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The Intrinsic Value of Childcare: Positive Returns of Childcare Time on Parents’ Well-Being and Life Satisfaction in Italy

Abstract

An extensive literature shows that parental childcare time has increased considerably over the past decades in Western countries and that children benefit from spending time with their parents. In contrast, less is known about whether and to what extent parents benefit from spending time with their children. This article fills this gap by asking whether parents enjoy childcare, and whether an association exists between time spent doing childcare and life satisfaction. Moreover, it tests whether the association varies among parents with different working statuses, specifically by comparing full-time employed fathers with full-time employed, part-time employed, and non-employed mothers. Multivariate analyses based on nationally representative time use data for Italy (2013–2014) show that parents find childcare—especially interactive childcare activities—much more pleasant than other daily activities such as employment or housework. Furthermore, the results reveal a positive association between childcare time and life satisfaction among full-time employed parents, but not among part-time employed or non-employed mothers, pointing to important between and within gender inequalities in the costs and benefits of investments in family time.

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Fig. 1
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Fig. 3

Source: own calculation on ITUS data. Weighted. Predictions were obtained from the models presented in Table 3 that control for: number of children in the household; presence of a child below the age of two; parental level of education; household type (two-parent vs. single-parent); age of the parent; geographic area of residence

Data Availability

The Italian Time Use Survey data is made available for free from the Italian National Institute of Statistics. Any researcher can apply for the data (https://www.istat.it/it/dati-analisi-e-prodotti/microdati#MFR) but only ISTAT can distribute the data. Therefore, the author is not authorized to distribute the data used in the article.

Code Availability

All analyses were run in Stata 16 using standard syntax.

Notes

  1. APA Dictionary of Psychology: https://dictionary.apa.org/life-satisfaction (last accessed July 2021).

  2. Parents and guardians filled in the daily diary for children who could not read and write.

  3. The full models are available upon request.

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Dotti Sani, G.M. The Intrinsic Value of Childcare: Positive Returns of Childcare Time on Parents’ Well-Being and Life Satisfaction in Italy. J Happiness Stud 23, 1901–1921 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-021-00477-z

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Keywords

  • Life satisfaction
  • Childcare time
  • Parenthood
  • Employment schedule
  • DRM
  • Italy