Materials for Teaching, Research and Policy Making



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KEY WORDS: Housework; Household Work; Gender; Class Analysis.

Riley, A. L., & Keith, V. M. (2003). Work and housework conditions and depressive symptoms among married women: The importance of occupational status. Women & Health, 38(4), 1-17.


Using the American Changing Lives Survey, this research examines housewives' subjective evaluations of their housework and the subjective evaluations of paid employment among three groups of married women: professionals, sales-clerical, and service-blue collar wives. The research assessed the usefulness of disaggregating employed women by occupational status. Depressive symptoms were regressed on five work conditions - autonomy, physical and time demands, boredom, and feeling appreciated - along with sociodemographic characteristics. The results indicate professional wives report fewer symptoms of depression than homemakers, sales-clerical, and service-blue collar wives. Differences between professionals and homemakers are largely accounted for by professional women's more advantaged economic position. Nonprofessional employed women are more depressed than professionals even when their disadvantaged working conditions are controlled. The findings are discussed in view of research on the stress of combining full-time employment with homemaking and argue that balancing these two roles may be more difficult for some employed women than for others.
KEY WORDS: United States of America; Working Women; Homemakers; Housework; Depression (Psychology); Occupational Status; Household Work.

Romich, J. L. (2007). Sharing the work: Mother-child relationships and household management. Journal of Early Adolescence, 27(2), 192-222.


The focus of this study is on the young adolescents who contribute to unpaid household work of caring for themselves, their siblings and the routine tasks of the household. The data set was drawn from a larger study that evaluated the New Hope initiative in Wisconsin commonly associated with the term "workfare". Public policy that requires low income mothers to undertake paid employment outside the home, has created a secondary challenge of managing the work of the household with an adolescent partner instead of another adult. Young adolescents end up doing housework and sibling care in addition to self-care.

The analysis suggests that relationship quality marked by mutual understand and trust between mother and youth, provides a resource that allows families to balance the demands of market work and family life.

While mothers act as household managers, children act as agents in working and carrying out tasks. The quality of the job accomplished depends on the core relationship. The authors suggest that family life is co-constructed between adults and youth and should be conceptualized as interactive and having a shared management dimension, between parents and children.
KEY WORDS: Mother-child Relations; Maternal Employment; Household Management; Sibling Care; Self-care; Ethnographic; Workfare; Social Capital.

Sabattini, L., & Leaper, C. (2004). The relation between mothers' and fathers' parenting styles and their division of labor in the home: Young adults' retrospective reports. Sex Roles, 50(3-4), 217-225.


The authors report on an investigation into the relation between young adults' retrospective reports of their mothers' and fathers' division of household labor (egalitarian or traditional) and parenting styles (authoritative, permissive, authoritarian, or disengaged). Participants' own gender attitudes were also tested in relation to parents' division of labor and parenting. The participants were 294 women and men (M =19-years old) who were raised in 2-parent households and came from a range of ethnic backgrounds. For the mothers' parenting, permissive parenting was more likely among those from egalitarian households whereas authoritarian parenting was more likely among those from traditional households. For the fathers' parenting, authoritative parenting was more likely among participants from egalitarian households and disengaged parenting was more likely among those from traditional households. The association between fathers' parenting style and division of labor was specific to the division of childcare (rather than housework). Participants' gender attitudes were not related to parents' division of labor or parenting style.
KEY WORDS: Childrearing Practices; Division of Labor; Household Management; Parenting Style; Sex Role Attitudes; Child Care; Parental Permissiveness; Household Work.
Sager, E. W. (2007). The transformation of the Canadian domestic servant, 1971-1931. Social Science History, 31(4).
This paper uses Canadian census data from 1901 to compare the earnings of paid domestic servants with other female occupations of the early twentieth century; to review the demographic profile of paid domestic servants from the late 1880s to the early 1920s in Canada and to trace the decline of the paid domestic servant. The conclusion of the paper is that the work process of household labour was transformed by technology when the labour supply failed. The waged domestic worker declined as other occupations afforded more choice, better wages and more opportunity to advance in social status. Further, as the domestic servant disappeared, despite the advent of technology, the unpaid housewife replaced the waged worker in the private domain of the home.

Sager identifies that domestic service was one of the few female occupations that declined in the twentieth century. The changing economic structure allowed for more choice among women and the occupation disappeared because of a failure of labour supply. When faced with Canadian-born, literate young women pressing for recognition in domestic service, employers lobbied for cheap immigrant labour to take on housework. In this way, employers did not have to allow for better wages and recognition of household workers.

