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A large body of research has examined the relationship between work and physical and mental health outcomes, including psychological distress. While the main bulk of this research has addressed paid work, more recently unpaid domestic work (e.g. housework, childrearing) has also been considered. An understanding of the relationship between domestic work and psychological distress has been hindered by a lack of clarity concerning what consistitutes unpaid work, challenges and inconsistencies in measurement, along with a lack of guiding theory. This chapter considers these issues, reports on research conducted to date, and makes recommendations for future research examining unpaid work and psychological distress.
Unpaid Domestic Work and Psychological Distress among Women
Bonnie Janzen PhD & Ivan W. Kelly, PhD
University of Saskatchewan
Recent research suggests that time spent on paid work and domestic labor
have become more
similar between partners over the last four decades in economically developed countries (Kan,
Sullivan & Gershuny, 2011). This gradual convergence, however, remains far from complete as
women continue to perform more hours of domestic work than men (and men more hours of
paid work than women) (Marshall, 2006). A growing body of research has been dedicated to
trying to understand the persistence of this gendered division of labor (Lachance-Grzela &
Bouchard, 2010) along with, importantly, the long term economic consequences for women
(MacDonald, Phipps, & Lethbridge, 2005). Relatively few studies in comparison have studied
the potential consequences of unpaid family work for mental health a state of affairs which is
in stark contrast to the voluminous literature dedicated to understanding the impact of paid
work on mental health (Stansfeld & Candy, 2006). This lack of research attention is likely the
result of numerous factors, ranging from bias on the part of researchers in considering
household labor as “real work” and therefore worthy of study as a potential determinant of
mental health, to the many conceptual and measurement difficulties in attempting to
accurately characterize such a complex, often invisible role. This is an important gap to address
given the hundreds of hours that North Americans in general, and women in particular, will
spend in housework and child rearing over a life time (Kan et al. 2011).
The purpose of this chapter will be to critically review the quantitative research literature that
examines the relationship between unpaid domestic work and psychological distress.
specifically, this review will highlight: 1) the aspects of unpaid domestic work which have been
studied in relation to women’s psychological distress; and 2) the conceptual and
methodological challenges and limitations of this body of literature which need to be addressed
in order to advance the field.
Literature Review
Unpaid domestic work has been defined in a number of ways in the research literature, though in
most studies, the definition must be inferred from how it is measured in that particular study
Throughout this chapter, the terms “family work”, “domestic work”, “household work” and “household labor”
are used interchangeably.
This review is restricted to quantitative methods. We acknowledge, however, the important contributions of
qualitative approaches to measurement, such as those used by Hochschild (1989) in The Second Shift, and by
DeVault (1991) in Feeding the Family.
(Coltrane, 2000; Shelton & John, 1996). As noted by Shelton and John (1996), the most common
definition of housework is as “unpaid work done to maintain family members and or a home”
(p.300). Researchers may include childcare in their definitions, but often leave out more
“invisible” types of work (e.g. emotional work) from their studies.
Similarly, with some exceptions (primarily from the sociological literature) (e.g. Robinson &
Spitze, 1992; Bird, 1999; Glass & Fujimoto, 1994), explicitly stated theory regarding how unpaid
family work may be related to psychological distress is often neglected in the research
literature. More often than not, connections between elements of domestic work and mental
health have to be surmised based on relatively vague statements by authors in the
introduction/discussion sections of papers and/or according to how unpaid domestic work is
measured in their study (for example, the absolute amount of housework performed versus the
extent to which household is shared between partners). Despite this limitation, several
explanations can be gleaned from the literature which link unpaid domestic work with mental
health outcomes. These are: 1) the role strain perspective; 2) the division of household labor;
and 3) the psychosocial work environment.
Role strain
The starting point for much research in the area of unpaid domestic work and mental health is
the view of domestic work as an inherently negative activity (Lennon, 1994; Robinson & Spitze,
1992). This perspective of family work is consistent with the broader context of women’s health
research. That is, despite overwhelming evidence of the mental and physical health enhancing
effects of multiple role occupancy for many women (McMunn, Bartley, Hardy, & Kuh, 2006),
the majority of research continues to implicitly or explicitly adopt a role strain perspective
(Barnett & Hyde, 2001). This approach focuses on the premise that human energy is limited,
and the more demands within a role, or the more roles a person occupies, the more strain
experienced and the greater the likelihood of negative effects on mental health (Goode, 1960).
