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Work stressors, health and sense of coherence in UK academic employees



This cross‐sectional study examined relationships between job‐specific stressors and psychological and physical health symptoms in academic employees working in UK universities. The study also tests the main and moderating role played by sense of coherence (SOC: Antonovsky, 19873. Antonovsky , A. 1987. Unravelling the mystery of health: How people manage stress and stay well, San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. View all references in work stress process). SOC is described as a generalised resistance resource for coping with environmental stressors and remaining healthy. Four hundred and sixty‐five academic employees (60% male) completed measures of work stressors, physical and psychological ill health and SOC. Significant inter‐relationships were found between job stressors, health outcomes and SOC. Stressors relating to time constraints, support and influence and work–home interface demands had the strongest associations with health outcomes. Employees with a weaker SOC tended to be in poorer physical and psychological health, thus supporting a main effect for SOC. Some evidence for a moderating role for SOC was found, with the strongest effect observed for stressors experienced at the work–home interface.
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Educational Psychology
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Work stressors, health and sense of coherence in UK academic employees
Gail Kinman
Department of Psychology, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK
First Published:December2008
To cite this Article Kinman, Gail(2008)'Work stressors, health and sense of coherence in UK academic employees',Educational
Psychology,28:7,823 — 835
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/01443410802366298
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Educational Psychology
Vol. 28, No. 7, December 2008, 823–835
ISSN 0144-3410 print/ISSN 1469-5820 online
© 2008 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/01443410802366298
Work stressors, health and sense of coherence in UK
academic employees
Gail Kinman*
Department of Psychology, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK
Taylor and Francis LtdCEDP_A_336796.sgm
(Received 21 March 2008; final version received 20 July 2008)
10.1080/01443410802366298Educational Psychology0144-3410 (print)/1469-5820 (online)Original Article2008Taylor &
This cross-sectional study examined relationships between job-specific stressors and
psychological and physical health symptoms in academic employees working in UK
universities. The study also tests the main and moderating role played by sense of
coherence (SOC: Antonovsky, 1987 in work stress process). SOC is described as a
generalised resistance resource for coping with environmental stressors and remaining
healthy. Four hundred and sixty-five academic employees (60% male) completed
measures of work stressors, physical and psychological ill health and SOC. Significant
inter-relationships were found between job stressors, health outcomes and SOC.
Stressors relating to time constraints, support and influence and work–home interface
demands had the strongest associations with health outcomes. Employees with a weaker
SOC tended to be in poorer physical and psychological health, thus supporting a main
effect for SOC. Some evidence for a moderating role for SOC was found, with the
strongest effect observed for stressors experienced at the work–home interface.
Keywords: stress; health; academic employees; sense of coherence
Job stress and academic employees
Studies conducted in several countries over the last decade or so suggest that academic
employees perceive their jobs as having become increasingly more demanding and stressful
(Blix, Cruise, Mitchell & Blix, 1994; Boyd & Wylie, 1994; Gillespie, Walsh, Winefield,
Dua & Stough, 2001; Kinman, 2001; McInnis, 1999). Several reasons could be provided for
the increased levels of stress in UK universities, such as: expanded student numbers; diver-
sification of modes of delivery; restructuring and mergers; increased demands for efficiency
and accountability; increased commercialisation; reductions in funding; and the move
towards financial self-reliance for institutions (Kinman & Jones, 2003; Kinman, Jones &
Kinman, 2006). A move from a supportive culture of collegiality towards a non-participative
style of management and the adoption of business/industrial values has also been identified
(Tapper, 1998). Moreover, relative pay levels in the UK university sector have gradually
reduced over a number of decades and levels of job security and perceptions of autonomy
have eroded (Kinman et al., 2006).
Heavy workload and time and resource constraints have frequently been highlighted as
the most stressful aspects of academic work, but more job specific demands emerging from
the literature from the UK and other countries include: long working hours; too much
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824 G. Kinman
administrative paperwork; lack of support; poor working relationships; role overload; diffi-
culties obtaining research funding and finding time for research; striving for publication;
frequent interruptions; poor communication; keeping up with technology; poor leadership
and management; uncompetitive salary and lack of promotion prospects (e.g. Blix et al.,
1994; Thorsen, 1996; Hogan, Carlson, & Dua, 2002; Fisher, 1994; Abouserie, 1996;
Kinman, 2001; Kinman & Jones, 2003; Tytherleigh, Webb, Cooper, & Ricketts, 2005).
Studies conducted in the UK and Australia provide evidence that academic employees
report higher levels of psychological distress than many other occupational groups and
community samples (Kinman et al., 2006; Winefield et al., 2003). As yet, however, the job
stressors that are most threatening to the wellbeing of academics have not been systemati-
cally examined. Studies that have been conducted tend to utilise samples of university
employees in general and report aggregate findings only (Bradley & Euchus, 1995; Daniels
& Guppy, 1994; Tytherleigh et al., 2005). As job characteristics and working conditions
amongst university employees are subject to considerable variation, research is required that
attempts to isolate the specific features of the working environment that predict health
outcomes in academic employees. This study aims to examine these issues.
Individual differences, stress and health
This study examines the SOC concept as a predictor of health status in academic employees
and as a potential moderator of the relationship between job stress and health status. A
number of constructs have been developed in an attempt to explain why some individuals
exposed to psychosocial stressors remain well whereas others experience a breakdown in
health. These concepts include dispositional optimism (Scheier & Carver, 1985) hardiness
(Kobasa, 1982) and self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977).
SOC (Antonovsky, 1987) is a construct that is hypothesised to underlie successful
coping in the face of environmental stressors, thus facilitating health. The assumptions of
the SOC concept are that: (a) change, rather than stability, is the normal mode of life; and
(b) the individual’s ability to deal with change underlies successful coping (Antonovsky,
1987). The model posits that people with a stronger SOC see life as more comprehensible,
meaningful and manageable; this helps them to cope more effectively with stressful situa-
tions and, as a consequence, they are more psychologically and physically healthy than
those whose SOC is weaker (Antonovsky, 1992).
