A Qualitative Multiple Case Study of the Division of Labor across the Transition to Parenthood in South-Brazilian Families


Family roles tend to become more traditional across the transition to parenthood, which may affect satisfaction with the division of labor and the well-being and relationships of new parents. We employed a qualitative, longitudinal, multiple case study to investigate the division of labor across the transition to parenthood in South-Brazilian families with different childcare arrangements (i.e., maternal care, nanny care, and daycare center). Data were collected through semi-structured, face-to-face interviews conducted with 12 first-time mothers and fathers (six families) at 6, 12, and 18 months postpartum. Using deductive thematic analysis, we found greater sharing of childcare tasks during the first few days postpartum, followed by a decrease in fathers’ contributions across the first few months. This more unequal division of labor shifted toward greater subsequent father involvement for families with nanny care and daycare arrangements, although it remained stable for families with maternal care arrangement. Parental satisfaction regarding the division of labor remained relatively high over time only for families with nanny care arrangements. Findings are discussed in the light of the roles that instrumental and social support, as well as Brazilian gender norms, play in the division of labor for new parents. Implications for practice and policy are presented.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 199

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.


  1. Amorim, K. S., & Rossetti-Ferreira, M. C. (1999). Creches com qualidade para a educação e o desenvolvimento integral da criança pequena [Quality daycare for the education and integral development of the young child]. Psicologia: Ciência e Profissão, 19, 64–69.

  2. Ayala, A., Christensson, K., Velandia, M., & Erlandsson, K. (2016). Fathers’ care of the newborn infant after caesarean section in Chile: A qualitative study. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare, 8, 75–81.

  3. Baxter, J., Buchler, S., Perales, F., & Western, M. (2015). A life-changing event: First births and men’s and women’s attitudes to mothering and gender divisions of labor. Social Forces, 93, 989–1014.

  4. Benetti, S. P., & Roopnarine, J. L. (2006). Paternal involvement with school-aged children in Brazilian families: Association with childhood competence. Sex Roles, 55, 669–678.

  5. Biehle, S. N., & Mickelson, K. D. (2012). First-time parents’ expectations about the division of childcare and play. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 36–45.

  6. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–101.

  7. Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. (2015). Síntese de indicadores sociais [Synthesis of social indicators]. Retrieved from

  8. Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. (2017). Síntese de indicadores sociais [Synthesis of social indicators]. Retrieved from

  9. Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. (2018, June 05). Women continue ahead of men in caretaking and household chores. Retrieved from Accessed 05 Jun 2018.

  10. Brazilian Law 13.257/2016 (2016, March 8). Retrieved from Accessed 08 Mar 2018.

  11. Brazilian Ministry of Education. (2018, October 10). Educação infantil: Porcentagem de crianças de 0 a 3 anos na Educação Infantil [Percentage of children from 0- to 3 years attending early childhood care and education institutions]. Retrieved from Accessed 10 Oct 2018.

  12. Bungum, B., & Kvande, E. (2013). The rise and fall of cash for care in Norway: Changes in the use of child-care policies. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 4, 1–24.

  13. Bünning, M. (2015). What happens after the ‘daddy months’? Fathers’ involvement in paid work, childcare, and housework after taking parental leave in Germany. European Sociological Review, 31, 738–748.

  14. Cabrera, N. J., Shannon, J. D., & Jolley-Mitchell, S. (2013). Coparenting in Latino families. In S. S. Chuang & C. S. Tamis-LeMonda (Eds.), Gender roles in immigrant families (pp. 9–25). New York: Springer.

  15. Chatfield, S. L. (2018). Considerations in qualitative research reporting: A guide for authors preparing articles for sex roles. Sex Roles, 3–4, 125–135.

  16. Connelly, R. (2016). Changes in US mothers’ and fathers’ time use: Causes and consequences. In S. M. McHale, V. King, J. V. Hook, & A. Booth (Eds.), Gender and couple relationships (pp. 169–179). New York: Springer.

  17. Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Los Angeles: Sage.

  18. De Conti, L., & Sperb, T. M. (2001). Preschoolers’ play: A space for cultural re-signification. Psicologia: Teoria e Pesquisa, 17(1), 59–67. Retrieved from

  19. Endendijk, J. J., Derks, B., & Mesman, J. (2018). Does parenthood change implicit gender-role stereotypes and behaviors? Journal of Marriage and Family, 80, 61–79.

  20. Feinberg, M. E. (2003). The internal structure and ecological context of coparenting: A framework for research and intervention. Parenting: Science and Practice, 3, 95–131.

  21. Goldberg, A. E., & Perry-Jenkins, M. (2004). Division of labor and working-class women’s well-being across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 225–236.