Thus, more time and effort spent in housework and child rearing may create role overload,
particularly if combined with paid work, resulting in time pressure and subsequent
psychological distress.
A variety of measures have been employed to assess the burdens of domestic work. Some
research has relied on household structural variables as proxy indicators domestic workload,
such as household size, children’s age or the presence of older adults (Artazcoz et al. 2001;
Regidor, Pascual, de la Fuente, Santos, Astasio, & Ortega, 2010). Given the lack of specificity of
these variables, it is perhaps not surprising that these indicators have been inconsistently
related to women’s psychological distress (Matthews & Powers, 2002; Artazcoz, 2001). Time
use measures are an alternative operationalization of domestic workload level. Although some
studies have relied on time diary data (Hook, 2006), most family work studies with mental
health as an outcome have used direct questions; these require respondents to estimate how
much time they usually spend per day or week on specific domestic work tasks (Boye, 2010,
Glass & Fujimoto, 1994). However, more time spent on domestic work has not been associated
with women’s mental health in a predictable way. That is, some research has found more time
spent in family work to be associated with poorer mental health (Vaananen, Kevin, Ala-
Mursula, Pentti, Kivimaki, & Vahtera, 2004; Glass & Fujimoto, 1994), other studies have found
more family work to be unrelated to mental health (Harryson, Novo, & Hammarstrom, 2010;
Escriba-Aguir & Tenias-Burillo, 2004; Robinson & Spitze, 1992; Voydanoff, 1999) or even
associated with better mental health (but only up to a particular threshold of hours, after which
more time spent in housework is associated with an increase in psychological distress) (Boye,
2010). Glass and Fujimoto (1994) however found no evidence of a non-linear association
between time in housework and psychological distress. Yet other research has found more time
spent in domestic labor to be associated with poorer mental health but only for particular
subgroups of women, such as employed women with lower education levels (Artazcoz et al.
2004), blue-collar workers (Asztalos et al., 2009) or women with stressful jobs (Mellner, Krantz,
& Lundberg, 2006). Hence, no consistent findings have emerged within the role strain
Household division of labor
A second explanation linking domestic work and psychological distress focuses, not on the
absolute amount of work done, but rather, on the proportion of family work done relative to
one’s partner (Glass & Fujimoto, 1994). According to equity theory, couples evaluate both what
they put into a relationship and what they get out of a relationship; equity between partners is
attained when both contribute and benefit fairly within the relationship (Thompson, 1991). The
division of family work is one area that can contribute to couples’ perceptions of equity or
inequity in a relationship, and thus potentially impact psychological well-being. In the case of
household labor, equity theory predicts that those partners who perform an equitable share
will be less psychologically distressed than either those who perform a disproportionately small
or large share, the latter being associated with the greatest likelihood of psychological distress.
Various measures have been applied to assess the household division of labor. “Objective”
measures involve obtaining an estimate of hours of domestic work from both partners and
dividing each respondent’s housework hours by the total number reported by both partners
(Glass & Fujimoto, 1994; Bird, 1999) or having respondents rate their domestic responsibilities on
an ordinal scale, from no responsibility to total responsibility (Matthews and Powers, 2002).