This response devalued household labour to such an extent that young women who had originally entered domestic service for a few years before marriage or other occupation choices emerged, clearly rejected the waged work as it became associated with lower classes and it continued to fall below other waged occupations. As the household based occupation declined, the tasks were transferred from a wage earner to the unpaid matriarch of the home. Skill and knowledge of the work was not acknowledged, and the addition of technology to replace human help implied that the "worker's" time had no value.

The production of household work continued even as its paid paradigm declined. Sager concludes by identifying that construction of the housewife is rooted in class relations of the domestic workplace, the household of the early twentieth century.


KEY WORDS: Household Work; Household Technology; Domestics; Census Data.

Sagrario Floro, M., & Miles, M. (2003). Time use, work and overlapping activities: Evidence from Australia. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 21, 881-904.


Using the 1992 Australian Time Use Survey, the study examines the incidence and determinants of polychronic time use among 3,966 male and female household members. The interaction of economic and social factors influence time-use decisions. Policy considerations are raised in response.

This paper examines the factors that influence decisions to overlap activities (termed multi-tasking, 'polychronic time use' or concurrent activities). Overlapping activities, which are secondary and tertiary activities performed simultaneously with primary ones, have been largely ignored in time use studies in household work, leading to dramatic under-reporting of activities and time. Under-reporting can alter the perception of both the intensity and time required for unpaid work in the household. Traditional methods and measurement of time use have imposed rigid constraints on activities measured. A better understanding of how individuals and families organize their lives can provide an improved assessment of standard of living and the well being of individuals.

Results indicated that at least a third of every activity episode recorded involved at least one other simultaneous activity. When counted, women's total time on domestic activities including child care, increased by nearly 44% and men's time by 20%. Evidence also showed increased intensification of work time. Prevailing social and gender norms influence the division of household labour creating time pressures for women who have been acculturated to perform multiple activities at once and are more likely to extend time through polychronic use. Educational attainment is discussed which appears to increase expectations that individuals place on themselves for cleaner homes, better nutrition and more involvement with their children. Cultural norms and kinship networks result in more work sharing across family networks that provide assistance with the household. Individual earnings also influence the bargaining position of adults in the household and may reduce the incidence of overlapping for higher income earners, leading to less pressure for some individuals to perform multiple activities.
KEY WORDS: Gender; Household Labour; Australia.

Sauve, R. (2002). Connections: Tracking the links between jobs and family. Job, family and stress among husbands, wives and lone-parents 15-64 from 1990 to 2000. Contemporary family trends. Ottawa: Vanier Institute of the Family.


Noting that most reports on work-family relationships are based on limited data, this report attempts to establish a foundation for ongoing analysis of job and family patterns in Canada based on both historical and current labor force data and other sources. The report tracks and charts the connections between paid work and family trends for husbands, wives, and lone or single parents in Canada from 1990 to 2000. The focus of the report is on three types of trends: (1) participation of husband, wives, and single parents in the paid workforce; (2) how participation in the paid work force relates to job and family responsibilities; and (3) levels of stress reported by spouses and single parents. Part 1 of the report provides a summary of the major findings and policy implications, a review of the data sources, and an introduction to the topic. Data are derived from Statistics Canada sources. Part 2 of the report has been constructed as a chart book documenting 42 trends. Tables and charts provide a graphical or tabular presentation of the more important topics with comments included for each trend to help interpret the trend and to add additional insights. Findings are presented for wives with children, husbands with or without children, wives without children, and lone-parents. Among the main findings is that spouses share in the responsibilities for paid work and unpaid work. Husbands remain the main source of incomes from paid employment. More wives now work at jobs outside the home but they also retain the major responsibilities for child and family care, especially when young children are present. Wives work more total hours than their husbands do. The majority of spouses and single parents are not under severe stress but many are.

KEY WORDS: Comparative Analysis; Family Environment; Family Relationship; Family-Work Relationship; Foreign Countries; One Parent Family; Public Policy; Spouses; Stress Variables; Trend Analysis; Canada; Household Work.

Scott, D. B. (2001). The costs and benefits of women's family ties in occupational context: Women in corporate-government affairs management. Community, Work & Family, 4(1), 5-27.


