A study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association suggests couples who equally share child care duties may have better sex lives than those who do not.
Researchers tracked nearly 500 heterosexual couples—all of whom were parents—and found that couples in which women were responsible for most of the child care duties reported the least happy relationships and the lowest quality sex lives.
Can Shared Child Care Improve Sex Lives?
Sociologists from Georgia State University pulled data from the 2006 Marital Relationship Study, which posed questions about sex, marital satisfaction, and daily life to 487 couples. To explore how much time each parent spent on child care, researchers defined three components: interaction, physical and emotional care, and passive care, such as monitoring a child during play. Researchers also outlined four component tasks: making rules, enforcing rules, praising children, and playing with children.
The team broke the participants into three groups based on their answers to the survey: couples in which women did most or all child care, those in which men did the majority of the child care, and couples who shared child care duties. They then assessed relationship quality by measuring self-reported relationship conflict and satisfaction. Researchers also explored how frequently couples had sex, and how happy the couples said they were with their sex lives.
Though the researchers hope their findings can provide important insights into modern family life, they also highlight some limitations of the study. It did not include same-sex couples, and different definitions of child care may have altered the results. The team included only one physical task and did not include common tasks such as feeding or bathing children—tasks for which women often bear responsibility.
Are Couples Sharing Child Care More?
According to the Pew Research Center, men are performing more child care tasks than ever before, but most couples do not practice true gender equality when it comes to child care.
In 1965, mothers spent 10 hours per week on child care tasks, compared to just 2.5 hours for fathers. Mothers also did more housework, at 32 hours per week, with fathers doing a mere four hours per week.
By 2011, both men and women were spending more time on child care, with women averaging 14 hours per week and men averaging half that, at seven hours. Women had also been doing less housework, reporting 18 hours per week. Men had been contributing more to housework, reporting 10 hours per week.
- Parker, K., & Wang, W. (2013, March 14). Modern parenthood. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/03/14/modern-parenthood-roles-of-moms-and-dads-converge-as-they-balance-work-and-family/
- Sex lives best when couples share child care duties, survey shows. (2015, August 23). Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_154258.html
- Wilkinson, E. (2015, August 23). Sharing childcare ‘improves sex lives’ of couples – BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34017916
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