Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Household Labor, Gender Roles, and Family Satisfaction: A Cross-National Comparison

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Household Labor, Gender Roles, and Family Satisfaction: A Cross-National Comparison

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Due to the interrelation of work and family domains recent scholarship has been devoted to determining the impact of women's rising employment on the home (Bátalo va and Cohen, 2002; Bianchi, Milkie, Robinson, and Sayer, 2000; Doucet, 2006; Lewin-Epstein and Stier, 2006). More specifically, research has focused on what happens to the division of domestic labor in the wake of mother's paid employment and how the new arrangements are determined. In general, women have responded by dedicating less time to housework and men have responded by increasing their participation in unpaid labor (Fox, 2009; Hook, 2006). That said, male contributions do not compensate for the decrease in time by women in the home, and women still maintain responsibility for the majority of household and childcare responsibilities (Allen and Webster, 2001; Batalova and Cohen, 2002; Baxter, 2002; Diefenbach, 2002; Doucet, 2006; Hochschild, 1989; Iversen and Rosenbluth, 2003; Lewin-Epstein and Stier, 2006; Sanchez and Thompson, 1997). The relationship between women and domestic responsibility identified by Hochschild over 20 years ago thus holds true today; gender remains the chief predictor of who performs housework (Baxter, 2002; Hochschild, 1989; Hook, 2006). These gendered divisions of labor and inequality in domestic responsibility also tend to become more pronounced when couples become parents (Fox, 2009).

In addition to women dedicating more time, they also continue to perform traditionally female tasks (Bianchi et al., 2000). In terms of domestic labor, women are generally responsible for daily routine tasks such as cooking and laundry, whereas men are more likely to perform infrequent household maintenance chores (Hochschild, 1989). Regarding childcare, women are more likely to do the planning, worrying, and decision making for their children while men are more apt to spend "childcare" time playing with children (Doucet, 2006, p. 142, 198). While some variance in the gendered division of domestic and childcare duties exists, these general trends are manifest throughout the world (Baxter, 2002; Chen, 2005; Coltrane 2000; Diefenbach, 2002). In fact, studies unanimously point to women's continued responsibility for the bulk of domestic labor, despite men's increased participation, rising female involvement in the labor force, nationality, and level of national development (Batalova and Cohen, 2002; Diefenbach, 2002; Habib, Nuwayhid, and Yeretzian, 2006; Hook, 2006). Given that attitudes in part predict behavior, gender ideology is often used to explain the division of labor in the home (Apparala, Reifman, and Munsch, 2003).

Many individual and national-level influences have been studied to understand why the association between females and housework persists. While much research has been dedicated to answering this question, a definitive answer remains elusive. Although our aim is not to further understanding of why it persists, that it persists serves as the point of departure for our study; our interest is in its association with family satisfaction. The fact remains that despite the international liberalizing of gender ideology, women continue to perform the bulk of work in the home. It follows that the divergence of ideology and the division of labor would yield more instances of incongruence between attitude and behavior. Such incongruence is likely to have implications for the experience and happiness of those involved, but perhaps more for some than for others. We thus ask whether this increased incongruence influences individuals' satisfaction with family life and whether this relationship differs by national context.

In this study we offer an integrated micro and macro-level, political-economy perspective to frame the relationship between ideology, the division of household labor, and family satisfaction. As a combination of individual-level and national-level factors have been found to more comprehensively explain the division of labor, we will briefly review the most relevant theories employed and influences examined along both dimensions. …

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