Exceptional care responsibilities refer to the experiences of caring for a dependent with a chronic illness or disability (Roundtree & Lynch, 2006). Exceptional care responsibilities can involve a significant amount of time and energy, is often crisis driven, and the individual receiving care can grow increasingly dependent (Roundtree & Lynch, 2006). This type of care requires that the primary caregiver and the family make numerous adjustments in both the work and home settings (Roundtree & Lynch, 2006)and can result in elevated levels of family-work and work-family conflict (Brennan & Brannen, 2005). Exceptional care responsibilities are intensified by an absence of supports in the workplace and the community to assist individuals and families (Gareis & Barnett, 2008; Brennan & Brannan, 2005; Rosenzweig & Huffstutter, 2004). The research base related to child and eldercare has been instrumental in the development of specific policies that address employees who have these responsibilities. Absent from these newer workplace policies and practices are those that reflect the needs of employees who provide care for dependents with chronic conditions, especially those with young children with disabilities. To date little research has compared the experiences of exceptional care and work to those of typical care and work. This research fills the gap through an analysis of both types of care using a national survey of the workforce.
Using data of wage and salaried employees from the National Study of the Changing Workforce (2002), 197 employees with exceptional family care responsibilities were compared to 1705 employees with typical care responsibilities on two aspects of work-family fit: work-family conflict and family-work conflict. Participants were identified as having exceptional care responsibilities if they indicated they provided care and assistance to a child, adult or elder with a disability or chronic condition. Both types of conflict were assessed through two scales comprising of five items each. Reliability analysis of both scales showed good internal consistency of the items with Cronbach's alpha coefficients at .88 and .82 respectively.
Bivariate correlations and hierarchical linear regression modeling demonstrated overall good model fit for both types of conflict. For work-family conflict the demographic variables entered in step 1 accounted for 6% of the variance with age, ethnicity, education, number of children and work hours having the strongest associations with the outcome. When type of care (typical or exceptional) and work-life supports were entered into the model in Step 2, they significantly improved the prediction, with an additional 18% of variance explained. Although the overall model for family-work conflict was weaker (R2=.12), having exceptional care responsibilities was also a significant predictor of higher levels of family-work conflict (beta=.14, p<.001).
Implications and Conclusions
The findings are discussed in relation to the need to develop measures that assess different types of care responsibilities in order to design more effective interventions in the workplace and community that are reflective of the needs of employees with disability-related dependent care responsibilities.