For Immediate Release
Contact: Virginia Rutter / Framingham State University Sociology
firstname.lastname@example.org / 206 375 4139
CCF PRESS ADVISORY: Mother’s Day Social Science—Housework, Gender & Parenting
May 7, Miami FL—For Mother’s Day this year, the Council on Contemporary Families convened an online symposium to examine the status of that age-old saying, “a woman’s work is never done” and the frequent observation that these days working moms are not so much “having it all” as doing it all. The CCF Symposium reports a historic reduction in unevenly shared housework among heterosexual couples. Even so, you can report to moms everywhere that their position as most hardworking at home is undisputed, but that may be changing:
University of Maryland’s Liana Sayer finds that as of 2012 married mothers were doing almost three and a half times as much “core housework”–cooking, cleaning, and laundry–as married fathers. Still, back in 1965 they did 22 times as much!
In a cross national study of 14 developed countries using time-use diary data over 50 years, Oriel Sullivan (University of Oxford, UK) and colleagues looked jointly at shopping, housework, and childcare and find “a clear-cut increase over the past half-century — in every single country included in the survey – in men’s daily time spent in unpaid family work and care.”
Change? Slacker dads may be in the past. Stephanie Coontz in her overview explains, “This CCF Online Symposium on Housework, Gender and Parenthood shows that the division of labor in the home is more complicated than sometimes assumed, and that neither the institution of marriage itself nor ‘slacker husbands’ are to blame for most contemporary sources of gender inequity.” For instance, Sayer reports that married fathers doubled their developmental care of children (the “fun” – or at least more rewarding — stuff) between 1965 but tripled their daily physical care. Married mothers have significantly reduced their housework hours, but they have increased their child care hours even more. Much of this increase in parenting, Sayer reported, is associated with college-educated fathers who, along with moms, are participating in the social-class arms race to provide intensive parenting advantages to their children.
Is it marriage? That’s changed too. Arielle Kuperberg (UNC-Greensboro) challenges some feminist claims that there is something about the institution of marriage that causes women to take on a larger share of housework. She finds that heterosexual cohabitors who then marry don’t change the division of household labor. But she also discovered that this is a new trend by comparing people who married in the late 1980s to those married in the early 2000s. She wrote that there is “a conservatizing or traditionalizing effect of marriage in the 1987-8 generation. In that era, married men who had lived together before marriage did a different type of housework than their cohabiting counterparts who were intending to marry.”
In contrast, “By 2001-3, men who had lived together before marriage and men who were living together without marriage and thought they would marry their partner were doing the same amount and the same type of housework. This suggests that marriage had ceased to have any effect in making men feel that they ought to play more traditional roles, or can opt out of less traditional ones.”
Parenthood? Not so much change. When researchers focus on new parents, they find couples are more likely to backslide into more traditional roles—even without realizing it. Ohio State’s Claire Dush and colleagues used time diaries with self-defined egalitarian couples before and after the baby arrived. Before baby, couples shared housework equally. Nine months after the baby arrived, couples continued to report putting in the same hours of work, but their diaries revealed that in fact “women added 22 hours of childcare (physical and engagement) to their work week while doing the same amount of housework and paid work as before. Men added 14 hours of childcare to their work week, but did 5 fewer hours of housework after the baby’s birth.” Kuperberg found the same trend—it is children, not marriage, that leads to an uneven division of labor at home.
Aside from couples with young children, the combined paid and unpaid work hours of men and women are now about even. Yet Sayer, Sullivan and Coontz warn that the tendency for couples to redivide the work after childbirth, with one specializing in more paid hours and the other in more at-home work, carries long-run dangers, both for the couple’s relationship quality and for their financial security. As Coontz notes, “working equal but different total hours, even by choice, leads to unequal outcomes in security and well-being for women and men, especially over the long run. When a woman quits work, reduces hours, or takes a less-challenging job, she sacrifices earnings, raises, promotions, unemployment insurance, and pension accumulations, thereby undermining her future economic security. She is also less to likely to have the kind of work continuity that has been found to protect a woman’s mental and physical health better than part-time work, staying home, or experiencing frequent bouts of unemployment.”
CONTACTS AND LINKS
Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education, Council on Contemporary Families, email@example.com. CCF Symposium on Housework, Gender and Parenthood: Overview
Claire Kamp Dush, Associate Professor in the Human Development and Family Science program in the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University, Kampfirstname.lastname@example.org; Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, Professor in the Human Development and Family Science program in the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University, email@example.com; Jill Yavorsky, PhD Candidate in Department of Sociology at The Ohio State University, Yavorsky.firstname.lastname@example.org. The Origin of Gender Inequalities in Dual-Earner, College Educated Couples: The Division of Labor at the Transition to Parenthood
Liana C. Sayer, Professor of Sociology and Director, Maryland Time Use Lab, email@example.com; 301-405-6438 (office). The Complexities of Interpreting Changing Household Patterns
Oriel Sullivan, Professor of Sociology of Gender, University of Oxford, firstname.lastname@example.org; Jonathan Gershuny, Professor of Economic Sociology, University of Oxford; John Robinson, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Maryland. The Continuing “Gender Revolution” in Housework and Care: Evidence from Long-term Time-use Trends
The Council on Contemporary Families, based at the University of Miami, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of family researchers and practitioners that seeks to further a national understanding of how America’s families are changing and what is known about the strengths and weaknesses of different family forms and various family interventions.
The Council helps keep journalists informed of notable work on family-related issues via the CCF Network. To join the CCF Network, or for further media assistance, please contact Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education, at email@example.com, cell 360-556-9223.
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DATE: May 7, 2015