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Sample Research Proposal on Causes and Effects of Work-Family Balance in Employed Parents

It is given that every human have parents. It is these parents that raises children, teaches them a series of information and guides them to their everyday lives. It is the parents who feed their children, gives them love, care and knowledge, at least limited to their degree of intellect, or culture, or norms, or religion. However, the question arises when one would ask about the boundaries or limitation of parents being involved with the activities of their child. A child is not a passive individual, but an active one, capable of acting for himself or herself. The child has the capability to question circumstances or events, and has the ability to interpret things, and to choose whom he or she should follow as an example or who they should obey. But the conflict here is that the child is obliged or indebted to the parents, basically because that's how society set it. Thus, parent involvement is almost unavoidable and can be predicted to exist in every society. This involvement includes the involvement of parents in schools. For instance, parent can involve with their children's homework by helping them finish them or teaching them how to manage their time with it (Van Voorhis, 2003). However, even though almost studies show that parent involvement promotes positive effects toward students, research findings in the area are said to be inconsistent (Fan and Chen, 2001). Fan and Chen (2001) cited that others found only little evidence while others found only little measurable effect. Parent involvement is basically related with how parents balance their time for their family and for work. This can be related with the four fold taxonomies of work, which are: family balance in terms of the direction of influence (work–family vs. family–work) and type of effect (conflict vs. facilitation) (Aryee et al, 2005).

Aryee et al (2005) explored this issue in the Indian context. This study, on the other hand, will explore the taxonomies of work among parents within the Malaysian context. The study will be descriptive and will try to find facts through quantitative survey.

          The specific problem to be explored in this study is the work-family balance among Malaysian parents. The rationale for this problem is that there is currently lack of research regarding Malaysian parents and how they balance between work and family. Currently, there are an increasing  number of single parents in Malaysia, making this investigation more timely and interesting. This study will basically borrow some strategies used by Aryee et al (2005) specifically the four fold taxonomy which was used to identify the effects of work-family balance of the family support/involvement and job performance/motivation of the parents. 



            The research is significant because it will reveal possibilities within a specific social issue. The work-family balance among parents is an important field of investigation because it concerns many important stakeholders, particularly the supported family and the company the parents work for. Knowing the causes and effects of such work-family relationships may lead to the better creation or design of new strategies and techniques for the parents to balance their work and their family resposibilities properly. Furthermore, such study will help in the development of understanding over parents and how they struggle to handle simultaeously the pressures of work and family problems.



Aryee et al (2005) explored the antecedents and outcomes of a fourfold taxonomy of work–family balance in terms of the direction of influence (work–family vs. family–work) and type of effect (conflict vs. facilitation) in the Indian context. To determine these, the researchers used the  confirmatory factor analysis. Work and family balance, proactive personality, neuroticism, optimism, parental overload, family involvement, family support, work overload, job involvement, work support, job satisfaction, organizational commitment and controls were measured. The researchers found that work–family balance may be conceptualized in terms of the direction of the influence between work and family roles (work to family vs. family to work) and the type of effect (conflict vs. facilitation) (Aryee et al, 2005). One of the specific findings of the study is that intrinsic motivation may trigger work–family facilitation. That is to say, the increased investment in the job that involvement engenders leads to enhanced work role performance and positive moods (Aryee et al, 2005). Intrinsic motivation was first explained by the Cognitive Evaluation Theory. Deci's Cognitive Evaluation Theory explains that there are two kinds of motivation that affects a person's behavior: the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. According to Deci, human beings have two basic, survival-oriented needs: the need for Competence and the need for Self-Determination. As a result, every person tries to find situations that will challenge him to a certain extent; this challenge will be met by the person (or at least, he will try to). So herein come the two kinds of motivation—the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation—that predicts a person's behavior. Intrinsically motivated behavior is the behavior that a person chooses so that he may feel competent and self-determining. This "intrinsically motivated behavior", though, is being affected, every now and then, by primary drives like hunger and thirst, so there's a need for contingent financial reward. But the theory further says that  if a contingent financial reward is tied to intrinsically motivated behavior, the person will not credit the cause of his/her behavior to himself/herself anymore, but to the external source, so the level of intrinsic motivation decreases. Why is this so? Each outcome has two components, as Deci indicated: a controlling and an informational component. The first one is involved with respect to a contingent financial reward: A source external to the person indicates what is and what is not wanted and thus "controls" behavior. The second component prevails in the case of a contingent verbal reward, at least with males: Feedback provided relates to the extent of competence and self-determination. This causes an increase in intrinsic motivation. With females words of praise lead to some dependence of the "speaker," and thus to less intrinsic motivation (Thierry, 1990, pp.74-75). 

