Patterns in Housework and Childcare among Girls and Boys

Dr. Jocelyn Wikle


When do girls begin performing household work? While there is clear research discussing household work among women, the development of time-use patterns in household work among girls is not well understood. Around the globe, long before adulthood, many girls begin devoting significant amounts of time to unpaid housework and childcare. In developing coun- tries, girls often make vital contributions to family welfare through caring for family members, transporting water, and gathering fuel. In the United States, a developed country, most girls’ participation in housework begins at a young age, but the time spent performing home duties is substantially less than the time spent by their peers in developing countries. This study de- scribes the evolution of time-use patterns in the United States for girls relative to boys during the childhood and adolescent years. It also illustrates participation rates in home duties, the proportion of girls performing housework on a given day. This study finds that girls partici- pate in home duties significantly more often than boys by age eight and that among girls in- volved in home duties, the time spent in home duties gradually increases through adolescence but remains significantly lower than rates seen among American adult women. Young girls’ and boys’ participation rates in domestic work vary by race, ethnicity, family income, number of parents in the home, and mother’s employment level.


housework; gender studies; economics;

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