Academic journal article Demographic Research

Parents' Time with a Partner in a Cross-National Context: A Comparison of the United States, Spain, and France

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Parents' Time with a Partner in a Cross-National Context: A Comparison of the United States, Spain, and France

Article excerpt


Time shared with a partner is an indicator of marital well-being, and previous research shows that couples want to spend time with their partner (and children4) (Hallberg and Klevmarken 2003; Glorieux, Minnen, and van Tienoven 2011). But the extent to which couples can spend time together depends on the demands of paid work and parenting (Flood and Genadek 2016). And parents in particular often share time with their partner in different ways than nonparents (Huston and Vangelisti 1995) and struggle to find enough time to spend with their families (Daly 2001; Mattingly and Sayer 2006). Furthermore, spousal interaction and shared leisure time are positively associated with marital stability (Hill 1988), which is especially important for parents, as divorce is often found to have negative consequences for children (Amato 2000; Kalmijin 2010; Strohschein 2005).

A cross-national comparison of couples' shared time is absent in the literature but would be useful because it would allow consideration of how couples' shared time, which is linked to marital well-being, may be influenced by welfare policies, cultural norms, and social expectations (Yu 2015). As Western industrialized nations, the United States, France, and Spain exhibit patterns characteristic of the second demographic transition, such as decline in fertility and increase in out-of-marriage fertility, delay in the age of first marriage, and increase in divorce and cohabitation (Lesthaeghe 1995). These changes have been accompanied by a rise in maternal labor force participation, dual-earner couple arrangements, and greater gender equality (Bianchi, Robinson, and Milkie 2006; Gershuny 2000). However, they have occurred unevenly across countries. The United States, France, and Spain also vary in the policies surrounding work and parenthood, as well as in general norms and social values.

By examining cross-national variation in work and family demands on parents' time with a partner in these three countries, each of which has different social and policy contexts as well as cultural norms about the desire to spend more or less time with a partner, this research begins to fill the current void in the literature. Countryspecific studies show that dual-earner couples spend less time together than singleearner couples (Flood and Genadek 2016 for the United States; Glorieux, Minnen, and van Tienoven 2011 for Belgium; García-Román and Cortina 2016 for Spain) and shared time alone with each other in the United States is lower when couples have children (Dew 2009; Flood and Genadek 2016; Genadek, Flood, and García Román 2016). The limited research to date on couples' shared time is country-specific and there is no test of differences in parents' shared time across countries. The different social, cultural, and policy contexts of the United States, France, and Spain allow us to extend research on couples' shared time by examining if and how parents' time with a partner, including time with their children present, varies across countries. Given the relationship between time spent with a partner and well-being (Flood and Genadek 2016; Sullivan 1996), this research has the potential to affect the well-being of many couples and families in different contexts.

We analyse national time use survey data collected in the United States, France, and Spain, which allows us to link what individuals are doing to whom they are with and to analyze the amount of time spent with others. Thanks to the richness of this data, we can compare how time is shared with others across countries and how it varies with the demands of paid work and cultural context, that is, parenting ideologies. We examine the similarities and differences in three types of shared time for partnered parents with children under age 10 in the United States, Spain, and France.

In this paper we answer the following research questions:

1. Does the amount of time parents spend together differ across countries? …

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


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.