The Division of Child Care among Mothers, Fathers, and Nonparental Care Providers in Dutch Two-Parent Families

By Van Dijk, Liset; Siegers, Jacques J. | Journal of Marriage and Family, November 1996 | Go to article overview

The Division of Child Care among Mothers, Fathers, and Nonparental Care Providers in Dutch Two-Parent Families


Van Dijk, Liset, Siegers, Jacques J., Journal of Marriage and Family


LISET VAN DUK Utrecht University JACQUES J. SIEGERS Utrecht University*

This article examines the division of child care among mothers, fathers, and nonparental care providers during the hours when at least one parent is at work. Data collected in 1993 from 405 Dutch two-parent households with at least one preschool child show that the mothers' potential wage rates, the number of children in the household, and the norms of the people in the household's network affect the participation of mothers, fathers, and nonparental care providers in child care. The availability of institutionalized care and the parents' judgement of the quality of institutionalized care affect the choice of the mothers' care but not the time fathers spend taking care of their children.

Key Words: child care, division of labor, Netherlands, preschool children.

Research in the area of maternal employment and the division of child care can be divided into two major groups. One studies maternal employment and the use of nonparental care (Blau & Robins, 1991; Fox Folk & Beller, 1993; Leibowitz, Klerman, & Waite, 1992; Van Dijk & Siegers, 1995). Most of this research overlooks the father as an alternative child-care provider. The other studies the division of labor between spouses and focuses on the spouses' participation in household labor, sometimes including child care (Barnett & Baruch, 1987; Coltrane & Ishii-Kuntz, 1992; Coverman, 1985; Ishii-Kuntz & Coltrane, 1992; Pleck, 1985; Van der Lippe & Siegers, 1994). It often ignores the fact that nonparental care can be used and that it might affect the division of child care between husbands and wives.

In this study, we examined the division of child care among mothers, fathers, and nonparental care providers in Dutch two-parent families. We addressed child care for preschool children (under 4 years old) when at least one parent was at work. We focused on working hours because an explanation for a pattern of child care during these hours may differ considerably from the one pertaining to leisure time.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

The Division of Labor Between Spouses Three main theories explain the division of labor between spouses: the new home economics theory, exchange theory, and role theory (Presser, 1994; Van der Lippe & Siegers, 1994).

The new home economics theory (Becker, 1991) predicts that the spouse with the highest earning potential will spend more time in paid labor and the other spouse will spend more time in unpaid labor. This maximizes household income. Women's wages typically are lower than men's wages. Therefore, the new home economics theory predicts that women spend more time in household labor and child care, and men spend more time in paid labor. It also predicts that the higher the woman's wage, the lower her share of household labor and the higher her share of paid labor. These predictions have been confirmed in some studies (Gronau, 1977; Kamo, 1988; Presser, 1994; Ross, 1987), but not in others (Coverman, 1985).

According to exchange theory, the division of labor between spouses results from their relative resources, such as income and education (PerryJenkins & Crouter, 1990). Assuming that individuals do not like to do housework, this theory predicts that the spouse with the greater resources will have more power and will use it to minimize her or his housework. Earnings are kept in the event of divorce, and because men usually have higher earnings, the monetary cost of separation and divorce is lower for men than for women (England & Farkas, 1986). This gives men more power. Exchange theory predicts that men spend less time than women in household labor, including child care, and that the more resources a spouse has, the less time he or she will spend in household labor. Thus, the predictions, as well as the empirical results, are similar to those of the new home economics theory. …

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