Sex Roles [sers] pp1079-sers-478061 February 4, 2004 18:1 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 50, Nos. 3/4, February 2004 (
The Relation Between Mothers’ and Fathers’ Parenting
Styles and Their Division of Labor in the Home: Young
Adults’ Retrospective Reports
and Campbell Leaper
This article reports on an investigation into the relation between young adults’ retrospective
reports of their mothers’ and fathers’ division of household labor (egalitarian or traditional)
and parenting styles (authoritative, permissive, authoritarian, or disengaged). Participants’
own gender attitudes were also tested in relation to parents’ division of labor and parenting.
The sample included 294 women and men (M =19-years old) who were raised in 2-parent
households and came from a range of ethnic backgrounds. When mothers’ parenting was
evaluated, permissive parenting was more likely among those from egalitarian households
whereas authoritarian parenting was more likely among those from traditional households.
When fathers’ parenting was evaluated, authoritative parenting was more likely among par-
ticipants from egalitarian households and disengaged parenting was more likely among those
from traditional households. The association between fathers’ parenting style and division of
labor was speciﬁc to the division of childcare (rather than housework). Participants’ gender
attitudes were not related to parents’ division of labor or parenting style.
KEY WORDS: division of labor; household management; childrearing practices; adult offspring; fathers;
With the birth of the ﬁrst child, the division
of labor between couples typically becomes more
traditional as women assume the primary respon-
sibility for both household and parenting chores
(Crohan, 1996; Crosby, 1991; Deutsch, 1999; Feldman,
Biringen, & Nash, 1981; Steil, 1997, 2000). Although
most mothers work outside of the home, compar-
atively few fathers are equally involved in the do-
mestic labor. Women tend to perform the majority
of housework and childcare, and are often respon-
sible for supervising tasks and making sure that ev-
erything gets done (Buunk, Kluwer, Schuurman, &
Siero, 2000; Coltrane, 2000; Hochschild & Machung,
1989). Nonetheless, there has been a modest increase
in men’s participation in domestic labor over the
years. Mothers and fathers who equally share child-
University of California, Santa Cruz, California.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Psychology De-
partment, University of California, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz,
California 95064; e-mail: email@example.com.
care tasks generally perform similar parenting activ-
ities (Deutsch, 1999; Ishii-Kuntz & Coltrane, 1992).
Also, men who share childcare responsibilities tend
to demonstrate better communication and listening
skills compared to other men (Coltrane, 1996). Egal-
itarian arrangements are positively related to the
quality of couples’ relationships (Risman & Johnson-
Sumerford, 1998). Marital communication and satis-
faction, in turn, affect the quality of parent–child inter-
actions and are related to positive experiences among
children (e.g., Shamir, Schudlich, & Cummings, 2001).
Thus, mothers’ and fathers’ division of housework
and childcare has potentially important implications
for the quality of parenting that children experience
as well as the types of gender roles they observe
(Coltrane, 2000; Coltrane & Adams, 1997; Deutsch,
Servis, & Payne, 2001; Leaper, 2002; J. E. Stroud, J. C.
Stroud, & Summers, 1996).
Researchers studying the division of household
labor generally combine childcare and housework
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation