International Mobility of German Diplomats and Their Families: Direct and Cross-over Effects on Quality of Life, Family and Partnership Outcomes

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:00 AM
Room: 313+314
Distributed Paper
Herbert FLIEGE , Federal Foreign Office, Berlin, Germany
Heiko RUEGER , Federal Institute for Population Research, Wiesbaden, Germany
Julika HILLMANN , Federal Institute for Population Research, Wiesbaden, Germany
Silvia RUPPENTHAL , Federal Institute for Population Research, Wiesbaden, Germany
Maria BELLINGER , Federal Foreign Office, Berlin, Germany
International work assignments are often found to be stressful and to affect employees’ and their accompanying partners’ well-being. However, whether this applies also to diplomatic personnel who are relocated regularly is unclear. The study surveyed the health-related quality of life, the reconciliation of work and family life, and the partnership satisfaction of German diplomats. Potential risk factors are the duration of international mobility (years spent in the diplomatic rotation scheme; number of postings abroad), perceived stress, and employee’s attitudes towards working/living in diplomatic rotation. Potential protective factors include cognitive coping, internal control beliefs, self-efficacy, preoccupation with the host country’s culture, and social support. As a key aspect, crossover effects between employees and accompanying partners are analyzed.
N=2.433 active diplomats in the German Foreign Service were assessed using self-rated online questionnaires. Corresponding assessments were obtained from N=321 accompanying partners.  
While perceived stress had negative effects on all three outcomes, the number of years passed in diplomatic service and the number of postings had no effect. Diplomats who saw more advantages over disadvantages of diplomatic rotation reported better health, easier reconciliation of work and family life and better partnership satisfaction. Cognitive coping, self-efficacy and social support had several positive effects on the outcomes. Additionally, cognitive coping moderated the effects of stress on health. Crossover effects revealed that accompanying partners’ stress levels and their attitudes towards living in diplomatic rotation are among the determinants of expatriates’ quality of life, family, and partnership outcomes.
Implications are drawn for personnel management, development and health promotion. The importance of considering families within employer’s prevention strategies is emphasized. Examining the highly mobile group of diplomats and their families is an important aspect in the understanding of the major issues and challenges for spatially mobile societies.