Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Division of Labor in Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual New Adoptive Parents

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Division of Labor in Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual New Adoptive Parents

Article excerpt

Little research has investigated the division of child care and housework in adoptive or lesbian/gay parent families, yet these contexts "control for" family characteristics such as biological relatedness and parental gender differences known to be linked to family work. This study examined predictors (measured preadoption) of the division of child care and housework (measured postadoption) in lesbian (n = 55), gay (n = 40), and heterosexual (n = 65) newly adoptive couples. Same-sex couples shared child care and housework more equally than heterosexual couples. For the full sample, inequities in work hours between partners were associated with greater discrepancies in partners' contributions to child care and masculine tasks; inequities in income between partners were related to greater discrepancies in contributions to feminine tasks. Participants who contributed more to child care tended to contribute more to feminine tasks. These findings extend knowledge of how labor arrangements are enacted in diverse groups.

Key Words: child care, gay, housework, lesbian, multilevel models, transition to parenthood.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Of great interest to family scholars has been the division of labor in heterosexual couples and the fact that men's participation in unpaid work has not kept pace with increases in women's employment (Bianchi & Milkie, 2010). Research suggests that mothers in heterosexual couples tend to do more of the child care and housework, even when both parents work full time (Bartley, Blanton, & Gilliard, 2005; Peterson & Gerson, 1992). Heterosexual couples are particularly likely to take on specialized roles during the transition to parenthood, whereby women take on the majority of unpaid work (child care, housework) and men spend more time in paid work (Baxter, Hewitt, & Haynes, 2008; Kluwer, Heesink, & van de Vliert, 2002). Inequities in child care and housework are important in that they have been linked to poorer well-being and relationship quality in women in heterosexual and lesbian samples (Cowan & Cowan, 1988; Patterson, 1995).


Most studies of the division of labor during the transition to parenthood focus on heterosexual couples who are the biological parents of their children. A small literature has examined the division of labor across the transition to parenthood in lesbian couples in which one partner is the biological parent of the child (i.e., couples who become parents via donor insemination; Goldberg & Perry-Jenkins, 2007; Reimann, 1997). Only a few studies have examined the division of labor in adoptive couples (Ciano-Boyce & Shelley-Sireci, 2002; HolditchDavis, Sandelowski, & Harris, 1999). Research on the division of labor among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive couples is useful because within-couple differences related to bearing a child are absent, and this design enables a distinction between parent gender and sexual orientation as predictors of the division of labor.

The aim of this study was to examine the role of parents' gender and sexual orientation and the role of relative resources (partners' relative work hours, income, and education, measured preadoption) in predicting the postadoption division of child care and housework in new adoptive parents. We next review the literature on three areas: (a) the division of labor among same-sex couples, (b) the division of labor among adoptive couples, and (c) the role of time availability and relative resources in the division of labor.

The Role of Sexual Orientation, Gender, and Biology in the Division of Labor

Katz-Wise, Priess, and Hyde (2010) suggested that gender role attitudes and behaviors in families are best understood through social structural theory, developed by Eagly and Wood (1999), which was originally posed to explain men's and women's differential involvement in parenting and income-producing roles. …

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