Study: Dads relax, play while mom works around the house

"We need to look into this further and understand how dual-earner couples are sharing housework and child care," said researcher Claire Kamp Dush.

By Brooks Hays
Study: Dads relax, play while mom works around the house
Even couples with progressive views on gender roles fall into patterns of gender inequality when it comes to household and childcare responsibilities. Photo by Pixabay/CC

Oct. 9 (UPI) -- New data suggests dads are more likely to relax or have fun while mom is working around the house or handling child-rearing duties than vice versa.

When scientists at Ohio State University surveyed the work-play patterns of 52 couples with newborns -- mostly highly educated, white, dual-income earners -- they found 20th century gender patterns among 21st century families.


Though women still shouldered a slightly larger load, men and women tended to split household chores and childcare duties fairly evenly on workdays. But on weekends, or days when neither parent works, dad was more likely to engage in leisure activities while mom continues to work around the house and take care of the infant.

"When there is more time available on the weekend and parents are not so pressed to get everything done, then we see the emergence of gendered patterns and inequality where women do a lot more housework and childcare while he leisures," researcher Jill Yavorsky, now an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said in a news release.

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Parents who participated in the study completed detailed time diaries for three months after the birth of their first child. The data showed dads were relaxing 46 percent of the time that mom spent taking care of their newborn, while mom only relaxed 16 percent of the time dad was helping out with childcare. The numbers were similar, though not as stark, for work around the house.


Researchers acknowledged that their findings -- detailed this week in the journal Sex Roles -- are limited by their sample's size and homogeneity.

"It is not the definitive answer, and is mostly relevant to similar couples," said lead study author Claire Kamp Dush, an associate professor of human sciences at Ohio State. "But we need to look into this further and understand how dual-earner couples are sharing housework and child care."

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"I was expecting to see a lot more minutes where the couple was doing some kind of housework or child care together," Kamp Dush added. "I suspect the situation may be even less equitable for women who don't have all the advantages of the couples in our sample."

Kamp Dush said she hopes her ongoing research will inspire new parents to talk more about how they will share household and childcare responsibilities. Patterns of inequality, once established, can last.

"At the time we studied them, these couples were setting up routines that may last several years as the kids grow," she said. "Couples need to be having these conversations from the first few months."

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