The Impact of Negative Family–Work Spillover on Diurnal Cortisol

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Abstract

Objective: Both dimensions of the work-family interface, work-to-family and family-to-work spillover, have important implications for health and well-being. Despite the importance of these associations, very little is known about the physiological mechanisms through which the interplay between family and work experiences are translated into long-lasting consequences for health. Method: This study investigated both positive and negative aspects of each spillover dimension on diurnal cortisol secretion patterns in a large panel study of working adults between the ages of 33 and 80. Results: Greater negative family-to-work (NFW) spillover predicted lower wake-up cortisol values and a flatter (less “healthy”) diurnal cortisol slope. This effect was evident even after controlling for the effects of the other spillover dimensions. Conclusions: These findings indicate that not all aspects of the work-family interface might impact stress physiology to the same extent and suggest that diurnal cortisol may be an important pathway through which negative aspects of the work-family interface leave their mark on health.

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