Monday, July 18, 2011

Division of Labor in Marriage & Parenting

I just presented a poster about my thesis at the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference last week. It was a nice refresher to look over it and it was super interesting to me now that I have a child. I also didn't really know what the heck I was doing during my master's when we did the statistical analysis and interpreted it and now I understand so much better.

Here are some of my random thoughts about the findings:

This study was interesting to me because the division of labor questionnaire included tasks that are traditionally more father oriented and childcare related such as bringing a child to activities, household repairs and teaching children physical skills etc. This was rare for a study to include measures like this.

I thought it spoke something to a maternal instinct that a mother would take care of their child and foster a positive parenting relationship regardless of her relationship with her husband, but that the father's marital quality was the best predictor. To me, that also proves the systemic nature of families. The couple relationship impacts children directly and indirectly.

Also, I just want to point out that only 9/336 mothers in this sample were full-time stay at home parents. About 4% of families in the US have full-time homemakers. Studies in the past have repeatedly found that regardless of hours worked outside of the home, the wife usually does more home labor and childcare tasks.

It's important as a parent to nurture your relationship with your spouse because the quality of this relationship will impact your children. I like to tell couples to go out on weekly dates as one of the first assignments when they come to therapy. As a new mother myself, I've found that nurturing my marriage improves our family life and helps my husband feel more involved and more inclined to help out. I've heard some husbands feel they are pushed to the back burner after a child is born and stay in the background until their children are gone- no wonder they don't want to help out!

Not only is egalitarian division of labor related to relationship quality, but their satisfaction with the division of labor is also directed with relationship quality. Couples should openly discuss with each other their expectations regarding division of labor so they are both happy with it.

Of course, this study has its limitations. If you're interested, you can read the whole thing here. I'm in the process of trimming it down to publish it in a journal (hopefully!).

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