Several studies using objective measures of equity have reported that the more proportionate
time women spend in household labour relative to their partner, the greater their level of
depression or psychological distress (Harryson, Novo, Hammarstrom, 2010; Khawaja & Habib,
2007), whereas other studies have reported no such relationship (Barnett & Shen, 1997; Boye,
2010; Goldberg & Perry-Jenkins, 2004). Bird (1999) reported a curvilinear relationship between
contribution to housework and psychological distress; that is, among employed women,
performing an increasing proportion of the housework was associated with lower psychological
distress but only up until a particular point (ie., 50%) after which psychological distress began to
increase. Boye (2010) however, failed to replicate this association. Goldberg and Perry-Jenkins
(2004) claim that understanding of the relationship between family work and mental health has
been impeded by the tendency of researchers to only include measures of housework or to
combine questions on child rearing and housework into one measure, so that the independent
associations of each with mental health, if present, cannot be determined. The few studies which
have considered child rearing and housework separately suggest that an unequal division of child
rearing may be more strongly associated with women’s psychological distress than an unequal
division of housework (Des Rivieres-Pigeon, Saurel-Cubizolles, & Romito, 2002; Matthews &
Power, 2002; Tao, Janzen & Abonyi, 2010). In addition, although women’s actions directed toward
improving the emotional and psychological well-being of family members (ie., emotional labour)
has not been traditionally included in domestic work research, increasing evidence suggests that
more time spent in emotional work relative to one’s partner is associated with higher levels of
depression among women in dual-earner families (Stranzdins & Broom, 2004).
In addition to the type of task, whether one perceives the division of family work as fair or
unfair may also be relevant to understanding the relationship between household labor and
psychological distress (Claffey & Manning, 2010). Performing a disproportionate amount of the
family work does not invariably result in perceptions of unfairness (Lennon & Rosenfeld, 1994).
Subjective measures of the household division of labor involve asking respondents how fair
he/she perceives the amount of paid or domestic labor undertook relative to their partner's
contribution, with typical response options being: 1=very unfair to me, 2=somewhat unfair to
me, 3=fair to both, 4 =somewhat unfair to partner, 5 = very unfair to partner) (Glass &
Fujimoto, 1994). A growing body of research has focused on identifying factors associated with
perceptions of fairness; that is, understanding why a considerable proportion of women
perform the bulk of domestic work and view the division as fair (Braun, Lewin-Epstein, Stier, &
Baumgartner, 2008; Greenstein, 2009). However, relatively few studies have focused on the
potential mental health consequences of perceived unfairness in household work. The limited
research which does exist suggests a positive association between perceived unfairness in the
division of family work and depressive symptoms (Claffey & Mickelson, 2009; Robinson &
Spitze, 1992; Voydanoff & Donnelly, 1999).
Psychosocial work environment
Drawing upon the paid work literature which suggests that the psychological and social
conditions of work vary greatly among the employed and in ways which impact mental health
(Stansfeld & Candy, 2006), another body of research has examined the relationship between
the psychosocial quality of unpaid domestic work and mental health outcomes. The
psychosocial environment refers to “the sociostructural range of opportunities that is available
to an individual person to meet his or her needs of well being, productivity and positive self-
experience” (Seigrist & Marmot, 2004, p. 1465). Schooler and colleagues (1984) hypothesized
that people engaged in domestic work that requires intellectual activity, task variety, and
authority over their work would have better psychological health than those participating in
monotonous work that was lacking in cognitive challenge and control. Most research examining
the relationship between the psychosocial quality of domestic work and psychological distress
has been based on Karasek’s and Theorell’s (1990) job strain model. Within this framework,
workers’ psychological job demands (e.g., pace, effort, volume) interact with their level of
decision latitude (e.g. ability to make decisions at work and opportunity to use skills) to
determine the psychosocial quality of their work. Job strain occurs when the psychological
demands of the job are high and the worker’s decision latitude (ie., job control) is low. Others
have conceptualized the psychosocial quality of domestic work as the difference between the
rewarding aspects of the work (e.g. being able to set one’s own standards) and that concerning
unrewarding aspects of the work (e.g. being bored by the routine)(Kibria, Barnett, Baruch,
Marshall, & Pleck, 1990; Walters et al. 1996). To assess the psychosocial quality of unpaid
family work, many researchers have developed their own study-specific, typically multi-item
scales (Kushnir & Malamed, 2006; Staland-Nyman, Alexanderson, & Hensing, 2008; Kibria et al.,
1990; Lennon, 1994; Walters et al. 1996), none of which have been universally adopted within
the field.
