The ongoing use of this communications technology, as compared to computer-based use such as email, is linked to increased psychological distress and reduced family satisfaction. For both men and women, cell phones allow job worries to spill over into home life. But only women also experience the opposite effect--the spillover of home concerns into their work life. For women, both work and family worries and responsibilities affected their levels of distress and family satisfaction. The findings suggest that, although technology may make everyone more accessible, it does so with negative consequences.
The authors interviewed working couples over two time periods, 1998-1999 and 2000-2001. Use of cell phones and pagers in that two-year time period decreased family satisfaction and increased distress, and negative work-to-family (for men and women) and family-to-work (for women) spillover. The author measured the participants' psychological distress; she asked them to state how often in the past month they felt feelings ranging from "in good spirits" to "everything was an effort." Participants were also asked questions such as whether they could turn to their family for help and if they were satisfied with the support they receive. "The question of 'blurred boundaries' may become an irrelevant one for the next generation of workers, spouses, and parents because they cannot imagine life any other way," the author states. "Even so, worries about the implications for technology users are not likely to disappear."
This study is published in the December issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.
The Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF) has been one of the leading research journals in the family field for over 60 years. JMF features original research and theory, research interpretation and reviews, and critical discussion concerning all aspects of marriage, other forms of close relationships, and families. It is published by the National Council on Family Relations. Information about the National Council on Family Relations can be found at www.ncfr.org.
Noelle Chesley is an assistant professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research focuses on the processes that link work and family roles and the outcomes associated with the intersections of these roles for contemporary workers and their families.
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