The SOC concept
SOC comprises three components: comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness.
Comprehensibility is the extent to which environmental demands are perceived as struc-
tured, consistent and coherent, rather than unpredictable and chaotic. Manageability is the
extent to which the individual perceives that resources are available to cope with environ-
mental demands. Meaningfulness refers to the degree to which these environmental
demands are seen as challenges that are worthy of commitment and involvement. Although
the SOC model encompasses three components, it is typically operationalised as a uni-
dimensional construct (Eriksson & Lindstrom, 2005; Hittner, 2007).
The SOC is shaped by an individual’s idiosyncratic pattern of life experiences
(Antonovsky, 1987). It tends to be stronger in individuals with more years of education and
higher occupational status (Poppius, Tenkanen, Kalimo and Heinsalmi, 1999). Although
SOC has generally been found to stabilise in early adulthood, research findings suggest that
it can vary in response to events that challenge an individual’s world view (Schnyder,
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Educational Psychology 825
Buechi, Sensky, & Klaghofer, 2000). In an occupational context there is some evidence that
SOC can fluctuate in response to radical changes in organisational climate, workload, social
relationships and perceptions of job security (Antonovsky, 1987; Carmel & Bernstein,
1989; Feldt, Kinnunen & Mauno, 2000).
SOC, stress and health
SOC is generally considered to function in two ways: (a) people with a stronger SOC expe-
rience better health than those with a weaker SOC (main effect); and (b) SOC buffers the
negative impact of stressors on health (moderator effect) (Eriksson & Lindstrom, 2006).
The notion that a strong SOC contributes directly and positively to health status has been
well supported in community and clinical samples (e.g. Julkunen & Ahlstrom, 2006;
Pallant & Lae, 2002). There is also some evidence for the moderator effects of SOC in
such contexts (Hanse & Engstrom, 1999; Erikson & Lidstrom, 2006). The SOC construct
also has clear relevance to the working environment, as employees who find their working
environments meaningful, comprehensible and manageable may be more resistant to the
negative impact of job stressors. Studies that have examined the SOC in workplace settings
tend to support the main effects hypothesis with employees with a stronger SOC reporting
fewer somatic, emotional, behavioural and cognitive symptoms than those whose SOC is
weaker (Albertsen, Neilson & Borg, 2001; Kalimo & Vuori, 1990; Runeson & Norback,
As yet, little support has emerged for the moderating hypothesis of the SOC in work-
place settings (e.g. Hoge & Bussing, 2004; Naude & Rothmann, 2006). One exception is a
study conducted by Albertsen et al. (2001) who found that employees with a stronger SOC
tended to cope more effectively with work stressors. Feldt (1997) found that employees
with a stronger SOC were better protected from the negative effects of some work stres-
sors (such as time pressures and organisational climate) but not others. However as 94%
of this sample were male, the findings may not easily be extended to other occupational
Significant negative associations have been found between SOC strength and perceived
workplace stress (Hoge & Bussing, 2004), as well as more specific job stressors such as
high job demand and low control and support (Albertsen et al., 2001), inter-role conflict
(Diraz, Ortlepp & Greyling, 2003), lack of job resources (Naude & Rothmann, 2006) and
poor organisational climate and job insecurity (Feldt et al., 2000a). As yet, however, the role
played by SOC in the relationship between stressors that are specific to a particular occupa-
tional group and general health outcomes has not been systematically examined. The impor-
tant role played by the working environment in shaping the antecedents, experience and
expression of occupational stress has long been emphasised (Sparks & Cooper, 1999). As
job-specific measures of stress are more grounded in the everyday realities of employees, a
moderating effect for SOC (with its emphasis on comprehensibility, meaningfulness and
manageability of life experiences) might be more apparent.
Aims of this study
The aims of this study are three-fold. Firstly, relationships between job-specific stressors
and psychological and physical health symptoms are examined in a sample of academic
employees working in UK universities. Secondly, the main effects of SOC on health status
are assessed. Thirdly, the potential moderator effects of the SOC on the stressor–strain rela-
tionship are examined. Based on the literature reviewed previously, it is anticipated that a
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826 G. Kinman
positive association will be found between job stressors and health symptoms. A main effect
of SOC is expected, in that academics with a stronger SOC will report fewer physical and
psychological health symptoms. An examination of the potential moderator effects of the
SOC will ascertain whether people with a stronger SOC are more resistant to the negative
effects of job stressors on health status.
Questionnaires were posted to a randomly selected sample of 1000 academic employees
working on a full-time basis in universities throughout the UK. Four hundred and sixty-five
academics responded (representing a response rate of 47%). Fifty-nine percent of the
sample was male, with a mean age of 46 years (SD = 7.4). The average length of time work-
ing in the sector was 14 years (SD = 7.8). Analysis of staffing figures from the Higher
Education Statistics Agency (HESA, 2004) confirmed that the demographic characteristics
of participants in this study broadly corresponded with that of the wider population of
academic staff in the UK at the time the study was conducted. Academic employees in the
UK were 61% male with an average age of 41 years. The mean age of the sample utilised
in the present study, therefore, was somewhat higher than the wider population of academic
employees in the UK.
Job stressors
This was adapted from a measure developed for a study of university employees conducted
by Kinman (1996). Following principal components factor analysis, five factors were iden-
tified, which together explained 50.4% of the variance: support and influence (six items, e.g.
level of technical support and level of influence over decision making [25.5% variance,
α = .82]); time constraints (five items, e.g. amount of time for teaching preparation and
scholarly activity [10.3% variance, α= .84]); student stressors (four items, e.g. student
behaviour and engagement [6.5% variance, α= .83]); work–home interface demands (four
items, e.g. conflict between work and home and lack of time to relax [4.3% variance,
α= .75]); role stressors (seven items, e.g. role conflict and role overload [3.8% of variance,
α = .77]). All items were presented as statements and scored on a five-point scale represent-
ing strength of agreement (ranging from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’). Mean
scores were calculated across items with higher scores in each scale denoting higher levels
of stressors.
