Photo by Fotologic/Jon Nicholls via flickr.com.
…The more they stay the same. That is one conclusion University of Maryland sociologist John Robinson draws from the results of the 2012 American Time Use Survey. Despite the global economic downturn in 2008 and subsequent elevated levels of unemployment in the U.S., the breakdown of how Americans spend their time has changed little over the past five years.
In 2007, Americans reported working an average of 7.6 hours per day. Five years later, in 2012, employed people worked for 7.7 hours each day, while dedicating two hours to chores and five to six hours to leisure (approximately half of that leisure time is spent watching television).
Robinson explained the similar time use as social inertia:
We went through the biggest recession in history, we went through the most economic turmoil. And yet we see very little decline in the time that people spend working.
Other notable statistics include the growing parity in how much time men and women spend more equal amounts of time working, doing housework, and taking part in the leisure activities than they did 50 years ago. Additionally, U.S. citizens are found to be increasingly sedentary. Between leisure time spent in front of the television and sedentary work environments, Americans use little of their time in physical activity.
Family dinners are often thought of as a sort of magical hour each night, where parents and children connect, laughing and talking about their day over steaming dishes of mashed potatoes and green beans. So, where does that leave (perhaps the majority of) families for which this illusive ideal doesn’t quite become daily reality? Past research has suggested that regular family dinners do have many positive outcomes in kids’ lives, but new work by Ann Meier and Kelly Musick suggests the relationship may not simply be a straightforward case of cause and effect. Writing in The New York Times, Meier and Musick wonder:
[D]oes eating together really make for better-adjusted kids? Or is it just that families that can pull off a regular dinner also tend to have other things (perhaps more money, or more time) that themselves improve child well-being?
Our research, published last month in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marriage and Family, shows that the benefits of family dinners aren’t as strong or as lasting as previous studies suggest.
They did find that kids who had regular family dinners exhibited less depressive symptoms, drug and alcohol use, and delinquency. However, the relationship significantly weakened after accounting for factors like the quality of their family relationships, other activities they do with their parents, how their parents monitor them, or their family’s income. Additionally, Meier and Musick didn’t find lasting effects of family dinners when they analyzed data collected years later, when the kids were young adults.
What, then, should you think about dinnertime? Though we are more cautious than other researchers about the unique benefits of family dinners, we don’t dismiss the possibility that they can matter for child well-being. Given that eating is universal and routine, family meals offer a natural opportunity for parental influence: there are few other contexts in family life that provide a regular window of focused time together…
But our findings suggest that the effects of family dinners on children depend on the extent to which parents use the time to engage with their children and learn about their day-to-day lives. So if you aren’t able to make the family meal happen on a regular basis, don’t beat yourself up: just find another way to connect with your kids.
Maternity Ward Cartoon by Mike Kline, dakinewavamon.blogspot.com
Kudos to University of Illinois sociologist and Council on Contemporary Families head Barbara Risman for putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys, more likely) for CNN.com in an insightful commentary about why it is that the so-called Mommy Wars are a distraction—and how they’re keeping us from truly addressing work-life balance in the United States.
In her short piece, Risman points out just four of the many contradictions between society’s values and actions that put the lie to the valorization of care-giving, using research from sociology and beyond to demonstrate that post-war workplaces don’t (and, quite possibly, can’t) serve millenial families. In one particularly telling example, Risman writes:
Sociologist Mirra Komarovsky pointed out these contradictions back in 1953. She argued back then that if society truly believed caretaking was an important and difficult job, nursery school teachers would rate a salary at least equal to the beginning salary of a street cleaner. Not much has changed since then. As Stephanie Coontz, a historian and co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, told me: “It’s time for politicians to stop competing over the women’s votes and start competing over who has the best programs to support all parents, whatever their employment status or their gender.”
She concludes with a succinct call to action: “Let’s call a truce on the fictional mommy wars and start a war on workplaces that don’t allow mommies and daddies to live full lives, on the job and at home.”
Men in women-dominated careers do more "manly" housework than other men, a new study finds. Photo by comedy_nose via flickr.com
Men who work in majority-female professions—say, as nurses or as kindergarten teachers—don’t also take on more traditionally “womanly” tasks at home, according to new research in the American Journal of Sociology.
Husbands working in “gender deviant” fields actually put in more hours on “manly” chores when they’re off the clock, study author and Princeton University doctoral student Daniel Schneider found, when compared with men who work in more gender-balanced fields. “They putter around with the cars, take care of the yard, fix things around the house—you know, guy stuff,” wrote Bonnie Rochman, covering the study in Time.
Schneider found that the wives of these men also put in more time on typical women’s housework such as cooking and cleaning.
“It’s counterintuitive in a sense,” Schneider told Time. “Maybe what we’re seeing here is that men who are gender-deviant in the market are doing compensatory action at home by doing more typically male chores.”
Schneider’s AJS study looked at heterosexual couples in the U.S., using census data to calculate which occupations were predominantly female and information on individuals’ occupations and time spent on housework from the National Survey of Families and Households and the American Time Use Survey.