            On the other hand, the intrinsic motivation to take work as priority rather than to spend time with children is disputed by the fact that parents have obligations to guide their children, specifically on their school performances. Almost all studies about parent involvement refer to the framework of Epstein and her colleagues (Feuerstein, 2000; Fan and Chen, 2001; Bryan and Burstein, 2004; Van Voorhis, 2003; Balli et al, 1998).  A framework of parent involvement proposed by Epstein and her colleagues (1995) defines six main types of activities that connect families, schools, and communities. According to Epstein (1995), parent involvement is operationalized to include basic obligations of parents (parenting), obligations of schools (communicating), parental and community involvement at school (volunteering), provision of learning activities at home, participation in school decision-making, and collaboration with the community. Epstein (1995) states that there are overlapping spheres of influence in a child's education: the family and the school. Within the family, the parents and whole family interact with the child. Within the school, the teachers and the whole school influence the child. The child's learning is enhanced when these two spheres overlap, and the teachers and parents within their family and school hold a shared responsibility for helping the child learn.

            The literatures and points mentioned above will make up the overall theoretical framework of this study. It will specifically explore how Malaysian parents balance their work and family, and what specific causes or reason for this action. Furthermore, it will also explore the effects of such action specifically on the the four fold taxonomy which includes the following elements: work and family balance, proactive personality, neuroticism, optimism, parental overload, family involvement, family support, work overload, job involvement, work support, job satisfaction, organizational commitment and controls. This research will potentially contribute to the study of work-family balance within the Malaysian setting.


          The family unit in Malaysia is now undergoing major changes. From a strict family unit structure of parents and children, single parenthood is increasing because of several factors. In the period 1991-2000, the ratio of civil divorces to marriages was 2.4 per cent in Malaysia. Specifically, in the same period, the ratio of Muslim divorces to marriages in Sarawak was 10.3 per cent (ibid.). The total number of civil divorces from 1982 to 2000 indicated that Sarawak ranked fourth in having the highest number of divorces in the country after Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, and Penang, in that order (Hew, 2003). One should note that these are important centres of urbanization (Hew, 2003). Unfortunately, comprehensive statistics for divorce through native customary law (adat) as practised by the numerous indigenous communities in Sarawak is not available. If these were  included, the overall number of divorces in Sarawak could be much higher. Whatever Sarawak's ranking is, the trend has been important enough to warrant government attention to the problem (Hew, 2003). 
In Malaysia the term ibu tunggal (translated as "single mother") has led to a great deal of confusion as to who comes under this category. One would think that mothers who are widowed, single unwed mothers, mothers who are separated or divorced from  their partners, unmarried women who adopted children all come under the ambit of the term ibu tunggal. However, female-headed households which included women whose partners were working away from home for long periods of time were also often conflated with single parenthood. Thus it has been reported that the Federal Territory alone had 10,000 single mothers (Sabri Mohamad Sharif 2001; Hew, 2003). In addition, figures by the Statistics Department of Malaysia reveal that over a period of two decades, the number of female-headed households doubled from 444,000 in 1980 to 895,000 in 2000 (Suraiya Mohd. Nor 2001; Hew, 2003). These figures may have an implication on how parents balance family and work. Single parents have the huge responsibility of raising their children alone, which basically includes working for extra money, but at the same  time, spending more time with their kids. 

          The competition between work and family is tight for parents. Parents have to choose which among the two should they give extra time into. Parent involvement on family are related with specific advantages such as being able to assist their children on study. Balli et al (1998) investigated a middle-grades mathematics homework intervention designed to increase family intervention in homework. Their findings indicate that, compared to families that were not prompted, families in the classes receiving prompts were significantly more involved in mathematics homework activities. However, the study did not reveal the significance between family involvement and student's achievements. As Balli et al (1998), such field is still unknown. However, they do find that their results support findings that parent involvement is a good predictor of student achievements.


           According to Finn (1998), researchers found that parental involvement at home are consistently associated with school performance. Such parental involvements are: actively organizing and monitoring the child's time; helping with homework; and discussing school matters with the child. It also includes parents reading to their children and being read to by their children.


The following research questions will be explored in the study:

Ø      What factors make Malaysian parents balance their work and family?

Ø      What are the effects of work-family balance on the personality of the parents?

Ø      Does work-family balance among Malaysian parents create neurotism?

Ø      Does work-family balance among Malaysian parents create optimism?

Ø      Is work-family balance among Malaysian parents a product of a desire to help their children with their education?

