Quality & Quantity 33: 291–303, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Family Formation and the Divisions of Labour
in Belgian Couple Households
How a Qualitative Research Proposal was Grounded in the Analysis of
THÉRÈSE JACOBS, SVEN DE MAEYER and MIRIAM BECK
University of Antwerp, Panel Study on Belgian Housholds, Universiteitsplein 1, Wilrijk 2610
Abstract. In this chapter the authors describe how a quantitative analysis resulted in a proposal
for a qualitative research. The aim of the quantitative research was to analyse the impact of family
formation on the division of labour in couple households, based on data from the Panel Study on
In a ﬁrst step a typology was made based upon data of 1224 Belgian couple households (1995).
The second step consisted of a longitudinal analysis for the period between 1992 and 1995. The
analysis of the impact of birth on the division of labour gave evidence of the revocability of equal
patterns of division of labour.
Based on these ﬁndings the authors concluded that the classic concept of emancipation does not
allow us to understand the empirical phenomena. Hence, the authors proposed a new (qualitative)
investigation aimed at clariﬁcation and empirical validation of different contents of the concept of
Key words: longitudinal study or panel analysis, division of labour in household, gender analysis,
1. Introduction: Aim, Theme and Data
This section describes a research journey. The authors started with a classic cross-
sectional analysis (Section 2), they continued with longitudinal analysis using
panel data (Sections 3 and 4) and eventually ended with a – by now accepted – pro-
posal to collect and analyse qualitative data (Section 5). This journey illustrates the
value of a multi-method research model. As a research group we have direct access
to a large dataset, with ample opportunities of quantitative analysis. Nevertheless,
we preferred to gather new information, of qualitative nature this time.
The theme is the dynamics in the division of labour in households. There is
longitudinal evidence that “couples’ division of domestic labour adapts in response
to the wife’s change in employment status”, but that at the same time processes
are interfering “which serve to resist or retard any rationally agreed redivision
of domestic work” (Gershuny et al., 1995, 1998). We are, however, interested in