Balancing Work and Family Responsibilities as an Extension 4-H Agent
Rhea, Joseph Richard, Jr.
AdvisorTaylor, Walter N.
A career with Extension can be very rewarding, but also very demanding, as employees have to balance job stress and time demands with family goals and demands. The very nature of Extension work brings some tension between the job and family, and employees need to be equipped to make decisions about personal and work time. If the Extension System is to be a leader of positive change for individuals, families and communities, its employees must be able to find that balance. Previous research with 4-H agents has identified 23 job responsibilities that were stressors, with some studies showing a direct relationship between Extension work and family problems. To build on these studies and establish the current situation among Extension agents with 4-H responsibilities in the Southern Region, this correlational study examined the relationships and differences between job characteristics and marital satisfaction, how agent characteristics directed those relationships, and what coping mechanisms agents used to ameliorate negative work-family interactions. The study instrument utilized the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test (LWMAT) to arrive at a global score that represented the distress level of the relationship for each agent. Demographic information and work-related information was also gathered from the agent responses to the instrument, and then used to develop relationships among variables. The findings of the study were that agents experience the stressors in similar ways and amounts, but their perceptions of those stressors and how they affect marital satisfaction differ. The group experiencing the stressors to the most detrimental level was the members of the “Sandwich Generation,” which include employees aged 35-54, and who find their careers sandwiched between raising children and caring for aging parents. They, along with other agents, need to employ numerous strategies to cope with the stresses they experience, including prioritizing, planning, and building a strong social support system as the top strategies.