Research indicates that the psychosocial characteristics of women’s unpaid family work do vary
appreciably and in ways which are associated with their mental health. For example, higher
levels of depression, anxiety, and burnout have been found among women reporting domestic
work characterized as highly demanding (Peeter, Montgomery, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2005;
Kushnir & Malamed, 2006; Lennon, 1994; Schooler et al. 1984; Walters et al. 1996), routine
(Lennon, 1994) or lacking in substantive complexity (ie., degree to which performance of the
work requires thought and independent judgment) (Schooler et al. 1984). Control over work
activities has been identified as particularly critical for promoting mental health in the paid
work environment (Siegrist & Marmot, 2004) and the concept has become an increasing foci in
the domestic work and health literature (Chandola et al. 2004; Griffin et al., 2002). For
example, Barnett and Shen (1997, p. 2) categorized various domestic tasks in terms of schedule
control, that is, one’s “ability to schedule tasks to reflect one’s personal needs rather than
having to perform the tasks on a schedule independent of one’s personal needs”. Low-schedule-
control tasks, such as laundry and cooking, are those which must typically be done every day
and at certain times, with the worker experiencing very little discretion in the scheduling of
tasks. In contrast, high-schedule-control tasks, such as yard work and car maintenance, are
often initiated and completed according to the worker’s preference and can often be
performed without any time urgency. The performance of high- and low-schedule-control
activities is highly gendered within households, with women typically spending more hours on
low-schedule-control tasks and men on high-schedule-control tasks (Kan et al. 2011). Barnett
and Shen (1997) found for both husbands and wives, more time spent performing low-
schedule-control tasks was associated with greater distress, whereas the amount of time spent
on high-schedule-control tasks was unrelated to mental health outcomes, though Robinson and
Spitze (1992) failed to find such an association. Although it is often assumed in the literature
that it is the low schedule control domestic activities that are most harmful to psychological
well-being (Coltrane, 2000), little research was found which has systematically tested this
hypothesis. This gap in knowledge is important to address, particularly given recent research
suggesting that although couple’s paid and unpaid work hours are slowly converging over time,
the least amount of convergence has been observed with respect to low schedule control
housework tasks (e.g. cleaning, laundry), the bulk of which is still performed by women (Kan et
al. 2011).
It is important to note that the conceptualization of control in the domestic work literature still
remains preliminary, with little clarity regarding the key components which are most important
for understanding women’s mental health (Kushnir & Melamed, 2006). While some
researchers, like Barnett & Shen (1997), have focused on aspects of control which have been
similarly defined and measured in the paid work literature (Staland-Nyman et al. 2008;
Lombardi & Ulrich, 1997), others point to the uniqueness of the home environment and the
need for revised concepts and measures which reflect that uniqueness. For example, Kushnir &
Melamed (2006) developed a measure of shared control in family-related decision-making, and
though unrelated to measures of burnout among employed mothers, was associated with life
satisfaction. Others point out the need to clarify whether control in the domestic environment
is best conceptualized in terms of women’s degree of access (or lack of access) to resources
needed to successfully cope with family demands or control in terms of power (ie., decision
making ability) within the household (Griffin et al. 2002; Chandola, 2004). Although Griffin et al.
(2002) found women (and men) who perceived themselves as having low control in the home
environment to be at greater risk of depression, the single item measure of control used in the
study precluded the ability to make informed interpretations.
Discussion and Conclusion
The study of occupational exposures and their mental health effects has been an important
research focus within the health and social sciences for many years. Although the early
emphasis of this research was on men, an understanding of the qualities and characteristics of
paid work which impact women’s mental health has increased greatly over the last two
decades, though gaps remain (Artazcoz, Borrell, Cortas, Escriba-Aguir, & Cascant, 2007). In
contrast to paid work, relatively little is known about the characteristics of unpaid family work
which may influence mental health. This lack of research attention is likely the result of
numerous factors, ranging from bias on the part of researchers in not considering household
labor as “real work” and therefore worthy of study as a potential determinant of mental health,
to the many conceptual and measurement difficulties in attempting to accurately characterize
such a complex, often invisible role (Warren, 2010; Coltrane, 2000).
