Realsociology

A hyperreflexive blog focussing on critical sociology, infographics, Buddhism and extreme early retirement

Who does the housework? Some relatively recent research on the domestic division of labour

Posted by Realsociology on December 22, 2010

Who does the housework and childcare – men or women?

This is a classic question for the AS Family module, below are a few updates of survey data and a few pointers at the end to get some analysis marks in the exam.
Oh and shame on the timeservers who write the main AS level textbooks using all of that hideous dated material from the 1970s – 90s – all of this material is available if you just dig online for an hour.

There is evidence that gender roles in the family continue to move towards greater equality 

• According to the British Social Attitudes survey (2007/8) in 1989, 1/3rd of men and ¼ of women thought that it was “a man’s job to earn money; a woman’s job is to look after the home and family. Only 15 years later, in 2006 only 1/5 men and 1/6 women agreed with the statement.
The Fatherhood Institute certainly thinks there have been major moves to more equal gender roles within the family

 
• The time spent by British men on domestic work rose from 90 minutes per day in the 1960s to 148 minutes per day by 2004; while women’s dropped from 369 minutes to 280 minutes during the same period (Kan et al, 2009).

• British fathers’ care of infants and young children rose 800% between 1975 and 1997, from 15 minutes to two hours on the average working day – at double the rate of mothers’ (Fisher et al., 1999) despite the fact that over this period fathers’ time spent at work was also increasing (Gray, 2006).
It is worth reading this document that compares survey data on housework (where you ask questions like ‘how many hours per week do you think you spend doing the washing up…) with the more accurate (valid method) of keeping diary data (where you get men and women to actually note down what they do each week) – the authors found that, guess what, men are more likely to over-estimate the amount of housework they do in relation to women.
The document also argues that survey data on ‘who does the childcare’ is an invalid measurement of equality in domestic roles for various reasons.

 

Evidence that gender roles are not equal yet!

According to the couple connection who summarise data from this – Crompton, R. & Lyonette, C. (2008). Who does the housework? The division of labour within the home. In Park, A. et al., British Social Attitudes: The 24th Report 2007/2008. London: Sage.

• On average, women spend over 2 hours and 30 minutes a day doing housework: cooking, washing up, cleaning and ironing- 1 hour and 30 minutes more than men. Both sexes spend similar lengths of time gardening or looking after pets. DIY and car maintenance are the only household chores that men, in general, spend more time on than women.

• Overall men have an extra half hour of free time each day than women.

• The time spent with children is spent in different ways. Women spend around two hours on housework while with their children, compared with 1 hour and 20 minutes spent by men. In contrast, men spend around 1 hour and 20 minutes watching TV in the company of their children, compared with around 50 minutes by women. In other words, men may be doing a greater amount of childcare in the past – but this translates into watching TV with the kids, while a woman doing childcare translates into doing housework while watching the kids.

Breene and Cook studied surveyed attitudes to traditional gender roles in 22 different European Countries and found there were more. They found that that about 1/4 men (who they called hardliners) would rather get divorced than see their wife in a ‘breadwinner role’ while only 1/8 men would be happy adjusting to their wife being the main breadwinner. (These are very rough estimates from me, and there are wide variations across countries!)

• Finally, one third of the population still think that there are problems with both couples working… In 2006, 41% of men and 29% of women agreed that a pre-school child is likely to suffer if his or her mother works.