  22. Grote, N. K., & Clark, M. S. (2001). Perceiving unfairness in the family: Cause or consequence of marital distress? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 281–293.

  23. Hagqvist, E., Nordenmark, M., Pérez, G., Alemán, S. T., & Gådin, K. G. (2017). Parental leave policies and time use for mothers and fathers: A case study of Spain and Sweden. Society, Health & Vulnerability, 8, 1–11.

  24. Hays, S. (1996). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven: Yale University.

  25. International Labour Organization. (2018, February 01). Convention No. 189 on domestic workers ratified by Brazil: Brazil promotes decent work for an estimated 7 million domestic workers. Retrieved from Accessed 01 Feb 2018.

  26. Kamp Dush, C. M., Yavorsky, J. E., & Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J. (2018). What are men doing while women perform extra unpaid labor? Leisure and specialization at the transitions to parenthood. Sex Roles, 78, 715–730.

  27. Kobayashi, M., Kobayashi, M., Okumura, T., & Usui, E. (2016). Sharing housework between husbands and wives: How to improve marital satisfaction for working wives in Japan. IZA Journal of Labor Policy, 5, 1–15.

  28. Kotila, L. E., & Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J. (2015). Integrating sociological and psychological perspectives on coparenting. Sociology Compass, 9, 731–744.

  29. Kotila, L. E., Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., & Kamp Dush, C. M. (2013). Time in parenting activities in dual-earner families at the transition to parenthood. Family Relations, 62, 795–807.

  30. Kroska, A. (2004). Divisions of domestic work: Revising and expanding the theoretical explanations. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 890–922.

  31. Kwon, Y. I., & Roy, K. M. (2007). Changing social expectations for work and family involvement among Korean fathers. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 38(2), 285–305. Retrieved from

  32. Lamb, M. E., & Lewis, C. (2010). The development and significance of father-child relationships in two-parent families. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (pp. 94–153). New York: Wiley.

  33. Lang, S. N., Tolbert, A. R., Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., & Bonomi, A. E. (2016). A cocaring framework for infants and toddlers: Applying a model of coparenting to parent-teacher relationships. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 34, 40–52.

  34. LaRossa, R., Goldberg, A., Roy, K., Sharp, E., & Zvonkovic, A. (2014). Qualitative research commission report. Retrieved from

  35. Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA publications and communications board task force report. American Psychologist, 73, 26–46.

  36. Madalozzo, R., & Blofield, M. (2017). How low-income families in São Paulo reconcile work and family? Revista Estudos Feministas, 25, 215–240.

  37. Martins, G. D., Gonçalves, T. R., Marin, A. H., Piccinini, C. A., Sperb, T. M., & Tudge, J. (2015). Social class, workplace experience, and child-rearing values of mothers and fathers in southern Brazil. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 46, 996–1009.

  38. Miller, T. (2010). “It’s a triangle that’s difficult to square”: Men’s intentions and practices around caring, work and first-time fatherhood. Fathering, 8, 362–378.

  39. Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge: Harvard University.

  40. Moreira, L. V., & Biasoli-Alves, Z. M. (2007). Families and their collaborators in the task of child rearing. Journal of Human Growth and Development, 17, 26–38.

  41. Murray, M. (2015). Back to work? Childcare negotiations and intensive mothering in Santiago de Chile. Journal of Family Issues, 36, 1171–1191.

  42. Newkirk, K., Perry-Jenkins, M., & Sayer, A. G. (2017). Division of household and childcare labor and relationship conflict among low-income new parents. Sex Roles, 76, 319–333.

  43. Palkovitz, R., Trask, B. S., & Adamsons, K. (2014). Essential differences in the meaning and processes of mothering and fathering: Family systems, feminist and qualitative perspectives. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 6, 406–420.

  44. Pasinato, L., & Mosmann, C. P. (2016). The transition to parenting and coparenting: Couples that children were enrolled in school on the expiration of maternity leave. Avances en Psicología Latinoamericana, 34, 129–142.

  45. Perry-Jenkins, M., & Folk, K. (1994). Class, couples, and conflict: Effects of the division of labor on assessments of marriage in dual-earner families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 56, 165–180.

  46. Piccinini, C. A., Polli, R. G., Bortolini, M., Martins, G. D., & Lopes, R. C. (2016). Mothers’ reasons to enroll or not the baby in day care. Arquivos Brasileiros de Psicologia, 68(3), 59–74. Retrieved from

  47. Pinto, K. M., & Coltrane, S. (2009). Divisions of labor in Mexican origin and Anglo families: Structure and culture. Sex Roles, 60, 482–495.

