Are Children Barriers to the Gender Revolution? International Comparisons

  • Laurie F. DeRoseEmail author
  • Frances Goldscheider
  • Javiera Reyes Brito
  • Andrés Salazar-Arango
  • Paúl Corcuera
  • Paúl J. Corcuera
  • Montserrat Gas-Aixendri


Children seem to present a barrier to the gender revolution in that parents are more likely to divide paid and domestic work along traditional gender lines than childless couples are. However, the extent to which this is so varies between countries and over time. We used data on 35 countries from the 2012 International Social Survey Programme to identify the contexts in which parents and non-parents differ the most in their division of labour. In Central/South America, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Asia, and South Africa, labour sharing configurations did not vary as much with the presence of children as in Australia, Western Europe, North America, and Northern Europe. Our multilevel models helped explain this pattern by showing that children seem to present a greater barrier to the gender revolution in richer and, surprisingly, more gender equal countries. However, the relationship between children and couples’ division of labour can be thought of as curvilinear, first increasing as societies progress, but then weakening if societies respond with policies that promote men’s involvement at home. In particular, having a portion of parental leave reserved for fathers reduces the extent to which children are associated with traditional labour sharing in the domestic sphere.


Male role Female role Labour force Housework Child care Family policy Gender revolution 



This work was sponsored by the Social Trends Institute (New York and Barcelona), the Institute for Family Studies, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Child Health and Human Development grant R24-HD041041, Maryland Population Research Center. Earlier work using some of the same conceptualization as in this paper is available from

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards”. Human subjects: this research involved human subjects, but is exempt from IRB review because it used only publically available data with no personal identifiers. (Exemption 4) Data available from:

Informed Consent

The original collectors of the data obtained informed consent.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Maryland Population Research CenterUniversity of Maryland, College ParkCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.WashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Universidad de los AndesSantiagoChile
  5. 5.Universidad de la SabanaChia, CundinamarcaColombia
  6. 6.Universidad de PiuraPiuraPeru
  7. 7.Universitat Internacional de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain

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