Ø      Does work-family balance among Malaysian parents develop work overload and eventually stress?

Ø      How does work-family balance among Malaysian parents affect family support?

Ø      How does work-family balance among Malaysian parents affect their job involvement?

Ø      How does work-family balance among Malaysian parents affect their work support?

Ø      How does work-family balance among Malaysian parents affect their job satisfaction?

Ø      How does work-family balance among Malaysian parents affect their organizational commitment?

Ø      How does work-family balance among Malaysian parents affect their control?


With these research questions, the following hypothesis are to be tested:

Ø      Hyphotesis 1: The work-family balance of Malaysian parents have positive impact to both their work and their family.

Ø      Hypothesis 2: The work-family balance becomes negative when parents experience difficulty in balancing their two responsibilities.

Objectives of the Study

            The main aim of the study is to be able to identify the causes and effect of work-family balance among Malaysian parents. The following specific objectives will be dealt with in the study:

Ø      To be able to identify the four fold taxonomy is effective in measiuring the cause and effect of work-family balance among Malaysian parents.

Ø      To conduct survey and identify how the work-family balance among Malaysian parents affect their work performance and family involvments.

Ø      To analyze the data and see if the hypotheses of the study are supported.

Ø      To provide conclusion and state insightful recommendations for the benefit of Malaysian parents who balances work with family.



Role Theory has provided the theoretical framework for research on the work family interface. Through role enactment, roles provide not only form and structure to social relationships among individuals but also the means to achieve important internalized life goals (Aneshensel and Pearlin, 1987). Two competing perspectives, scarcity and expansion-enhancement, have been used to examine the process of participation in multiple roles. The assumption on scarcity perspective is that individuals have a fixed amount of psychological and physiological resources to expend on their role obligations, and involvement in multiple roles will exhaust these resources and ultimately impair one's functioning. In contrast, the expansion-enhancement perspective focuses on the net positive gains to be obtained from involvement in multiple roles.

Work-Family Balance Model 1

Work-Family Conflict & Facilitation

Role Involvement

Role Experiences

Role Environment




Individual Cultural Variable (Moderator)


Figure 1. Model 1: Gender and Individual Cultural Variable as Moderators of the Impact of Personality, Role Environment, Role Experiences and Role Involvement on Work-Family Conflict & Facilitation components of Work-Family Balance


Work-Family Balance Model 2

Work-Family Conflict & Facilitation

Parental Role Overload

Work Overload

Organizational Commitment

Job Satisfaction



Individual Cultural Variable (Moderator)


Figure 2. Model 2: Gender and Individual Cultural Variable as Moderators of the Impact of Conflict & Facilitation components of Work-Family Balance on Job Satisfaction, Organizational Commitment, Work Overload and Parental Overload



The research design that will be applied in the study is the descriptive approach. A descriptive research intends to present facts concerning the nature and status of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study (Creswell, 1994). It is also concerned with relationships and practices that exist, beliefs and processes that are ongoing, effects that are being felt, or trends that are developing. (Best, 1970) In addition, such approach tries to describe present conditions, events or systems based on the impressions or reactions of the respondents of the research (Creswell, 1994).

The descriptive investigation of the causes and effects of work-family balance among Malaysian parents, with the use of the four fold taxonomy, will help provide basic data that would determine the struggles and strategies of the parents when trying to fulfill their resposibilities to both work and home. The descritive approach will provide the statistical results of the responses of the samples.


            The study will sample 50 Malaysia parents. A structured questionnaire will be structured with elements from the four fold taxonomy. The aim of the questionnaire is to identify their reason why they balance work with home, and the effects of their actions. Sampling will be convenience sampling to make survey easier and faster.

Validation of the Instrument

For validation purposes, the researcher will pre-test a sample of the set survey questionnaires by conducting an initial survey to at least five respondents. After the respondents have answered the questionnaire, the researchers will then ask them to cite the parts of the questionnaire that needs improvement and if necessary, the researcher will even ask for suggestions and corrections. The researcher, afterwards, will again examine the content of the survey/interview questions to find out the reliability of the instrument so as to determine irrelevant questions that have to be discarded, as well as to identify words that would be deemed difficult by the respondents so these will be changed to simpler terms.

Administration of the Instruments

The researcher will exclude the five respondents initially interviewed/surveyed for the validation of the instrument. During the survey/interview, the interviewer will encourage the interviewee to clarify vague statements or to further elaborate on brief comments. More importantly, the interviewer will be objective and will not try, in any way, to influence the interviewer's statements. Thus, the interviewer will not share his/her own beliefs and opinions. The structured interview is mostly a "question and answer" session.