  48. Raley, S., Bianchi, S. M., & Wang, W. (2012). When do fathers care? Mothers’ economic contribution and fathers’ involvement in child care. American Journal of Sociology, 117, 1422–1459.

  49. Reczek, C. (2014). Conducting a multi family member interview study. Family Process, 53, 318–335.

  50. Rocha-Coutinho, M. L. (2011). De volta ao lar: Mulheres que abandonaram uma carreira profissional bem sucedida com o nascimento dos filhos [Back home: Women who gave up a successful career after the birth of their children]. In T. Féres-Carneiro (Ed.), Casal e família: Conjugalidade, parentalidade e psicoterapia [couple and family: Conjugality, parenting and psychotherapy] (pp. 133–148). São Paulo: Casa do Psicólogo.

  51. Ruijter, E. (2004). Trends in the outsourcing of domestic work and childcare in the Netherlands: Compositional or behavioral change? Acta Sociologica, 47, 219–234.

  52. Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., & Bremberg, S. (2008). Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. Acta Paediatrica, 97, 153–158.

  53. Shockley, K. M., & Allen, T. D. (2018). It’s not what I expected: The association between dual-earner couples’ met expectations for the division of paid and family labor and well-being. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 104, 240–260.

  54. Shorey, S., Ang, L., & Goh, E. C. (2018). Lived experiences of Asian fathers during the early postpartum period: Insights from qualitative inquiry. Midwifery, 60, 30–35.

  55. Sim, C. T. (2017). Co-parenting conversation process: A qualitative study of Chinese Singaporean parents. Journal of Family Therapy, 39, 217–237.

  56. Simons, H. (2014). Case study research: In-depth understanding in context. In P. Leavy (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of qualitative research (pp. 455–470). Oxford: Oxford University.

  57. Simpson, J. A., Rholes, W. S., Campbell, L., Tran, S., & Wilson, C. L. (2003). Adult attachment, the transition to parenthood, and depressive symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1172–1187.

  58. St. John, W., Cameron, C., & McVeigh, C. (2005). Meeting the challenge of new fatherhood during the early weeks. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 34, 180–189.

  59. Stake, R. E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis. New York: Guilford Press.

  60. Van Egeren, L. A. (2004). The development of the coparenting relationship over the transition to parenthood. Infant Mental Health Journal, 25, 453–477.

  61. Vieira, N. S. (2014). O trabalho da babá: Trajetórias corporais entre o afeto, o objeto e o abjeto [The work of the nanny: Body trajectories between affection, object and abject] (Master’s Thesis, Universidade de Brasília, Brasília, Brasil). Retrieved from

  62. Vieira, M. L., Bossardi, C. N., Gomes, L. B., Bolze, S. D., Crepaldi, M. A., & Piccinini, C. A. (2014). Paternity in Brazil: A systematic review of empirical articles. Arquivos Brasileiros de Psicologia, 66(2), 36–52. Retrieved from

  63. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1(2), 125–151. Retrieved from

  64. Yavorsky, J. E., Kamp Dush, C. M., & Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J. (2015). The production of inequality: The gender division of labor across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77, 662–679.

  65. Yu, Y. (2015). The male breadwinner/female homemaker model and perceived marital stability: A comparison of Chinese wives in the United States and urban China. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 36, 34–47.

Download references


We sincerely thank the designers of the CRESCI Project, in particular, Professors Rita de Cassia Sobreira Lopes, Tania Mara Sperb, Jonathan Tudge, Gabriela Dal Forno Martins and Scheila Machado da Silveira Becker, the graduate and undergraduate students who recruited for, collected and transcribed the research data, as well as all the participating families.


The CRESCI Project was funded by the Brazilian Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel – CAPES (Obeduc 038/2010, Piccinini), as well as the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development – CNPq (487477/2012-0, Piccinini). CAPES also supported the partnership of the co-authors in the current study, by means of a scholarship for a Ph.D. in Brazil (PROEX 1550482, Schmidt), and internship in the United States (PDSE 88881.133661/2016-01, Schmidt).

Author information

Correspondence to Beatriz Schmidt.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The CRESCI Project was approved by two local Ethics Committees (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, process number 2010070; Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre, process number 100553).

Informed Consent

Written informed consent was given by each participant included in the CRESCI Project.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 25 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Schmidt, B., Schoppe-Sullivan, S.J., Frizzo, G.B. et al. A Qualitative Multiple Case Study of the Division of Labor across the Transition to Parenthood in South-Brazilian Families. Sex Roles 81, 272–289 (2019) doi:10.1007/s11199-018-0999-0

Download citation


  • Division of labor
  • Transition to parenthood
  • Coparenting
  • Child care
  • Qualitative research
  • Brazil