Resolving couples’ work–family conflicts: The complexity of decision making and the introduction of a new framework

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  • University of Liverpool


The goal of this study is to develop a theoretical framework in order to illuminate the cues involved in real life work–family conflict resolution within dual-earner couples. We draw on episodic and longitudinal data from qualitative diaries kept for a one-month period by both members of 24 dual-earner couples (48 participants) with child dependants, as well as from introductory and subsequent in-depth qualitative interviews with the couples, both together and apart. Two distinct types of work–family decision making: a) anchoring decisions and b) daily decisions were revealed, each of which were differentially impacted by enabling and constraining cues, considerations of fairness and equity, and beliefs, values and preferences. The findings suggest that the decision-making process engaged in by couples in incidents of work–family conflict does not progress in a logical sequence, but instead involves numerous complex negotiations and interactions. A decision-making framework encapsulating these findings is reported, highlighting the cues considered when making both types of work–family conflict decisions, and the relationships between them.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-819
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number7
Early online date10 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • Conflict, Decision making, Diaries, Dual earner, Longitudinal, Qualitative, Work and family