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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.

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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).

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Correspondence to Beatriz Schmidt.

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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).

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

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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).

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