SOC was measured by the 13-item Orientation to Life Questionnaire developed by
Antonovsky (1987). This scale has been used in at least 33 languages in 32 countries and is
deemed to be psychometrically sound (Antonovsky, 1993; Eriksson & Lindstrom, 2005).
Five items measure comprehensibility and four items each assess manageability and mean-
ingfulness. An example of an item is: ‘How often do you have the feeling that you are in an
unfamiliar situation and don’t know what to do?’. Five of the items are reverse scored to
avoid a response-set bias. Responses are requested on a seven-point scale ranging from 1 =
‘never’ to 7 = ‘always’. The mean score was taken across items, with higher scores repre-
senting a stronger SOC (α = .87).
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Educational Psychology 827
Psychological distress
This was measured by the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) (Goldberg &
Williams, 1988). The GHQ-12 is widely used in community and occupational settings as a
measure of general distress. Items are rated on a fully anchored four-point scale. An exam-
ple of an item is: ‘Have you recently felt constantly under strain?’, where responses range
from ‘not at all’ to ‘much more than usual’. Mean scores were taken across items, with high
scores representing poorer wellbeing (α = .89).
Physical health symptoms
This was measured by the 18-item Physical Symptoms Inventory (PSI) (Spector & Jex,
1998) which asks about the existence of a range of symptoms over the preceding 30 days.
(e.g., headaches, loss of appetite, sleeping difficulties and fatigue). Respondents are
instructed to indicate whether or not they have experienced each symptom over the last
30 days and, if so, whether they sought medical advice. Two scores were obtained: the level
of physical ill health and the number of illnesses experienced.
Table 1 shows the means and standard deviations of the SOC, the five job stress factors and
the psychological distress and both physical health measures (GHQ-12 and PSI). Inter-
correlations between these variables are also provided. All stressor factors were signifi-
cantly associated with each strain outcome. Significant inverse relationships were observed
between the SOC and psychological and physical health symptoms in the expected direc-
tion (r = .69, p < .001 and r = .30, p < .001 respectively). As anticipated, participants
with a stronger SOC also tended to report fewer health symptoms over the preceding month
(r = .39, p < .001). Significant correlations were found between SOC strength and all five
job stress factors in the expected direction, with particularly robust negative relationships
observed between support and influence and work–home interface demands (r = .64,
p < .001 and r = .53, p < .001 respectively).
In order to examine the main and moderator effects of the SOC on health status and on
the stressor–health relationship, five separate hierarchical multiple regression equations
were computed (relating to the job stressor factors: support and influence, time constraints,
student stressors, work–home interface demands and role stressors). The procedure recom-
mended by Baron and Kenny (1986) for testing for moderating effects was followed.
Scores for the predictor variables were centred to reduce the likelihood of multicollinearity.
Moderator terms were subsequently computed by multiplying each standardised predictor
variable (each of the five job stressor factors) with SOC.
The variables were entered into the equations in four successive steps. As previous
research has found gender differences in levels of SOC and in self-reported symptoms, this
was entered in Step 1 of each analysis in order to control for its potential effects. In Step 2
of each equation, each job stressor factor was entered to examine their main effects. SOC
was entered in Step 3 to examine its main effects. The stressor factors and the SOC were
added in two seperate steps in order to establish the amount of varience explained by each
variable independently. Main effects are established if the job stressor and/or the SOC
entered in steps 2 and 3 accounted for a significant proportion of variance. The two-way
interaction term was entered in Step 4 of each equation, whereby each stressor factor was
multiplied with the SOC. A moderating effect is supported if the interaction term signifi-
cantly increases the R
in the fourth and final step (Baron & Kenny, 1986). Tables 2 and 3
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828 G. Kinman
Table 1. Descriptive statistics and zero-order correlation coefficients for all variables (n = 449–465).
Variable Mean (SD) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1. SOC 4.41 (.94) .00
2. SF1: Support and influence 2.90 (.61) .64*** .00
3. SF2: Time constraints 2.95 (.61) .43*** 43*** .00
4. SF3: Student stressors 2.27 (.69) .26*** .30*** .17*** .00
5. SF4: Work–home interface demands 2.50 (.69) .53*** .44*** .52*** .14** .00
6. SF5: Role in organisation 3.25 (.62) .31*** .30*** .50*** .03 .69*** .00
7. GHQ-12 (psychological distress) .98 (.56) .69*** .66*** .53*** .29*** .64*** .37*** .00
8. PSI (physical symptoms) 4.77 (3.05) .30*** .27*** .28*** .09* .37*** .23*** .39*** .00
9. Number of symptoms 3.87 (2.94) .39*** .34*** .32*** .10* .43*** .23*** .50*** .99*** .00
Note: One-tailed correlations: *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.
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Educational Psychology 829
Table 2. Multiple regression analyses showing predictor variables of psychological distress
(standardised beta values).
beta p-value
Step 1 Gender .01 .07 ns
Step 2 SF1: support & influence .43 .66 <.001
SF2: time constraints .29 .54 <.001
SF3: student stressors .10 .31 <.001
SF4: work–home interface .42 .65 <.001
SF5: role in organisation .14 .38 <.001
Step 3 SOC – main effects
SF1: support & influence .16 .52 <.001
SF2: time constraints .30 .61 <.001
SF3: student stressors .45 .70 <.001
SF4: work–home interface .21 .54 <.001
SF5: role in organisation .42 .68 <.001
Step 4 SOC as moderator
SF1: support & influence .01 .42 <.01
SF2: time constraints .01 .44 <.01
SF3: student stressors .00 .18 ns
SF4: work–home interface .01 .40 <.01
SF5: role in organisation .00 .15 ns
Table 3. Multiple regression analyses showing predictor variables of physical symptoms
(standardised beta values).
