Academic journal article Fathering

Fathers' Contributions to Housework and Childcare and Parental Aggravation among First-Time Parents

Academic journal article Fathering

Fathers' Contributions to Housework and Childcare and Parental Aggravation among First-Time Parents

Article excerpt

This study investigated the associations between fathers' contributions to housework and childcare and both spouses' parenting aggravation. It was hypothesized that greater father contributions to domestic labor would be associated with more paternal aggravation but less maternal aggravation. Data are from a four-wave study of 178 married couples undergoing the transition to first parenthood. Dyadic growth-curve models revealed gender differences in aggravation trajectories over the first year of the child's life. Fathers were higher in initial aggravation, but mothers' aggravation grew at a faster rate over time. The primary hypothesis was only partially supported. Fathers' contributions to childcare were associated with significantly lower maternal aggravation levels, but only among more religious mothers. Child fussiness and unpredictability were consistently significant predictors of higher aggravation for both parents. Depressive symptomatology was positively related to aggravation f or fathers, whereas love for the spouse was associated with lower aggravation for mothers, controlling for other factors.

Keywords: parental aggravation, newborns, religion, child temperament, growth-curve modeling, sanctification

**********

The transition to first-time parenthood is a joyous occasion for many couples. However, it can also entail considerable stress. Couples often report feeling overwhelmed by the demands of a new infant. Having to get up at night to feed, change, or soothe the infant, both parents may suffer from lack of sleep and irritability. Sexual relations between the partners may suffer due to lack of energy or interest, especially on the part of mothers. Conflicts may arise over each partner's different styles of parenting. Mothers, in particular, may limit fathers' involvement with newborns, fearing that fathers are not knowledgeable enough to be trusted caring for the infant unsupervised (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Cannon, Schoppe-Sullivan, Mangelsdorf, Brown, & Sokolowski, 2008). Such tensions may easily spill over to the parent-child relationship in the form of parental aggravation and stress. Bronte-Tinkew, Horowitz, and Carrano (2010) define aggravation and stress in parenting as "the frustration and annoyance that parents experience arising from their perception of their child or children, the demands the child makes of them, and the demands of being a parent" (p. 526). Accordingly, we refer to aggravation and stress in parenting simply as "parental aggravation," and make it the focus of the current study. Because parental aggravation may be associated with child abuse as well as children's behavioral problems (Lesnik-Oberstein, Koers, & Cohen, 1995; Low & Stocker, 2005), its etiology is important to understand.

However, only a handful of studies have explored this topic, and some questions remain unanswered. For example, do mothers experience less aggravation when fathers contribute more to childcare? Studies of equity dynamics in marriage show that wives' marital satisfaction and their sense of the fairness of the household division of labor are both positively affected by husbands' greater contributions to the marital relationship (DeMaris, 2010; DeMaris & Longmore, 1996). Nevertheless, others argue that many women prefer to monopolize infant and child care, as these are gratifying domains that provide a sense of empowerment and validation (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Hakim, 1996, 2003). It is therefore unclear whether greater father participation, particularly in the care of newborns, has a beneficial, as opposed to a deleterious, effect on mothers' parenting attitudes. Additionally, little work has focused on fathers' aggravation. Is it affected by the same factors that influence mothers' aggravation? Because fathers are generally less knowledgeable about infants and toddlers, and therefore less comfortable with them, compared to mothers (Roggman, Benson, & Boyce, 1999), one might expect factors such as the child's temperament to exert more influence on fathers' than on mothers' aggravation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.