Original Research

‘Publish or perish’: Family life and academic research productivity

Chris W. Callaghan
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 14, No 1 | a727 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v14i1.727 | © 2016 Chris W. Callaghan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 June 2015 | Published: 16 May 2016

About the author(s)

Chris W. Callaghan, Division of Management and Human Resources Management, School of Economic and Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


Research purpose: The influence of work-to-family and family-to-work spillovers is well documented in the human resources literature. However, little is known of the relationships between the pressures faced by academics to publish and the potential family life consequences of being a highly productive academic.

Research design, approach and method: This research sought to investigate these relationships within the context of a large South African university by testing associations between family life variables such as marriage and dependent children against measures of the following specific types of research publication: (1) South African Department of Higher Education and Training–accredited journal publications; (2) Thompson Reuters Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) and ProQuest’s International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS)– indexed journal article publications; (3) conference proceedings publications; (4) conference paper presentations; (5) book chapter publications; (6) book publications; and (7) gross research productivity, reflecting a volume or quantity measure of research publication.

Main findings: ISI and/or IBSS journal article publication is found to be negatively associated with dependent children, but only for male academics, and to be negatively associated with female gender over and above the effect of family life variables in testing.

Practical/managerial implications: Human resources managers in universities need to be cognisant of the specific pressures faced by staff that are required to produce ever more research publications, in order to help them achieve work–life balance.

Contribution: In a global context of increasing pressures for research publication, and for higher and higher numbers of publications, it is necessary to identify the potential costs involved for high-volume–producing academics, particularly in terms of family versus work.

Keywords: research productivity; family-work life balance


research productivity; family-work life balance


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1. Research trends in the South African Journal of Human Resource Management
Charlotte Pietersen
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doi: 10.4102/sajhrm.v16i0.825