Who Helps with Homework? Parenting Inequality and Relationship Quality Among Employed Mothers and Fathers

Abstract

This study investigated the relationship between parenting inequalities and feelings of relationship quality, and whether those patterns differed for women and men. Using data from the nationally representative 2011 Canadian Work, Stress, and Health Survey (N = 1427), we documented the relevance of perceived unfairness of the division of parenting and the ways that employment status and work hour preferences (“mismatch”) modify those relationships. We found that mothers in dual-earner households experience greater parenting inequalities than do similarly-situated fathers, net of housework inequalities. The negative association between parenting inequality and relationship quality was stronger among mothers—but that was due to perceived unfairness in the division of parenting tasks. We also observed that the detrimental effect of parenting inequality was stronger for mothers who worked part-time—but that was because of work hours mismatch: they tended to prefer to work longer hours. Our results contribute to the gendered nature of the division of parenting labor and its intersection with work hours and preferences.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    While a higher response rate is the ideal—and we expended great efforts to achieve one—this has become increasingly challenging for all survey researchers (with limited budgets). There are conflicting views on the meanings and implications of a “low” response rate. Nonresponse bias in estimates is one concern (Babbie 2010), although research challenges the link between response rates and nonresponse bias (see Curtin et al. 2000; Groves et al. 2007; Merkle and Edelman 2002). To address the possibility that our results were unduly influenced by nonresponse bias, we compared unweighted and weighted analyses in which we weighted the sample based on key demographic statuses (e.g., gender, age, marital status, education) from the most recent Canadian Census. We found few differences between the weighted and unweighted results. Winship and Radbill (1994) argued that controlling for characteristics on which individuals may be under-sampled or over-sampled helps adjust for biases due to these characteristics. Given that all of our analyses include these controls, nonresponse bias should not be a major problem for the estimates reported here. As an additional comparison, the CANWSH response rate of 40% falls in the range of three similar studies: (1) The 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce achieved 55% (Families and Work Institute); (2) The 2004 National Study of Overwork in America achieved a 23% response rate (Galinsky et al. 2005); and (3) in the 2001 National Work–Life Conflict Study of Canadian workers, the study authors report a response rate of approximately 26% (Higgins and Duxbury 2002).

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Funding

This study was funded the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (Funding Reference Number: MOP-102730) and the Australian Research Council DECRA (project number DE150100228).

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Correspondence to Scott Schieman.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of 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.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 3.

Table 3 Distribution of responses to parenting items by age of children

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Schieman, S., Ruppanner, L. & Milkie, M.A. Who Helps with Homework? Parenting Inequality and Relationship Quality Among Employed Mothers and Fathers. J Fam Econ Iss 39, 49–65 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10834-017-9545-4

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Keywords

  • Parenting responsibilities
  • Household labor
  • Marital quality
  • Marital satisfaction
  • Perceived unfairness
  • Hours mismatch