Since the questionnaires will consist of a list of specific questions, the interviewer will not deviate from the list or inject any extra remarks into the interview process. The researcher will see to it that the individual survey/interview will not last too long and consume much of the respondents' time, as this may instigate uncooperativeness from the respondents.

Research Methods to be Used


The research being proposed in this document requires an organized data gathering. Therefore, data will be gathered through both qualitative and quantitative research methods to allow for a flexible and iterative approach. In the data gathering, the choice and design of methods will be constantly modified, based on ongoing analysis, so that investigation of important new issues and questions that may arise will be possible, as well as the dropping of unproductive areas of research from the original research plan be permitted (as well mentioned in the preceding paragraphs).

Quantitative method is compatible with the study because it allows the research problem to be conducted in a very specific and set terms (Frankfort-Nachmias & Nachmias, 1992). Besides, a quantitative research plainly and distinctively specifies both the independent and the dependent variables under investigation (Matveev, 2002). It also follows resolutely the original set of research goals, arriving at more objective conclusions, testing hypothesis, determining the issues of causality and eliminates or minimises subjectivity of judgment (Kealey & Protheroe, 1996). Further, this method allows for longitudinal measures of subsequent performance of research subjects (Matveev, 2002). Finally, it provides achieving high levels of reliability of gathered data due to i.e. controlled observations, laboratory experiments, mass surveys, or other form of research manipulations (Balsley, 1970). This study should be based on surveys and statistical treatments, so basically the quantitative approach fits well with it.

            The quantitative research strategy that the study will use is survey. Surveys are the most common form of research method for collection of primary data (Commonwealth of Learning, 2000). One of its purpose is to describe, e.g., to count the frequency of some event or to assess the distribution of some variables such as proportion of the population of different age groups, sex, religion, castes and languages, knowledge, attitude and adoption of practices about particular issues, and other information of similar nature about the population (Commonwealth of Learning, 2000). The descriptive survey of the population is valuable in understanding the audience, and in the definition of the existence and magnitude of the problems, and the survey data are also helpful in determining cause and effect relationships between variables (Commonwealth of Learning, 2000). Further, the preliminary descriptive survey results can prove useful for planning more sophisticated survey studies with a view to identifying areas where problems occur or where changes are required, to understand why people behave in a certain manner and what can be done to provide alternate solutions to the problems, where an attempt is made to understand the relationships between different variables, and the purpose of survey becomes to diagnose or analyze the situation rather than just describe the situation (Commonwealth of Learning, 2000). Surveys may also be done to measure the extent and nature of effect and impact of a project to the population exposed to it for a reasonable length of time (Commonwealth of Learning, 2000).


To determine the causes and effects of work-family balance among Malaysian parents, a survey-questionnaire will be constructed by the researcher. This survey-questionnaire will have two sections. The first part will intend to acquire the demographic profile of the respondents, while the other section will contain a set of attitude statements. The purpose of the set of attitude statements is to determine the level of agreement or disagreement using a five-point Likert scale. In the Likert technique, the degree of agreement or disagreement) is given a numerical value ranging from one to five, thus a total numerical value can be calculated from all the responses. (Underwood, 2004) The equivalent weights for the answers will be:

Range                                                            Interpretation

            4.50 – 5.00                                                    Strongly Disagree

            3.50 – 4.00                                                    Disagree

            2.50 – 3.49                                                    Uncertain

            1.50 – 2.49                                                    Agree  

            0.00 – 1.49                                                    Strongly Agree

A set of guide questions for the interview will be prepared, and these questions will also be asked to the intended respondents. It is hoped that through the interview, the causes and effects of work-family balance will be identified. Also, this interview will supplement additional information aside from the data that will be gathered in the survey.



          The independent variable of the study is work-family balance, while the dependent variables are their cause and effects.


For the qualitative data that will be gathered in the duration of the study, a content analysis will be conducted. In a content analysis, documents, text or speech are examined to determine what themes will emerge from them, and this type of data analysis is theory-driven, because it is the theory which determines what theme a researcher has to look for. (Ratcliff, 2002)

Meanwhile, to interpret the quantitative data gathered, the researcher will use the following statistical formulae:

1.       Percentage – to determine the magnitude of the responses to the questionnaire.


% = -------- x 100        ;           n – number of responses

            N                                 N – total number of respondents

2.       Weighted Mean

            f1x1 + f2x2  + f3x3 + f4x4  + f5x5

x = ---------------------------------------------  ;


where:             f – weight given to each response

                        x – number of responses

                        xt – total number of responses


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