Beta p-value
Step 1 Gender .02 .13 <.01
Step 2 SF1: support & influence .07 .26 <.001
SF2: time constraints .07 .27 <.001
SF3: student stressors .01 .11 <.05
SF4: work–home interface .12 .34 <.001
SF5: role in organisation .05 .21 <.001
Step 3 SOC main effects
SF1: support & influence .03 .23 <.001
SF2: time constraints .04 .23 <.001
SF3: student stressors .08 .29 <.001
SF4: work–home interface .02 .17 <.001
SF5: role in organisation .019 .26 <.001
Step 4 SOC as moderator
SF1: support & influence .01 .33 ns*
SF2: time constraints .01 .43 ns**
SF3: student stressors .01 .16 ns
SF4: work–home interface .02 .62 <.001
SF5: role in organisation .02 .74 <.01
Note: *p = .054; **p = .058.
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830 G. Kinman
present the details of these analyses. The relevant statistics have been extracted from each
of the five individual regression equations. The findings are discussed below in relation to
each outcome variable.
Predictors of psychological distress
Details of the hierarchical regressions can be found in Table 2. No statistically significant
effects for gender were found. The job stressors, entered in Step 2 of each equation,
accounted for between 10 and 43% of the variance in psychological distress (all p < .001),
with support and influence making the strongest contribution and student stressors the weak-
est. The main effect of SOC on psychological distress, entered in Step 3 of each equation,
was strongly significant. Its contribution to psychological distress varied from 16 to 45%
depending on the job stressor controlled for in the previous step. Evidence of moderator
effects of SOC was found for three out of the five job stressor factors. The two-way inter-
actions between SOC and: (a) support and influence; (b) time constraints; and (c) work–home
interface demands, entered in the fourth and final step of each equation, explained a further
1% of the variance respectively (see Table 2). In order to illustrate the moderator effects
found for psychological distress and physical symptoms discussed below, the interaction
between work–home interface demands and psychological distress is plotted in Figure 1 at
high, medium and low levels of SOC. As can be seen, where SOC was weaker, relationships
between work–home interface demands and psychological distress were stronger.
Figure 1. Associations between psychological distress and work–home interface demands for three SOC groups.
Predictors of physical symptoms
Details of the regressions can be found in Table 3. Gender, entered in Step 1, accounted for
2% of the variance in physical symptoms. The job stressor factor entered in Step 2 of each
equation made significant contributions to the variance, explaining between 1 and 12%.
High work-home interface demands
Psychological distress (GHQ)
Figure 1. Associations between psychological distress and work–home interface demands for three
SOC groups.
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Educational Psychology 831
Work–home interface demands made the strongest contribution of all the job stressor
factors and student stressors the weakest. Strong main effects were found for SOC entered
in Step 3, accounting for between 2 and 8% of variance in physical symptoms, depending
on the job stressor previously controlled for. Some evidence was found for a buffering effect
of SOC on physical health symptoms (see Step 4 in Table 3). The two-way interaction
between SOC and both work–home interface demands and role stressors explained 2% of
the variance respectively. A trend was also found to support a moderator effect of support
and influence and time constraints, but the statistical significance exceeded acceptable
This study has highlighted significant inter-relationships between job-specific stressors,
health status and SOC strength in academic employees working in UK universities.
Academics who perceived lower levels of support and influence, more time constraints,
higher levels of student demands and work–home interface demands and more role stres-
sors tended to report poorer health. Stressors relating to support and influence, time
constraints and the work–home interface tended to be the strongest predictors of health
Participants with a stronger SOC were not only in better psychological and physical
health than those whose SOC was weaker; they also reported lower levels of all types of job
stressor. The negative association between SOC and job stressors was particular strong for
those relating to support and influence, the work–home interface and time constraints.
Evidence for a moderating role of SOC has also been provided in this study, whereby
employees with a stronger SOC may be protected from the adverse impact of some job-
related stressors.
The findings reported in this paper support Antonovsky’s (1987) contention that the
SOC construct predicts health status. The observed strong main effects of SOC on psycho-
logical distress support the view that individuals with a weaker SOC will be more inclined
to experience poorer wellbeing. Supporting the findings of Flensborg-Madsen, Ventegodt,
and Merrick (2005) that SOC is a more robust predictor of psychological health status than
physical symptoms, the proportion of variance accounted for in the latter outcome was
considerably weaker than for physical distress. This suggests that SOC is more protective
of psychological wellbeing than physical health. It is acknowledged, however, that the
strong relationship observed in the present study between SOC and psychological distress
might be due to both constructs tapping into the same underlying trait of negative affectivity
(Watson & Clark, 1984). Nonetheless, the significant moderating effects found in this study
cannot be explained solely by content overlap; employees whose SOC is higher appear to
be in better health than those with a low SOC at a similar level of exposure to some job
Participants with a stronger SOC tended to perceive lower levels of all types of job
stressor than their counterparts whose SOC was weaker, thus supporting Antonovsky’s
view that people who find their environment more comprehensible, meaningful and
manageable are less likely to appraise stimuli as stressful (Antonovsky, 1987). Evidence
has also been provided that SOC is related not only to stressors intrinsic to the work role,
but also to demands emanating from the work–home interface. Unlike most previous stud-
ies that have tested the moderating role of the SOC in the work environment (e.g. Naude &
Rothmann, 2006), some evidence has been provided that employees with a stronger SOC
can cope more effectively with some job-related stressors but not others. Although the
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832 G. Kinman
proportions of additional variance explained by the moderator effects were small, this is
sufficient to provide supportive evidence for a buffering role (McClelland & Judd, 1993).
In terms of psychological health status, moderator effects were found for three out of the
five job stressors tested: support and influence, time constraints, and work–home interface
demands. For physical health, evidence for moderation was observed for work–home inter-
face demands and role stressors, but a trend was found to support moderation for other job-
related stressors. These findings suggest that the potential negative effects on health of low
levels of support and decision latitude, lack of influence at work and insufficient time for
teaching preparation and scholarly activity might be offset if the academic working environ-
ment was perceived to be more meaningful, manageable and comprehensible.