This article explores gender differences in the family relationships of corporate-government affairs managers. In particular, it looks at how women's family status influences the context and character of their interactions with key people in business and government. While women may have made tremendous gains in corporate public affairs management in the US, these positions call for employees to form successful networks with clients, the public, other managers in the corporation, and other professionals outside the corporation. There is little research that documents the effects of family on work relations on women who occupy positions where the potential for "personal" & "professional" overlap is high. This research suggests that the family relations of women corporate-government relations managers inhibit the development of certain kinds of ties. However, the findings are not all negative. The research revealed that while family relations may be burdensome, they can be also be instrumental in extending women's connections and enhancing their opportunities.
KEY WORDS: Sex Differences; Family-Work Relationship; Social Networks; Public Sector Private Sector Relations; Professional Women; Managers; Public Relations; Family Relations; Washington, DC; New York City; Household Work.

Sikic-Micanovic, L. (2001). Some conceptualizations and meanings of domestic labor. Drustvena Istrazivanja, 10(45(54-55)), 731-766.


This article suggests that the definitions and conceptualizations of domestic labor should emphasize that it is productive, involving many different types of work, and that it is also about constructing "proper" and "appropriate" gender relations. An overview of studies, show that unpaid domestic labor is persistently segregated by gender and continues to be, in practice, mainly "women's work." The implications, and consequences of this are outlined in the paper. In addition, a number of explanations are provided that elucidate why inequitable divisions of labor within the home are considered to be fair. It is concluded that the gendered division of domestic labor should be viewed as a way to "do gender" that also produces appropriate gender relations, rather than based on a static agreement between individuals. These relations as interpersonal processes in combination with dominant discourses (in the media, community, & government policies) constitute, maintain, and enhance a gendered division of labor within a particular context. As household tasks convey social meanings about masculinity and femininity, it is important to avoid generalizations but rather, understand that conceptualizations, meanings, and values vary according to historical, sociocultural contexts such that a universalizing framework is inappropriate.
KEY WORDS: Housework; Sexual Division of Labor; Women's Roles; Opposite Sex Relations; Social Reproduction; Sexual Inequality; Household Work.

Sousa-Poza, A., & Widmer, R. (1998). The determinants of the allocation of time to paid and unpaid labour in Switzerland: A preliminary empirical analysis. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur Soziologie/Revue Suisse de sociologie, 24(2), 269-289.


This study discusses the role of gender and, to a lesser extent, cultural differences in time allocation for paid and unpaid labor in the German-, French-, and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland, applying the economic conceptual framework "new home economists," which recognizes the value of unpaid labor, to explain individual behavior to 1995 survey data from 31,827 individuals, ages 18-65. It was found that employed individuals reacted more to changes in socioeconomic variables, and effects of home ownership, education levels, and the presence of children varied across cultures. Future research concentrating on sociological explanations of cross-cultural differences and extension of the empirical model to capture joint decision problems is advocated.
KEY WORDS: Switzerland; Labor; Time Utilization; Crosscultural Analysis.

Spitze, G., & Loscocco, K. A. (2000). The labor of Sisyphus? Women's and men's reactions to housework. Social Science Quarterly, 81(4), 1087-1100.


Considerable attention has been given to the division of household labor in male-female couple households & to assessments of its equity. While women's experience of housework has been characterized as either tedious & thankless or a more positive expression of love & care, there is very limited empirical evidence about how women (or men) actually experience the work. We assess these reactions & investigate how they are influenced by women's & men's household & paid work contexts & the content of the housework performed. Data are from married & cohabiting men & women respondents to the 1987/88 wave of the National Survey of Families & Households. Results show that while women's reactions to housework are slightly less positive than men's, both are similar & are more positive than negative. There is also similarity across gender in the factors explaining these attitudes. The unpleasantness of housework (especially for women) may be less a reflection of the qualities of the work itself than of the consequences of its allocation for women's ability to perform outside roles & for their sense of marital equity.
KEY WORDS: Females; Males; Housework; Sexual Division of Labor; Marital Relations; Cohabitation; Household Work.

Strazdins, L., & Broom, D. H. (2004). Acts of love (and work): Gender imbalance in emotional work and women's psychological distress. Journal of Family Issues, 25(3), 356-378.


Family members do work to meet people's emotional needs, improve their well-being, and maintain harmony. When emotional work is shared equally, both men and women have access to emotional resources in the family. However, like housework and child care, the distribution of emotional work is gendered. This study examines the psychological health consequences of gender divisions in emotional work. Quantitative and qualitative data from a sample of 102 couples with young children show that the gender imbalance affected women's, but not men's, experience of love and conflict in their marriage. Through this erosion of the marriage, the gender imbalance posed a health risk to women and helped explain gender differences in psychological distress. Couples preserved a sense of mutuality by accounting for the gender imbalance as something beyond men's choice or control, or in terms of women's excess emotional needs, thus entrenching gender differences in the performance and consequences of emotional work.
KEY WORDS: Marriage; Females; Intimacy; Gender Differences; Gender Issues; Foreign Countries; Psychological Patterns; Emotional Response; Marital Instability; Spouses; Interpersonal Relationship; Household Work.