But what does the research that has been conducted say? That is, is unpaid domestic work
among women associated with psychological distress? Unfortunately, research on this topic
has, to date, produced equivocal findings: some studies say yes (Glass & Fujimoto, 1994), other
studies say no (Goldberg & Perry-Jenkins, 2004), and even more say “it depends” (Artazcoz et
al. 2004; Asztalos et al., 2009 ). Unfortunately what “it” depends upon is not at all consistent
across studies. While this review of the literature does suggest that, all in all, unpaid work can
be detrimental to women’s mental health, it is difficult to clearly articulate under what
conditions such a relationship would hold. Adding to interpretative challenges is that with a few
exceptions (e.g. Harryson et al., 2010; Goldberg & Perry-Jenkins, 2004), most research has been
conducted cross-sectionally, making it difficult to tease out the actual direction of association
between unpaid domestic work and psychological distress.
Disparate research findings themselves are likely the result of numerous factors. Lack of
consistency across studies in what constitutes unpaid domestic work is a likely contributory
factor (e.g. housework, child-rearing or both), as is the diversity of measures used. In addition,
study participants have varied widely between studies in terms of age, stage in the family life
course, employment status, and family role characteristics. Family and paid work
responsibilities and resources vary considerably throughout the adult life course in ways which
may impact the division of family work, the psychosocial quality of the work, and thus, the
potential impact of that work on mental health (Marshall, 2011). Inconsistent adjustment of
covariates in multivariate models also likely contributes to disparate research findings.
Others have questioned whether current quantitative measures of domestic work actually
encompass the “essence” of unpaid domestic work (Warren, 2011; Walters et al. 2002). After
all, family labor is complex, often invisible, characterized by some as , “…largely mental, spread
over time, and mixed in with other activities, often looking like other things” (Mederer, 1993, p.
135). Following a review of research examining unpaid work in the UK over the past decade,
Warren (2011) concluded that many of these studies were based on data sets which failed to
adequately reflect the complexities of unpaid work, such as “domestic work practices (who does
what); relationships (for, from and with whom); negotiations (how); and meanings of domestic
work (for those carrying out domestic work and others) (p. 132). Canadian researchers have
similarly drawn attention to the lack of quality information on domestic work contained in large
scale government health surveys, such as Statistic’s Canada’s National Population Health
Surveys and the Canadian Community Health Surveys (Walters et al. 2002), thus having to rely
on superficial indicators of family workload such as the number and ages of children. To
address the measurement deficiencies of large scale government surveys, a number of
researchers over the last several decades have developed their own measurement scales to
assess various qualities of family work (e.g. Lombardi & Ulbrich, 1997; Lennon, 1994; Walters et
al. 1996; Kushnir & Melamed, 2006; Staland-Nyman et al. 2008). Certainly, some interesting
relationships are emerging from this body of work, such as those between perceptions of
control (Griffin et al. 2002) and demands (Peeter et al. 2005) within the domestic environment
and women’s risk of psychological distress. Unfortunately, none of these measures appear to
have undergone rigorous scale development procedures nor do they appear to have been used
on more than one occasion or by more than one researcher.
Clearly articulated theory is critical for the development of valid and reliable measures.
Although expressed a decade ago, this review of the literature suggests that the opinion voiced
by Walters and colleagues (2002) still applies today: Research on work within the home is still
in its infancy. We do not have conceptual frameworks which are as well developed as in the case
of paid work, nor are the elements of domestic labor clearly identified” (p.679). Nor is it clearly
and consistently articulated in the literature as to why (and how) unpaid domestic work should
be related to psychological distress. As recently observed, “…without careful attention to theory
and building models that are empirically testable, research results can be interpreted in any
fashion, full of the influence of biases, proclivities, ideologies, and possibly even ignorance. The
theory building process not only helps to keep us honest, it helps us progress” (Carpiano &
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... It is hypothesised that for employed individuals, a high unpaid workload can lead to stress, role overload, role conflict, and time poverty, all of which might negatively affect health and wellbeing. [3][4][5] Despite this potential negative effect, it is only recently that any attention has been paid to the effect of unpaid labour on health and, specifically, mental health. ...
... Considering the mechanisms through which household work might affect mental health, it is largely theorised the effect stems from housework being perceived as a never ending, unappreciated, monotonous, and isolating activity. 3,39,40 Moreover in the sociological fields, housework division has been regarded as a measure of power in a relationship, whereby those with less power or resources do more. 41 Traditionally considered as women's work, it is feasible these entrenched sociocultural gender norms contribute to men's dissatisfaction in increasing time doing household work. ...
