Work-Family Interaction among Faculty: A Systematic Literature Review and a Phenomenological Study

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Beigi, Mina
Work-family Interaction; University Professor; Review; Phenomenology
thesis / dissertation description
Employment as a university professor is unique in that the work schedules are not typically from nine-to-five and allow flexibility in time use. Professors are not obligated to stay at school while conducting research, which is a primary responsibility of their job. Besides, technology advancements have enabled faculty to teach online, without being physically present on campus. While having flexible work hours can be an advantage to faculty, the downside is that job responsibilities and requirements are not limited to a traditional work timeframe and can extend as long as the individual allows it. Therefore, combining increasing work responsibilities with family commitments is likely to create challenges for faculty. This dissertation sought to gain a deep understanding of the work-family interaction (WFI) of faculty. In a journal article format, I present two self-contained manuscripts that both focus on the topic. The first manuscript, a systematic literature review, synthesizes 77 articles that focus on how faculty at four-year universities navigate their professional and personal lives. The review provides a comprehensive report of the foci, methodology and methods of the studies, and integrates their findings. The study highlights four common issues with the reviewed studies: the dominant US research context, a convergent focus, lack of innovative methodologies and methods, and quality issues. Combining results from the previous studies showed that faculty simultaneously enjoy their work and face difficulties in balancing the two spheres. It was evidenced that faculty experience moderate conflict between their work and family lives, and that conflict mainly stemmed from their work domain. As reflected in the reviewed studies, stress and strain were prominent negative outcomes of faculty work-family imbalance. In addition, job satisfaction and commitment were found to be associated with lack of conflict between work and family domains. Finally, the review demonstrated that there were gender differences in perceived WFI among faculty. The second manuscript, a phenomenological study, looks at WFI experiences of distinguished professors (DPs) at a research-intensive university in the US. I conducted 28 in-depth interviews with 25 male and three female DPs. Data were analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA), which allowed six commonalities, labeled as superordinate themes, among DPs? WFI experiences to emerge: passion and intrinsic motivation absolutely count; spouse support is vital; children make a difference; conflict?one side of the WFI coin; enrichment?the other side of the WFI coin; and personal nonfailure. Each superordinate theme had associated themes that were described and elaborated using quotations from the interview transcripts. These findings have theoretical and practical implications for WFI research and practice.