Ström, S. (2002). Unemployment and gendered divisions of domestic labor. Acta Sociologica, 45(2), 89-106.


Using data from the Swedish Longitudinal Study among the Unemployed, 1992/93, and the Swedish Level of Living Survey, 1990, this study focuses on whether unemployment is associated with alterations in the gendered division of domestic labor among Swedish men and women. Levels of domestic labor activity during periods of unemployment are investigated, as well as the question of whether any associations persist after the individual reenters the workforce. The results indicate that although gender is the best predictor of levels of domestic labor activity, labor market status also has an effect. For instance, women are more active than men, but the unemployed are more active than the employed. The hypothesis that male unemployment is associated with a more equal division of domestic labor is supported. For women, the hypothesis that unemployment is related to an exacerbated unequal division of domestic labor is supported, although it is questionable whether unemployment has any permanent effects on activity in domestic labor, since the re-employed decrease their domestic labor activity.
KEY WORDS: Unemployment; Sexual Division of Labor; Housework; Labor Force Participation; Sweden; Household Work.

Sullivan, C. (2000). Space and the Intersection of work and family in homeworking households. Community, Work & Family, 3(2), 185-204.


The introduction of paid work into the home challenges our conceptualizations of work and family as spatially distinct. Research specifically examining spatial experiences within homeworking households is limited and does not include family members' own accounts. This paper examines spatial arrangements in homeworking households, potential problems and conflicts, gendered patterns, and the link between space and the psychological work-family boundary. Interviews with homeworkers and their families reveal a range of consequences for the entire family. Conflicts can arise over entitlement to, and use of, space. A complex relationship between physical and psychological boundaries is uncovered.
KEY WORDS: Home Workplaces; Space; Spatial Analysis; Family-Work Relationship; England; Family Relations; Household Work.

Sullivan, O. (2000). The division of domestic labour: Twenty years of change? Sociology, 34(3), 437-456.


Using nationally represented time-use diary data for 1975, 1987, & 1997, 1,284 couples in Great Britain participated in a study that examined the nature and pattern of change in the domestic division of labor. Acknowledging that in 1997 women still performed the bulk of domestic work, it was found that, in relation to changes in time use in other areas of life, the increase in men's participation in domestic work (at least as measured in terms of time contributed) should be regarded as significant. In support of this, there had been (1) a reduction in gender inequality in the participation of some of the normatively feminine-associated household tasks; (2) a larger proportional increase in the time contributed to domestic work by men from lower socioeconomic status, to a position of near equality with men from higher socioeconomic positions; and (3) a substantial increase in egalitarian couples.
KEY WORDS: Sexual Division of Labor; Housework; Great Britain; Time Utilization; Sex Differences; Household Work.

Torr, B. M., & Short, S. E. (2004). Second births and the second shift: A research note on gender equity and fertility. Population and Development Review, 30(1), 109-130.


It has been recently proposed that the decline from replacement-level fertility to low fertility is linked to a combination of high levels of gender equity in individual-oriented institutions, such as education and market employment, and low levels of gender equity in the family and family-oriented institutions. The "second shift," or the share of domestic work performed by formally employed women, forms a critical piece of current cross-national explanations for low fertility. The paper explores whether there is empirical evidence at the individual level for a relationship between gender equity at home, as indicated by the division of housework among working couples with one child, and the transition to a second birth. Results from a sample of US couples, indicate a U-shaped relationship between gender equity and fertility. Both the most modern and the most traditional housework arrangements are positively associated with fertility. This empirical test elaborates the family-fertility relationship and underscores the need to incorporate family context, including gender equity, into explanations for change in fertility.
KEY WORDS: Fertility; Sexual Inequality; Sexual Division of Labor; Housework; Dual Career Family; Household Work.

Verma, S., & Larson, R. W. (2001). Indian women's experience of household labour: Oppression or personal fulfillment. The Indian Journal of Social Work, 62(1), 46-66.


This article examines the time spent by urban middle-class women in household work with accompanying subjective states. Participants carried beeper watches for one week and reported their time spent in different activities with their subjective states, when signaled at random times. The findings reveal that women spend much more time doing household labor than their husbands, but they experience choice over these activities and do not experience them as aversive. Women often report feeling hurried, but do not feel less in control. Their emotional states neither suggest a high rate of distress, nor a high feeling of self-fulfillment while doing family work.
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