We examine the relationships among the division of housework and childcare labor, perceptions of its fairness for two types of family labor (housework and childcare), and parents’ relationship conflict across the transition to parenthood. Perceived fairness is examined as a mediator of the relationships between change in the division of housework and childcare and relationship conflict. Working-class, dual-earner couples (n = 108) in the U.S Northeast were interviewed at five time points from the third trimester of pregnancy and across the first year of parenthood. Research questions addressed whether change in the division of housework and childcare across the transition to parenthood predicted mothers’ and fathers’ relationship conflict, with attention to the mediating role of perceived fairness of these chores. Findings for housework indicated that perceived fairness was related to relationship conflict for mothers and fathers, such that when spouses perceived the change in the division of household tasks to be unfair to either partner, they reported more conflict, However, fairness did not significantly mediate relations between changes in division of household tasks and later relationship conflict. For childcare, fairness mediated relations between mothers’ violated expectations concerning the division of childcare and later conflict such that mothers reported less conflict when they perceived the division of childcare as less unfair to themselves; there was no relationship for fathers. Findings highlight the importance of considering both childcare and household tasks independently in our models and suggest that the division of housework and childcare holds different implications for mothers’ and fathers’ assessments of relationship conflict.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 11, 2016
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