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Background: Unpaid labour is a daily part of most people's lives, none more so than for women. Yet, in comparison to paid work, the effect of unpaid labour on mental health is an under-researched area. This study aims to address key gaps in the extant literature, examining how unpaid labour is associated with mental health in working-age men and women, and whether gender differences exist. Methods: In this longitudinal population-based cohort study, 19 waves of the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey were used to employ a fixed effects regression analysis to examine the associations between unpaid labour and mental health in working-age (aged 25-64 years) Australian adults. Mental health was assessed using the MHI-5 scale. Both the individual and the combined effects of four different domains of unpaid labour (household work, childcare, care for adults, and outdoor tasks) were interrogated, as were the gender differences. Findings: Of the 37 352 participants (297 036 observations) in waves 2002-20 of the HILDA Survey, 22 832 people (190 207 observations) were aged 25-64 years, and after excluding participants with missing data, 21 014 participants (150 163 observations) were included in the analysis. Increasing time in household work was negatively associated with mental health in both men (β coefficient=-0·026 [95% CI -0·04 to -0·01]) and women (β coefficient=-0·009 [-0·02 to 0·001]), as was care for adults (disabled or older people) in women (β coefficient=-0·027 [-0·04 to -0·01]). Conversely, increasing time in childcare for women (β coefficient=0·016 [0·01 to 0·02]) and outdoor tasks for men, was positively associated with mental health (β coefficient=0·067 [0·04 to 0·09]). A null finding for the overall cumulative total unpaid labour exposure for both men and women was probably attributable to the opposing direction of effects between the individual domains that constituted the total load. Interpretation: This study reveals considerable variance and nuance in how different domains of unpaid labour affect mental health, as well as continued inequity in the division of unpaid labour in households, with women doing considerably more unpaid labour than men. This study also exposes important challenges associated with measuring and understanding total (combined) unpaid labour as a determinant of health. Funding: University of Melbourne Research Training Scholarship, Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Award, Australian Research Council Linkage Project.
... Nonetheless, the most widely acknowledged explanation considers role strain theory, whereby the combination of paid work and a high unpaid workload increases so-called role conflict and role overload, which triggers stress-related pathways and thereby can affect psychological wellbeing. 9,10 This theory also aligns with Strazdins' time scarcity theoretical framework, 11 which rationalises how time poverty and rushing (due to combining unpaid and paid work) negatively affects mental health and wellbeing. 12 Importantly, in this context, the drivers of role strain and time poverty are highly gendered, given that women are routinely differentially exposed to a double burden of paid and unpaid work. ...
... Although time poverty and role strain might also contribute to the negative association identified within these subgroups, the literature posits additional mechanisms. The negative effects of Review housework could also be attributed to the tasks being perceived as mundane, undervalued (eg, by others in the household or by wider society), and disliked, 9,54 and historically being regarded as dirty, contaminated work. 55 Conversely, childcare is seen as more enjoyable and meaningful than housework, and therefore is potentially protective. ...
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Globally, billions of hours are spent on unpaid labour every year, a burden that is disproportionately carried by women. However, the potential health effects of unpaid labour have largely been unexplored. This Review examines the gendered association between unpaid labour and mental health among employed adults. We did a search of six databases and examined the association between different forms of unpaid labour and mental health. 19 studies (totalling 70 310 participants) were included. We found substantial heterogeneity, and low-to-moderate methodological quality, in the existing research. Our Review indicates substantial gender differences in exposure to unpaid labour and confirms persistent inequities in the division of unpaid work. Overall, our findings indicate that, among employed adults, unpaid labour is negatively associated with women's mental health, with effects less apparent for men. Globally, women spend a greater number of hours on unpaid labour; this review suggests that inequities in the division of unpaid labour expose women to greater risk of poorer mental health than men.
... We consider dependants to be all children (before they are legal adults), all those either temporarily or permanently ill or physically and/or mentally disabled, and the elderly". 11 The caregiving stress process model (SPM), 12,13 multiple role strain/overload, 14,15 and time scarcity theories 16 posit mechanisms through which caregiving is thought to impact mental health. Additionally, caregiving being emotionally laden, is intrinsically interconnected to the relationship characteristics between the caregiver and care-recipient. ...
