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Gender Differences in Single Parents’ Living Arrangements and Child Care Time


Although seemingly identical in their circumstances, research has found single fathers to engage less in child care than single mothers. Guided by both a structuralist and a “doing gender” perspective, we examine gender differences in single parents’ child care time and whether the presence and gender of coresident adult kin moderate this association. Our sample drawn from the 2003–2013 American Time Use Survey (N = 10,985) consists of non-cohabiting single parents aged 18 to 64 who live with at least one own child under age 18. We first found that single fathers spent slightly less time in all types of child care except play than single mothers. Either coresident adult female kin or adult male kin, or both predicted single parents’ spending less time in child care activities, particularly management. Living only with adult male kin also predicted single parents’ lower time spent in teaching. Lastly, gender differences in single parents’ child care time were larger in any child care, play, and teaching when living with both adult female kin and male kin than when living without any kin. The presence of both female kin and male kin may relieve the parent of tasks gender-appropriate to the related household members. Additional research about the contexts of gender differences in single parents’ child care enriches our understanding of parenting by men and women.

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A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the Population Association of America in San Diego, CA in 2015. Support for this research was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant number R01-HD053654, S. Hofferth, PI, and R24-HD041041, the Maryland Population Research Center).

Author Contributions

Y.L.: designed the study, conducted statistical analyses, and wrote the paper. S.H.: collaborated with the design of the study and editing of the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yoonjoo Lee.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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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 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.




Table 4 Ordinary least squares regression models predicting the amount of time spent in child care (N = 10,985)


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Lee, Y., Hofferth, S.L. Gender Differences in Single Parents’ Living Arrangements and Child Care Time. J Child Fam Stud 26, 3439–3451 (2017).

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  • Child care
  • Gender
  • Living arrangements
  • Single-parent families
  • Time use