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How supportive spouses help cope with work-related stress

Washington, Fri, 17 Feb 2012 ANI

Washington, Feb 17 (ANI): Researchers have shed light on the role of support in households where daily stress is common to both spouses.


More than 400 working couples, in both blue- and white-collar occupations, participated in the study conducted by Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Business Administration in the Florida State University College of Business.


"Given that a lack of support from one's spouse represents a major cause of both divorce and career derailment, this research is needed to address issues that affect both home and work," Hochwarter said.


Those who reported high levels of stress but strong spousal support - as compared to stressed-out employees without such support - experienced the several positive benefits.


The study showed 50 percent higher rates of satisfaction with their marriage, 33 percent greater likelihood of having positive relationships with co-workers, 30 percent lower likelihood of experiencing guilt associated with home/family neglect, 30 percent lower likelihood of being critical of others (spouse, children) at home and 25 percent higher rates of concentration levels at work.


The stressed-out workers also reported 25 percent lower likelihood of experiencing fatigue at home after work, 25 percent higher rates of satisfaction with the amount of time spent with their children, 20 percent higher views that their careers were heading in the right direction and 20 percent higher level of job satisfaction.


The number of employees who returned to the workplace even more agitated because they were unable to generate coping support at home is particularly distressing to Hochwarter.


"When you're still angry or upset from yesterday's stress, your workday will likely go in only one direction - down," he said.


Further, Hochwarter identified key factors distinguishing favourable from unfavourable support.


"Some attempts to support your stressed-out spouse can backfire, actually making the situation much worse," he said.


Support that had a deep and far-reaching impact had several common characteristics, which included, awareness of one's spouse's daily work demands (i.e., time pressures, lack of resources, deadlines, and supervisors), not "forcing support" and understanding that communication lines are open regardless of the circumstances.


The other traits included - recognizing that distancing oneself from the family or lashing out is not a practical way to foster help, being able to bring one's spouse back to the middle - up when down in the dumps and down when overly agitated, not bombarding the family with complaints about minor workplace irritants, not trying to "one-up" one's spouse in terms of who has had the worse day, not being complacent, remaining rational and not automatically casting the spouse as the "bad guy" and not keeping a running tab on who is giving and who is getting.


"Most important, though, was the ability for a spouse to offer support on days when he or she needs it just as much," Hochwarter said.


"In many cases, both return home from work stressed. Generating the mental and emotional resources needed to help when your own tank is empty is often difficult.


Successful couples almost always kept a steady supply of support resources on reserve to be tapped on particularly demanding days," Hochwarter added.


Hochwarter also noted that the men and women differed by gender in terms of what support behaviours worked best for them. In general, wives appreciated getting "cut some slack" in terms of household activities; feeling wanted; and receiving expressions of warmth and affection.


The husbands, meanwhile, were more likely to respond positively to offers of assistance with errands and feeling appreciated and needed. (ANI)


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