Adaptation in Work and Family Roles Link Support to Mental Health During a Pandemic

Shaun Pichler, Wendy J. Casper, Luke Fletcher, Nishat Babu

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We address a key unresolved issue in the social support literature—how social support relates to psychological health—by examining behavioural adaptation as a mechanism through which support from work and family domains, during the COVID-19 pandemic, impacts psychological health. Given support may not equally benefit all, we consider individual differences in demographics as moderators in the relationships between support, adaptation and health outcomes. We examine both within-domain and cross-domain effects of support on adaptation using a sample of 392 employees who responded to two surveys, 3 weeks apart, shortly after the COVID-19 lockdown. Consistent with expectations, adaptation both within and across domains mediated the relationships between social support and psychological health. Moreover, the family support–family adaptation and family adaptation–psychological health relationships were stronger among participants without a cohabiting partner. Our findings highlight the important role social support and adaptation play in maintaining well-being during crisis events, particularly for persons without cohabiting partners. Our results suggest that workers can protect their psychological health during a crisis event to the extent they engage in behavioural adaptation and, thus, organizations should consider adopting interventions that promote behavioural adaptation, such as micro-interventions focused on stress reappraisal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)725-753
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date9 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023

Data Availability Statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


  • adaptation
  • work and family
  • social support
  • mental health
  • pandemic
  • COVID 19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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