The main objective of this study was to identify the coping strategies used by successful South African women of all races in dealing with work-family interaction strain. Using a transactional approach, the study also investigated
cognitive appraisal as a key antecedent of coping with work-family interaction strain. A survey was conducted with a sample comprising 110 women in the public, corporate and self-employed sectors of the economy. All the participants were married with at least one child of pre-school or school going age. The women worked in
positions from middle management and higher in corporate or public sector organisations or were business owners with at least four employees. Quantitative and qualitative data were obtained by means of a self-report questionnaire. The main finding of the study showed that the participants used both emotional and problem focused
coping strategies to deal with the hypothetical work-family interaction strain situation. These strategies were positive reappraisal, planful problem solving, self-controlling and seeking social support. Not one of these coping strategies was significantly favoured above the others. The study did not find evidence of a relationship between the participants’ cognitive appraisal of the hypothetical situation and their choice of coping strategy, except with regard to cognitive appraisal, control and the coping strategy, escape avoidance; the higher the
participant scored on cognitive appraisal, control, the less likely they were to choose escape-avoidance as a coping strategy in dealing with the situation. The article discusses these findings in relation to past studies in other countries and suggestions for further research are presented.
Published when Prof de la Rey was a lecturer in psychology at the University of Cape Town.