Evidence has also been provided that a strong SOC may provide employees with greater
protection from the negative impact of role overload and conflict and demands experienced
at the work–home interface. It is possible that an employee with a weak SOC would
perceive inter-role demands as more chaotic, unpredictable and uncontrollable than an
employee whose SOC was stronger and, by implication, would be less able to utilise the
resources necessary to reduce such demands. Previous research suggests that academic
employees might have particular problems maintaining an acceptable work–life balance
(Doyle & Hind, 1998; Kinman & Jones, 2008). The salience of work–home interface
demands as an important source of strain has also been highlighted in the present study. The
role played by SOC in successfully coping with the work–home interface warrants further
examination. How SOC strength is associated with role enhancement as well as role conflict
in the face of competing demands from the work and home domains might be a particularly
fruitful area of study.
The mean SOC score obtained for this sample was low in comparison with that found
in other occupational studies (Ryland & Greenfeld, 1991; Feldt, 1997) and only 5% higher
than that reported in a study of ethnic minority homeless women (Nyamathi, 1991). That
such a low SOC was found amongst a sample of academic employees challenges previous
evidence that higher occupational status and years of education predicts a stronger SOC
(Poppius et al., 1999). Factors relating to the working environment presently experienced
by this occupational group may provide a tentative explanation for such a low mean SOC
in the present sample. The higher education sector in the UK has undergone considerable
change in the 10–15 years prior to the study being conducted. Comparatively high levels of
strain have also been reported in the sector (Kinman et al., 2006). While there is evidence
to support the long-term stability of SOC in adulthood (Eriksson & Lindstrom, 2005), it has
been found to fluctuate in response to profound changes to the working environment
(Antonovsky, 1987; Feldt et al., 2000 ). In the present sample, negative perceptions of
organisational climate maintained over the long term might lead to a gradual erosion of
SOC in life and work. Under such conditions, working life might be perceived as having
become more unpredictable, less coherent and less participative. Perceptions of a decrease
in resources available to cope with increased demands are likely to reduce perceptions of
manageability. This erosion of SOC might, in turn, compromise health status over time.
Although strong relationships between SOC, job-stressors and health status have
emerged in this study, its cross-sectional design and reliance on self-reported measures
means that the direction of causality is uncertain. It is necessary to obtain longitudinal data
to establish cause and effect relationships. Daily diary methodology might be a particularly
appropriate method with which to examine the role played by SOC in the work stress
process at a more detailed level of analysis. Whether changes in perceptions of job stressors
lead to fluctuations in SOC over time could also be established via such methodology. How
SOC might be enhanced would also be a potentially fruitful area for future research.
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Educational Psychology 833
The results of this study suggest that SOC might be enhanced by primary interventions
that tackle job stressors at source. Building on Antonovsky’s (1991 ) recommendations to
strengthen SOC, enhanced opportunities for personal development and participation in
decision-making could lead to perceptions of greater meaningfulness in work. A sense of
manageability might be promoted by more effective work-load management, adequate
support and increased autonomy. Comprehensibility could be enhanced by reducing role
stressors, improving job security and providing open and equitable pay structures. There is
also evidence that SOC might be responsive to secondary stress-management interventions
(Haraldsson, Fridlund, Baigi & Marklund, 2005) but, to date, little work has been done in
an occupational context. In order to protect the wellbeing of employees, the findings of the
present study suggest that preventative programmes that aim to enhance personal resources,
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... Following from the massification of instruction and open scholarship due to remarkable gains in information technology (Lundberg & Cooper, 2010), combined with the widespread adoption of private-sector principles of consumer satisfaction, deliverables, and public accountability (Anderson, 2006;Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2004), post-secondary institutions now compete for students, faculty, and resources on an international scale. However, this shift in focus on post-secondary visibility and comparisons has corresponded with significant changes in the nature of academic work and training, with faculty and graduate students facing heightened demands for teaching excellence and research productivity despite a lack of commensurate resources (Biron et al., 2008;Kinman, 2008;McAlpine & Akerlind, 2010;. ...
... Research with post-secondary faculty also underscores the critical role of social support in mitigating experiences of burnout (Otero-López et al., 2008;Singh & Bush, 1998;van Emmerik, 2004), with findings showing higher burnout levels among faculty who report unsupportive relationships with administrators or colleagues (Barkhuizen et al., 2014;van Emmerik, 2002). Beyond the psychological strain of balancing disparate academic and professional responsibilities in terms of role conflict (Fernet et al., 2004;Ghorpade et al., 2011;van Emmerik, 2004), findings show balancing one's academic work with personal or family obligations to be a particularly salient contributor to faculty burnout (Hogan et al., 2014;Kinman, 2008). ...
... Among the factors that generate stress in teachers, we find overwork, poor working conditions, a salary that does not meet teachers' expectations, as well as changes in the curriculum and the organization of tasks [24][25][26]. To these factors must be added the difficulty with the pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) [27], which has made evident the need for teachers with expertise in digital technologies who can develop their work effectively through an online learning environment that is attractive to students [28], and which has had the disadvantage that teachers did not have sufficient training on how to teach at a distance and had to learn how to do it in a self-taught way [29]. ...
... To conclude, in relation to the last hypothesis, according to which it was expected to find an inversely proportional relationship between resilience and the dimensions of burnout and cynicism, and a direct and significant relationship between resilience and professional effectiveness, the results confirm this hypothesis being in line with other studies that show that emotional exhaustion has a very close relationship with coping with conflict situations in a negative way [64,68,83], and that resilience may be a key factor among teachers in coping with burnout by turning threats into challenges and personal growth [10,14,25,31,59,62]. ...
... Employee engagement in the planning process is essential as they are the players in their work environment; they can offer suggestions for improvement. Overall, department heads and their representatives must observe and gather the signs and symptoms of work-related burnout; they must be engaged with such situations and implement necessary structural changes before the situations pose problems for the employees (Kinman, 2008). Siu et al. (2014) find that appropriate coping mechanisms and social support can impact an employee's perception of burnout. ...
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In the past two decades, job burnout has rapidly become a part of everyone's lives. Employees experience burnout because of chronic job stressors. Job burnout is a prolonged response to persistent emotional and interpersonal stresses at work and is characterised by emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and diminishing personal accomplishment. This article explores the literature on burnout for readers to gain a better understanding of the condition. It proposes clarifying the dynamics of burnout, including the causes and consequences of its components.
