions of work-family conflict, which in turn is associated with marital quality. Linear regression models are used to show that firefighters' work conditions are associated with perceptions of work-family conflict; high work hours, perceiving one's life is frequently in danger, and poor sleep quality are associated with greater work-family conflict, while having supportive supervisors and co-workers is associated with lower work-family conflict. In turn, greater work-family conflict is associated with reduced marital quality. These results highlight the importance of work conditions and work-family conflict for marital quality research, particularly among couples where one or both individuals works in an occupation with multiple stressors.