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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2015

Work-family conflicts and self-reported work ability: cross-sectional findings in women with chronic musculoskeletal disorders

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2015
Matthias Bethge, Yvonne Borngräber
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12891-015-0515-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

MB and YB planned and designed the study. MB analyzed the data. YB organized the patients’ recruitment and the acquisition of data. MB and YB interpreted the data and drafted the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Under conditions of gender-specific division of paid employment and unpaid childcare and housework, rising employment of women increases the likelihood that they will be faced with work-family conflicts. As recent research indicates, such conflicts might also contribute to musculoskeletal disorders. However, research in patient samples is needed to clarify how important these conflicts are for relevant health-related measures of functioning (e.g., work ability). We therefore examined, in a sample of women with chronic musculoskeletal disorders, the indirect and direct associations between the indicators of work-family conflicts and self-reported work ability as well as whether the direct effects remained significant after adjustment for covariates.


A cross-sectional questionnaire-based study was conducted. Participants were recruited from five rehabilitation centers. Work-family conflicts were assessed by four scales referring to time- and strain-based work interference with family (WIF) and family interference with work (FIW). Self-reported work ability was measured by the Work Ability Index. A confirmatory factor analysis was performed to approve the anticipated four-factor structure of the work-family conflict measure. Direct and indirect associations between work-family conflict indicators and self-reported work ability were examined by path model analysis. Multivariate regression models were performed to calculate adjusted estimators of the direct effects of strain-based WIF and FIW on work ability.


The study included 351 employed women. The confirmatory factor analysis provided support for the anticipated four-factor structure of the work-family conflict measure. The path model analysis identified direct effects of both strain-based scales on self-reported work ability. The time-based scales were indirectly associated with work ability via the strain-based scales. Adjusted regression analyses showed that a five-point increase in strain-based WIF or FIW was associated with a four- and two-point decrease in self-reported work ability, respectively. The standardized regression coefficients were β = 0.35 and β = 0.12.


Our findings indicate that work-family conflicts are associated with poor work ability in female patients with chronic musculoskeletal disorders. However, longitudinal research is needed to establish a causal relationship. Better compatibility of work and family life might be an environmental facilitator of better rehabilitation outcomes in female patients with musculoskeletal disorders.
Additional file 1: Original and German items of the work-family conflict questionnaire.
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