... They lacked the ability to manage their time and workload in a way that would provide them with opportunities to complete their work while also engaging in self-care practices, while the high self-care interviewees noted that they made time in their schedules to complete work and practice self-care daily. These findings align with previous findings on academic/work pressure as a main source of stress for doctoral students, whether they are domestic (Golde, 2005;Kinman, 2008;Schmidt & Hansson, 2018) or international (Johnson et al., 2018;Mahmood & Burke, 2018). ...
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Aim/Purpose: This study aims to understand and assess the self-care perceptions and habits of US domestic versus international graduate students in doctoral programs at an R1 university in Texas. Background: The number of domestic and international students entering doctoral programs in US universities continues to increase each year. However, completion rates within the Ph.D. program remain low, especially for domestic students. Previous research has suggested that mental health and issues of well-being are equated with high-stress levels and depression rather than balance and success. One way to address the low completion rates is to understand how doctoral students balance academic progress and achievement in their prospective doctoral programs with self-care efforts. This study is designed to assess the self-care perceptions and habits of domestic and international graduate students in doctoral programs as well as to understand the differences in perceptions of self-care between domestic students and international students Methodology: In the present study, researchers used an explanatory mixed methods research design to investigate the self-care practices and perceptions of domestic and international doctoral students enrolled in a public university in Texas. In the first phase, quantitative data were collected through a survey to examine the extent to which doctoral students utilize self-care practices (six self-care variables were examined in the survey: physical, cognitive, psychological/emotional, behavior, interpersonal, and existential). The descriptive statistics collected in this phase aided in the purposeful sampling of participants for the second phase of the study. In phase 2, interviews were conducted to identify the nature of self-care and self-care choices practiced by doctoral students and how these characteristics were similar and/or different between international and domestic students. Contribution: Few studies have investigated the self-care practices and perceptions of domestic and international students. The present study contributes to the body of knowledge on self-care perceptions and practices amongst domestic and international doctoral students in a Texas public university. Findings: Through a survey of doctoral students, international students reported higher levels of self-care than their domestic counterparts. After interviews were conducted the researchers found that the students interviewed each understood the need for self-care to avoid stress and burnout, however only some were able to prioritize self-care in their day-to-day routines, citing workload from courses and faculty advisors as preventing self-care. Many attributed this to their family and cultural backgrounds. Recommendations for Practitioners: In conducting this study, researchers concluded that self-care practices among doctoral students should become a priority in higher education programs. The participants in this study understood that they should practice self-care, but they had limited ability to engage in self-care regularly. Therefore, it is recommended that higher education institutions and faculty mentors recognize the importance of self-care for doctoral students and support their students in maintaining a work-life balance to avoid burnout and attrition. Recommendation for Researchers: Additional studies that include a larger sample size and specific self-care routines to be studied would be beneficial for researchers to consider. Impact on Society: Understanding and investing in doctoral students’ well-being and self-care practices could lead to higher completion rates and more productive programs in higher education. Future Research: Future research could be conducted to examine the differing needs of domestic and international students when considering self-care and doctoral students.
... Based on a study among US academics, working overtime is a key factor increasing the risk of work-life conflicts (O'Laughlin and Bischoff 2005). UK academics reporting work-family conflicts tended to be less satisfied with their work, less healthy, and more likely to have seriously considered leaving academia (Kinman 2008). Such an imbalance of work and personal life can affect physical and mental well-being and even lead to depression or burnout (Kornitzer et al. 2006;Brotman et al. 2007). ...
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Purpose We investigated relations between day-to-day job demands, job control, job strain, social support at work, and day-to-day work–life interference among office workers in academia. Methods This study is based on a 15-working day data collection period using an Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) implemented in our self-developed STRAW smartphone application. We recruited office workers from two academic settings in Belgium and Slovenia. Participants were repeatedly asked to complete EMAs including work stressors and work interfering with personal life (WIPL) as well as personal life interfering with work (PLIW). We applied fixed-effect model testing with random intercepts to investigate within- and between-participant levels. Results We included 55 participants with 2261 analyzed observations in this study. Our data showed that researchers with a PhD reported higher WIPL compared to administrative and technical staff (β = 0.37, p < 0.05). We found significant positive associations between job demands (β = 0.53, p < 0.001), job control (β = 0.19, p < 0.01), and job strain (β = 0.61, p < 0.001) and WIPL. Furthermore, there was a significant interaction effect between job control and social support at work on WIPL (β = − 0.24, p < 0.05). Additionally, a significant negative association was found between job control and PLIW (β = − 0.20, p < 0.05). Conclusion Based on our EMA study, higher job demands and job strain were correlated with higher WIPL. Furthermore, we found associations going in opposite directions; higher job control was correlated with higher WIPL and lower PLIW. Higher job control leading to higher imbalance stands out as a novel result.
... Όσον αφορά την εργασία, το άγχος θεωρείται αναπόφευκτη πτυχή στην επαγγελματική ζωή των ατόμων (Kinman, 2008). Σύμφωνα με το Εθνικό Ινστιτούτο Επαγγελματικής Ασφάλειας των Η.Π.Α., ως εργασιακό άγχος ορίζεται η κατάσταση που προκύπτει όταν οι απαιτήσεις μιας θέσεως εργασίας δεν ευθυγραμμίζονται με τις δυνατότητες ή τους διαθέσιμους πόρους ενός εργαζομένου (NIOSH, 1999). ...
