Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Division of Household Labor: Longitudinal Changes and Within-Couple Variation

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Division of Household Labor: Longitudinal Changes and Within-Couple Variation

Article excerpt

This study examined how the division of household labor changed as a function of marital duration and whether within-couple variation in spouses' relative power and availability were linked to within-couple variation in the division of labor. On 4 occasions over 7 years, 188 stably married couples reported on their housework activities using daily diaries. Multilevel models revealed that wives' portions of household responsibilities declined over time and that changes in spouses' relative income and work hours were linked to changes in housework allocation. Wives with husbands who perceived greater marital control, on average, did proportionally more housework, and for couples with husbands who had highly autonomous jobs, changes in spouses' relative psychological job involvement were linked to changes in housework allocation. The findings highlight the importance of understanding household division of labor as a life span phenomenon, the distinction between within- versus between-couple associations, and the multidimensional nature of power and availability.

Key Words: division of labor, income, multilevel models, power, work - family balance, work hours.

How and why women are responsible for most household tasks remain important topics of investigation by family researchers (Coltrane, 2000; Lachance-Grzela & Bouchard, 2010). Most prior studies, however, have been crosssectional or short-term longitudinal, and little is known about how the division of household labor changes over the course of marriage. Prior studies have also tended to neglect stable family characteristics or selection effects as well as potentially important interpersonal and psychological processes that may affect housework allocation. In this study, we addressed some of these gaps in the literature by examining how the division of household labor changed as a function of marital duration and whether withincouple variation in spouses' relative power and availability were linked to within-couple variation in the division of household labor.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

The Division of Household Labor Over Time

Although cross-sectional (Rexroat & Shehan, 1987) and cross-cohort (Bianchi, Milkie, Sayer, & Robinson, 2000; Sayer, 2010) comparisons suggest that the division of household labor varies across age groups and across historical periods, only a handful of studies have explored how it changes within the same couples over time. The few studies that have examined longitudinal changes focused on important family transitions, such as a child's birth (Gjerdingen & Center, 2005; Katz-Wise, Priess, Hyde, 2010) or a spouse's retirement (Solomon, Acock, & Walker, 2004; Szinovacz, 2000) and thus are not informative about how the division of household labor changes over the course of marriage. Artis and Pavalko (2003) used two waves of longitudinal data from a national sample to show that, controlling for cohort differences, the percentage of wives' household responsibilities declined by about 10% over a 13 -year period. Because Artis and Pavalko used questionnaires to assess only wives' perceptions of household division of labor, however, their results may be subject to memory and response biases (LachanceGrzela & Bouchard, 20 1 0). We expanded on this work by using daily diaries to assess husbands' and wives' participation in housework on four occasions over a 7-year period and by examining the pattern of change in housework allocation as a function of marital duration. On the basis of the limited cross-sectional (Rexroat & Shehan) and longitudinal (Artis & Pavalko) findings available, we expected that spouses would divide housework more equally over time.

Spouses ' Relative Power and Availability

Two important micro level processes postulated to affect the division of household labor are spouses' relative socioeconomic resources and work hours. Whereas a social exchange perspective (Huston & Burgess, 1979) posits that spouses with more socioeconomic resources (e. …

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