Saturday, May 22, 2010

The pin factory and marital harmony

From 2002 to 2005, before reality TV ruled the earth, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, laboriously recruited 32 local families, videotaping nearly every waking, at-home moment during a week...

“This is the richest, most detailed, most complete database of middle-class family living in the world,” said Thomas S. Weisner, a professor of anthropology at U.C.L.A. who was not involved in the research. “What it does is hold up a mirror to people. They laugh. They cringe. It shows us life as it is actually lived.” ...

Mothers still do most of the housework, spending 27 percent of their time on it, on average, compared with 18 percent for fathers and 3 percent for children (giving an allowance made no difference).

Husbands and wives were together alone in the house only about 10 percent of their waking time, on average, and the entire family was gathered in one room about 14 percent of the time. Stress levels soared — yet families spent very little time in the most soothing, uncluttered area of the home, the yard. ...

Parents generally were so flexible in dividing up chores and child-care responsibilities — “catch as catch can,” one dad described it — that many boundaries were left unclear, adding to the stress.

The couples who reported the least stress tended to have rigid divisions of labor, whether equal or not. “She does the inside work, and I do all the outside, and we don’t interfere” with each other, said one husband.
--Benedict Carey, NYT, on another gain from the specialization of labor

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