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Στον σύγχρονο επιχειρηματικό κόσμο, οι εργαζόμενοι πολλές φορές βιώνουν πολυποίκιλες εμπειρίες, οι οποίες τους δημιουργούν διαφορετικά επίπεδα προσδοκιών, τόσο από την πλευρά τους όσο και από την πλευρά των συναδέλφων τους. Αυτό έχει ως αποτέλεσμα να δημιουργείται, στους εργαζόμενους, ασυμβατότητα των απαιτήσεων και των προσδοκιών τους σε σχέση με τον βασικό τους ρόλο, γεγονός που επηρεάζει την απόδοση του ρόλου τους (Rizzo et. al., 1970). Με άλλα λόγια, δημιουργείται το φαινόμενο της σύγκρουσης ρόλων. Σύμφωνα με έρευνες, το εργασιακό άγχος αρχίζει να εμφανίζεται όταν οι απαιτήσεις στον χώρο εργασίας ξεπερνούν τις ικανότητες και τις προσδοκίες των εργαζομένων (Agarwal et. al., 2020). Επιπρόσθετα, κατά τους Van den Broeck et al. (2007), η σύγκρουση και η ασάφεια των ρόλων περιορίζουν τις ατομικές ικανότητες των εργαζομένων και μειώνουν την εργασιακή τους δέσμευση. Κατά συνέπεια, στόχος της παρούσας έρευνας είναι η μελέτη της επιρροής της σύγκρουσης ρόλων, τόσο στο εργασιακό άγχος όσο και την εργασιακή δέσμευση. Επιπλέον, θα εξεταστεί ο ρυθμιστικός ρόλος του εργασιακού άγχους στο δίπολο της σχέσεως μεταξύ της σύγκρουσης ρόλων και της εργασιακής δέσμευσης. Προκειμένου να εξεταστούν οι παραπάνω σχέσεις, διεξήχθη έρευνα σε 138 συμμετέχοντες, οι οποίοι εργάζονται σε ελληνικό δημόσιο φορέα εκπαίδευσης. Τα αποτελέσματα της συγκεκριμένης έρευνας ανέδειξαν την επιρροή της σύγκρουσης τόσο στο εργασιακό άγχος όσο και την εργασιακή δέσμευση.
... Furthermore, most former burnout studies in the academic context focused on academic staff in general (Kinman, 2008;Barkhuizen et al., 2014), included only PhD researchers (Devine and Hunter, 2017;Levecque et al., 2017;Nagy et al., 2019) or integrated only one discipline or university (Waaijer et al., 2016;Nagy et al., 2019). Additionally, the group of postdoctoral researchers (Gloria and Steinhardt, 2016;Guthrie et al., 2017;Vekkaila et al., 2018;Guidetti et al., 2021) and the Flemish context (Levecque et al., 2017) have been poorly addressed in existing burnout literature. ...
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IntroductionBurnout is a growing problem among young researchers, affecting individuals, organizations and society. Our study aims to identify burnout profiles and highlight the corresponding job demands and resources, resulting in recommendations to reduce burnout risk in the academic context.Methods This cross-sectional study collected data from young researchers (n = 1,123) at five Flemish universities through an online survey measuring burnout risk, work engagement, sleeping behavior, and the most prominent job demands (e.g., publication pressure) and resources (e.g., social support). We conducted Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) to identify burnout profiles in young researchers and subsequently compared these groups on job demands and resources patterns.ResultsFive burnout profiles were identified: (1) High Burnout Risk (9.3%), (2) Cynical (30.1%), (3) Overextended (2.3%), (4) Low Burnout Risk (34.8%), and (5) No Burnout Risk (23.6%). Each burnout profile was associated with a different pattern of job demands and resources. For instance, high levels of meaningfulness (OR = −1.96) decreased the odds to being classified in the Cynical profile.Conclusion Our findings show that the Cynical profile corresponds to a relatively high number of young researchers, which may imply that they are particularly vulnerable to the cynicism dimension of burnout. Additionally, work-life interference and perceived publication pressure seemed the most significant predictors of burnout risk, while meaningfulness, social support from supervisor and learning opportunities played an important protective role.
... Work stress has also been found to increase sick absences (Duijts et al., 2007), lead to poor mental health (Harvey and Edanna, 2017), and reduce positive outcomes at work (Utary, 2014;Svanström, 2016). The amount of work stress directly affects the occupational health levels of employees themselves (Beehr, 2001;Kinman, 2008) and is a significant contributor to increased rates of fatigue, cynicism, and psychological distress (Broberg et al., 2017;Chappelle et al., 2019). Work stress caused by high demand-low control tasks influences the wellbeing of employees (Heyeon et al., 2019;Kern et al., 2020). ...
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Work adaptability refers to the work experience, habits, and skills that enable an individual to adapt to current or changing work tasks and situations. It is a coping resource that individuals use to mitigate various types of stress. Adopting the interaction model of work stress, this study investigated 168 young employees in 20 organizations in Zhejiang Province through interview research and a questionnaire survey. The results show that work adaptability has a significant main effect on occupational health. The work adaptability of employees plays a moderating role in the relationship between occupational health and lack of work meaning stress, role conflict stress, interpersonal relationship stress, negative organizational atmosphere stress, and total score of work stressors. Young employees with high work adaptability have worse occupational health under high-level stress situations due to a lack of work meaning. For promoting occupational health in young employees, organizations should have this group of workers complete meaningful jobs or inform them of the importance of their jobs, reduce role conflict, and create a supportive organizational atmosphere. For management, it is imperative to eliminate high-level stress that stems from a lack of work meaning in order to retain young employees with high work adaptability. These findings shed light on how work adaptability helps young employees deal with stress and improve their occupational health. In organizational and self-stress management, it is beneficial to improve employees’ work adaptability continuously as a means of effectively resisting stress and maintaining occupational health.
Research indicates job insecurity (JI) is related to lower job satisfaction, partially mediated by psychological contract breach (PCB; a perceived breaking of the implicit exchange relationship between employer and employee). The authors investigated the extent to which providing a positive organizational learning climate (OLC) might attenuate the relationships between (a) qualitative JI and PCB and (b) PCB and job satisfaction. Using cross-sectional survey data from higher education industry employees within the US ( N = 372), South Africa ( N = 1096), and Croatia ( N = 719), the study found consistent results across all three settings. Qualitative JI was negatively associated with job satisfaction both directly and indirectly via PCB. Although a positive OLC did not attenuate the relationship between JI and PCB, it did buffer the relationship between PCB and job satisfaction. The findings are discussed in light of Conservation of Resources theory and the need to identify practical organizational interventions to alleviate the adverse effects of qualitative JI.
