Academic journal article Family Relations

Time Parenting Activities in Dual-Earner Families at the Transition to Parenthood

Academic journal article Family Relations

Time Parenting Activities in Dual-Earner Families at the Transition to Parenthood

Article excerpt

Time parenting was compared for new mothers and fathers in a sample of 182 dual-earner families. Parenting domains included positive engagement, responsibility, routine child care, and accessibility. Time diaries captured parents ' time use over a 24-hour workday and nonworkday when infants were age 3 and 9 months. Parents were highly involved with their infants. Mothers were more involved than fathers in positive engagement and routine child care on days and at each assessment, and allocated more available time on workdays to these domains than fathers, with one exception. Fathers and mothers allocated similar shares of available workday time to positive engagement at 9 months. Greater equity in responsibility and accessibility was found; mothers spent more, and a greater share of, parenting time in responsibility than fathers on the 9-month workday only, and were more accessible on the 3-month workday only. Implications for parents in today's diverse families are discussed.

Key Words: father involvement, mother involvement, parenting time, family development, gender.

In the United States, 71% of children younger than age 18 and 64% of children younger than age 6 have a mother who works outside the home (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). This, coupled with the popularity of "equally shared parenting" and "involved father" ideals (e.g., Gerson, 2009), makes it surprising that mothers devote twice as much time to childrearing as fathers (Bianchi, Robinson, & Milkie, 2006). Research has revealed gender differences in parental involvement with older children, but the developmental origins of these differences remain unknown. Exploring parental involvement at its inception-the transition to parenthood-is crucial to understanding later involvement patterns that have important implications for child and family functioning. This study extends the literature on parental involvement by using time diary data from dual-earner, first-time parents to explore gender differences in multiple facets of parenting time in infancy.

Mothers are generally children's primary caregivers (Bianchi et al., 2006), and maternal involvement is closely linked with child outcomes (Flouri & Buchanan, 2004); however, a large body of research also indicates the importance of fathers. Actively involved fathers have children who experience successful development in multiple domains (e.g.. Lamb, 2010). Moves toward more egalitarian romantic relationships in recent decades (Cherlin, 2009), coupled with an increase in the proportion of married, dual-earner families, have shifted parenting ideals from the father as breadwinner to the father as coparent, sharing child care with his partner.

The emergence of "involved fathering" ideals (Gerson, 2009) that are particularly salient for middle-class, dual-earner fathers (e.g., Townsend, 2002) encourage today's fathers to be more involved in childrearing than ever before. Further, contemporary parenting practices such as equally shared parenting have urged fathers to not only share, but also to contribute equally to parenting with mothers (Deutsch, 2001). Yet it is unclear to what extent fathers of infants meet these expectations, as the transition to parenthood spurs a more traditional division of labor (Katz-Wise, Preiss, & Hyde, 2010). Likewise, mothers-especially those who are working-may strive to meet social standards of intensive mothering that compel them to be primarily responsible for all aspects of their child's care (Douglas & Michaels, 2004), leaving little room for involved fathering. In fact, working mothers have increased their engagement time in recent decades despite working more hours outside the home than ever before (Bianchi et al., 2006).

Given the complementary but conflicting ideals of involved fathering, equally shared parenting, and intensive mothering, it is important to investigate how well contemporary, dualearner parents are renegotiating their parenting roles. …

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