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Background Informal unpaid caregivers provide most of the world's care needs, experiencing numerous health and wealth penalties as a result. As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, informal care is highly gendered. Longitudinal evidence is needed to assess the causal effect of caregiving on mental health. This review addresses a gap by summarising and appraising the longitudinal evidence examining the association between unpaid caregiving and mental health among working age adults in high-income Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and examining gender differences. Methods Six databases were searched (Medline, PsycInfo, EMBASE, Scopus, Web of Science, Econlit) from Jan 1, 2000 to April 1, 2022. Population-based, peer-reviewed quantitative studies using any observational design were included. Population of interest was working age adults. Exposure was any unpaid caregiving, and studies must have had a non-caregiving comparator for inclusion. Mental health outcomes (depression, anxiety, psychological distress/wellbeing) were measurable by validated self-report tools or professional diagnosis. Screening, data extraction and quality assessment (ROBINS-E) were conducted by two reviewers. The study was prospectively registered with PROSPERO (CRD42022312401). Findings Of the 4536 records screened; 13 eligible studies (133,426 participants) were included. Overall quality of evidence was moderate. Significant between-study heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis, so albatross and effect-direction plots complement the narrative synthesis. Results indicate a negative association between informal unpaid care and mental health in adults of working age. Importantly, all included studies were longitudinal in design. Where studies were stratified by gender, caregiving had a consistently negative impact on the mental health of women. Few studies examined men but revealed a negative effect where an association was found. Interpretation Our review highlights the need to mitigate the mental health risks of caregiving in working age adults. Whilst men need to be included in further scholarship, reducing the disproportionate caregiving load on women is a crucial requirement for policy development. Funding Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Targeted Research Support Grant.
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The aim of the present study was to make a clear distinction between work and home domains in the explanation of burnout. First, a 3-factor structure of job and home demands was hypothesized, consisting of quantitative demands, emotional demands, and mental demands. Next, a model was tested that delineates how demands in both life domains are related to occupational burnout through work-home interference (WHI) and home-work interference (HWI). In doing so, the partial mediating role of WHI and HWI was examined. Consistent with hypotheses, empirical support was found for the 3-factor structure of both job and home demands as well as for the partial mediating effects of both WHI and HWI. Job demands and home demands appeared to have a direct and indirect effect (through WHI and HWI, respectively) on burnout. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Cross-national trends in paid and unpaid work time over the last 40 years reveal a slow and incomplete convergence of women’s and men’s work patterns. A simplistic extrapolation would indicate a 70—80 year process of gender convergence, with the year 2010 representing an approximate mid-point. However, in conformity with the expectations of gender theory, time use data show that gender segregation in domestic work is quite persistent over time. Women still do the bulk of routine housework and caring for family members while men have increased their contributions disproportionately to non-routine domestic work, suggesting that gender ideologies and the associated ‘doing’ of gender in interaction remain important features of the division of domestic labour. The effects of institutional barriers are also apparent, with differential changes in women’s proportional contribution to routine housework and caring activities related to different national policy clusters.
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In this analysis, with data collected from a random sample of 265 employed dual-earner couples, we estimated the association between time spent on housework tasks on one hand and psychological distress on the other. Based on the literature relating job control to mental health outcomes, we hypothesized that hours spent in low-schedule-control tasks, but not total hours spent in housework tasks or hours spent in high-schedule-control tasks, would be associated with psychological distress. Further, we hypothesized that absolute but not proportional time in low-schedule-control tasks would be related to distress. After controlling for age, gender, education, occupational prestige, number of children, preschool children, gender role ideology, marital role quality, and total number of hours in paid employment, all hypotheses were supported. Finally, as hypothesized these relationships were not moderated by gender.