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In this article, we attempt to distinguish between the properties of moderator and mediator variables at a number of levels. First, we seek to make theorists and researchers aware of the importance of not using the terms moderator and mediator interchangeably by carefully elaborating, both conceptually and strategically, the many ways in which moderators and mediators differ. We then go beyond this largely pedagogical function and delineate the conceptual and strategic implications of making use of such distinctions with regard to a wide range of phenomena, including control and stress, attitudes, and personality traits. We also provide a specific compendium of analytic procedures appropriate for making the most effective use of the moderator and mediator distinction, both separately and in terms of a broader causal system that includes both moderators and mediators. (46 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The aim of this cross-sectional study was to explore the main, mediating and moderating role of sense of coherence (SOC) on stress symptoms and on the association between perceived psychosocial work environment and stress symptoms. The sample includes 2053 Danish employees from 52 workplaces. Hierarchical regression models were applied for each measure of stress. The results strongly supported the presence of a main effect for SOC. People with high levels of SOC experienced fewer stress symptoms. A mediating effect of SOC was also supported. Thus, SOC in part explained the association between work environment and stress symptoms. In addition, some support for a moderating effect of SOC was found, suggesting that people with higher SOC coped more efficiently with work environmental strain that people with lower SOC. Taken together the regression models explained 11–32% of the variance in stress symptoms. The results suggest that measures of individual factors such as SOC should be included in analyses of the effects of work environmental factors on stress and well-being.
The aim of this study was to test a mediational model appropriate for explaining the effects of psychosocial work characteristics (influence at work, job insecurity, organizational climate and leadership relations) on general well-being, (psychosomatic symptoms) and on occupational well-being (emotional exhaustion at work) via sense of coherence (SOC) in a one-year follow-up study. The questionnaire data were gathered in four Finnish organizations in February 1995 and 1996. Altogether 219 employees participated in the study in both years. The results, based on structural equation modelling, showed that a good organizational climate and low job insecurity were related to strong SOC, which was, in turn, linked to a high level of general as well as occupational well-being. In addition, those employees who experienced changes in organizational climate and leadership relations during the follow-up period, showed changes in SOC which was, in turn, related to changes in the well-being indicators. The results thus highlight the major role of a good organizational climate for enhancing SOC and, consequently, well-being. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Presents an integrative theoretical framework to explain and to predict psychological changes achieved by different modes of treatment. This theory states that psychological procedures, whatever their form, alter the level and strength of self-efficacy. It is hypothesized that expectations of personal efficacy determine whether coping behavior will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long it will be sustained in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences. Persistence in activities that are subjectively threatening but in fact relatively safe produces, through experiences of mastery, further enhancement of self-efficacy and corresponding reductions in defensive behavior. In the proposed model, expectations of personal efficacy are derived from 4 principal sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. Factors influencing the cognitive processing of efficacy information arise from enactive, vicarious, exhortative, and emotive sources. The differential power of diverse therapeutic procedures is analyzed in terms of the postulated cognitive mechanism of operation. Findings are reported from microanalyses of enactive, vicarious, and emotive modes of treatment that support the hypothesized relationship between perceived self-efficacy and behavioral changes. (21/2 p ref)
This study investigated different ways in which work stressors, sense of coherence (SOC), and negative affectivity (NA) might influence strain. Three models covering direct, moderating. and mediating effects between the variables were tested for hyperresponsitivity, causality, perception, selection, and stressor-creation mechanisms. The sample consisted of 205 hospital employees (nurses, physicians, and medical technicians). Work stressors. SOC. NA, and strain were measured and analyzed in structural equation models and with analyses of variance. Besides direct effects on strain, significant perception, selection, and stressor-creation mechanisms of SOC could be identified. After controlling for SOC and NA, work stressors remain substantial predictors of strain.
The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between employment status, ill health and sense of coherence(SOC). A cross-sectional sample of the former workers at the closed down Volvo Kalmar plant in Sweden was used. A questionnaire was mailed to all identified subjects 2 years after the closure of the plant. Responses were obtained from 344 persons, of whom 173 were re-employed and 92 were unemployed. They answered the questionnaire anonymously on background variables, SOC and ill health (physical and psychological symptoms). A notable difference was found between the re-employed and unemployed, where the unemployed reported symptoms significantly more often as well as a significantly weaker SOC. A main finding in a four cell model indicated that unemployment had a rather low impact on symptoms in the presence of a strong SOC. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was performed with simultaneous analysis of the unemployed and reemployed. The SEM analysis indicated that SOC seemed to have a greater impact on psychological symptoms among unemployed compared with re-employed persons. However, it should be noted that the present study does not allow for the determination of cause-effect relationships.
The objective of this study was to assess the relationships between occupational stress, sense of coherence, burnout and work engagement of emergency workers in Gauteng and to determine whether sense of coherence moderates the effects of occupational stress on burnout and work engagement. A cross-sectional survey design was used. A convenience sample (N = 323) was taken from emergency workers in Gauteng. The Maslach Burnout Inventory — Human Services Survey, the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale, the Emergency Worker Stress Inventory and the Orientation to Life Questionnaire were administered. The results showed that occupational stress (as a result of a lack of job resources) and a weak sense of coherence predicted emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. Sense of coherence predicted personal accomplishment and work engagement. However, sense of coherence did not moderate the effects of occupational stress on emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, personal accomplishment or work engagement.
The present study examined the relationship between inter-role conflict and life satisfaction in a sample of working mothers. It also explored Sense of Coherence as a moderating variable in the relationship. Given the exploratory nature of the study, a cross-sectional, correlational design was adopted. Self-report data were collected from 40 working mothers from the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. Statistical analysis found that there was a significant inverse relationship between inter-role conflict and life satisfaction. Sense of Coherence was found to be a significant moderator of the inter-role conflict and life satisfaction relationship. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed in terms of the findings.