Dispositional and Situational Sources of Control: Relative Impact on Work-Family Conflict and Positive Spillover

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to assess the relative influence of personality (locus of control) and situational control (job autonomy) on the experience of work-to-family conflict (WFC), family-to-work conflict (FWC), and positive work-family spillover (PS).

Design/methodology/approach: Using data from the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce (n ¼ 3,504) and from O*Net, an independent database of occupational characteristic ratings, regression analysis was used to test direct effects, relative weights analysis was used to determine the relative influence of locus of control and job autonomy on work-family outcomes, and mediation analysis was used to examine the mediating influence of perceived job autonomy.

Findings: Dispositional control (i.e. internal locus of control) was more strongly associated with the outcome variables than was situational control (i.e. objective job autonomy). As expected, internal locus of control was negatively related to WFC and FWC, and positively related to PS. Job autonomy, however, was unexpectedly related to higher levels of FWC and was unrelated to WFC and PS. Relative weights analysis revealed that situational vs dispositional control were differentially related to the outcome variables. Perceived job autonomy mediated the relationship between locus of control and WFC and PS.

Research limitations/implications: The correlational design prevents conclusions about causality.

Practical implications: Knowing that both personality and job autonomy are important in understanding work-family outcomes enables managers to intervene appropriately.

Originality/value: This study increases our understanding of the role of personality in relation to work-family outcomes. In addition, it used a novel technique to partial the effects of situational and dispositional control, and used an objective measure of job autonomy.


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2005 Academy of Management Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.