Effects of Child Involvement in Housework on Future Gender Role Expectations

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Room: 511
Akiko YOSHIDA , Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater, Whitewater, WI
Robert BOOSTROM , Marketing, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater, Whitewater, WI
Housework allocation has been studied extensively, particularly in its relation to women’s employment.  Despite the richness and abundance of literature on this subject, most research has focused on housework allocation between couples, and children’s participation in housework has been understudied.  These few studies, however, indicate that children participate in household tasks to varying degrees.  The present study utilizes writing assignments submitted by approximately 120 undergraduate students enrolled in family sociology courses at a Midwestern U.S. university, and qualitatively analyzes patterns of housework participation in students’ families of origin, with special emphasis on the meanings of terms used to describe this participation.  Preliminary data analysis shows that most college students expect to marry, and for both spouses to earn an income, even when students grew up in households with stay-at-home mothers.  While this implies more gender-neutral expectations in provision tasks irrespective of childhood experiences, expectations regarding domestic tasks varied more, and childhood experiences appear to have important impacts on perceptions and expectations with regard to housework.  Students who “helped” their employed mothers with the second shift were more likely to perceive indoor housework as primarily wives’ work, and to expect husbands and/or children in their future households to be “helpers.”  Other students stated that all family members “contributed” to domestic tasks in their childhood households. These students tended to view housework as the responsibility of the entire family, and to hold less gendered expectations.  The types of housework done by children were often gendered (e.g., sons doing yard work and daughters helping with cooking), and this also shaped students’ perceptions and expectations.  By analyzing childhood experiences, this study aims to fill a hole in the literature, shedding light on how parents include their children in negotiating housework allocation, and how childhood experiences shape gender role perceptions and future expectations.