This article investigates the perceived unfairness of paid work, household chores, and child care to self and spouse and its relation to psychological distress and marital quality. We consider the effects of perceived unfairness on relations between time in role activities and distress and between time in activities and marital quality. The sample consists of mothers and fathers of children aged 10-17 years interviewed for the 1992-1994 National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH). The findings indicate that perceived unfairness to self is positively related to psychological distress for mothers and negatively related to marital quality for mothers and fathers. However, perceived unfairness does not mediate relationships between time in activities and psychological distress and marital quality. Mothers' perceived unfairness of household chores to self exacerbates relationships between hours in household chores and psychological distress and marital disagreements, especially for mothers who are remarried or who hold an egalitarian gender ideology.
The main aim of this study is to analyse how time use, individual resources, distributive justice and gender ideology influence perceptions of fairness concerning housework and gender equality. The analyses are based on survey data as well as on an interview study, both including Swedish couples. The quantitative results show that it is only factors connected to time use (division of housework and leisure time) that are significantly correlated to both perceptions of fairness concerning division of household labour and gender equality. Although the qualitative results in part confirm this picture, they also illustrate the complexity of concepts like fairness and equality. The interviews show that there are several factors and mechanisms at work in influencing perceptions of fairness and equality that were not possible to see from the quantitative analysis alone.
By situating men within the country and time period in which they live, social scientists are better able to understand men's housework and child care behaviors. The author proposes that national context, conceptualized here as women's employment practices and policies, influences men's unpaid work behaviors by shaping the benefits of specialization, the terms of bargaining, and the ease of adhering to gender ideologies and norms. Using 44 time-use surveys from 20 countries (spanning 1965 to 2003) combined with original national-level data, the author utilizes multilevel models to test hypotheses regarding the relationship between national context and men's unpaid work behaviors. She finds that men's unpaid work time increases with national levels of women's employment. Furthermore, the effect of children on men's unpaid work time depends on women's national employment hours, the length of available parental leave, and men's eligibility to take parental leave, which indicates that particular public policies affect men in specific household situations. The analyses document the importance of national context for the unpaid work behaviors of all men, especially fathers, and shift the research focus from the attributes of individual men to the structures that hinder and facilitate men's unpaid work.
Family members do work to meet people’s emotional needs, improve their well-being, and maintain harmony. When emotional work is shared equally, both men and women have access to emotional resources in the family. However, like housework and child care, the distribution of emotional work is gendered. This study examines the psychological health consequences of gender divisions in emotional work. Quantitative and qualitative data from a sample of 102 couples with young children show that the gender imbalance affected women’s, but not men’s, experience of love and conflict in their marriage. Through this erosion of the marriage, the gender imbalance posed a health risk to women and helped explain gender differences in psychological distress. Couples preserved a sense of mutuality by accounting for the gender imbalance as something beyond men’s choice or control, or in terms of women’s excess emotional needs, thus entrenching gender differences in the performance and consequences of emotional work.
This paper examines the conditions under which work for the household is performed, comparing these conditions and their effects with those of paid employment. Although there are some significant differences, the working conditions of housework do not differ greatly from those of paid employment. There are, however, as expected, marked sex differences in spheres of responsibility and activity. Wives are responsible for and actually do a vastly wider range of household tasks than husbands. In terms of its effects, housework has decided psychological consequences for women whether or not they are employed outside the home. Men are less affected by housework than women and in different ways. Employed women react similarly to similar housework and paidwork conditions; this is not the case for men. The pattern of findings is congruent with the hypothesis that responses to household labor, as to paid employment, are conditional on the imperativeness of work conditions. The fact that wives have greater housework responsibilities than husbands makes work in the home particularly salient for women's psychological functioning.
This article reviews more than 200 scholarly articles and books on household labor published between 1989 and 1999. As a maturing area of study, this body of research has been concerned with understanding and documenting how housework is embedded in complex and shifting social processes relating to the well-being of families, the construction of gender, and the reproduction of society. Major theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions to the study of household labor are summarized, and suggestions for further research are offered. In summary, women have reduced and men have increased slightly their hourly contributions to housework. Although men's relative contributions have increased, women still do at least twice as much routine housework as men. Consistent predictors of sharing include both women's and men's employment, earnings, gender ideology, and life-course issues. More balanced divisions of housework are associated with women perceiving fairness, experiencing less depression, and enjoying higher marital satisfaction.