weekend (un)silliness: man and wife

Arguments in the California Supreme Court on Prop 8 reminded me of a little experiment in young people’s expectations of the division of labor in parenting. A few weeks ago, Harry Brigman posted the results from a very telling sociological exercise at Crooked Timber, a very lively collaborative academic blog.

For simplicity, let’s assume there are 3 main parenting arrangements:

F = father does most of the work
M = mother does most of the work
E = evenly shared work

Each year, Brigman asks his undergraduates to choose the parenting arrangment they expect in their own future family lives, and which arrangement they expect the majority of their 5 closest friends to fall into. He then tallies the percentages for male and female students. He claims that the numbers don’t vary much through the years:

MS = male students
FS = female students

MS – F: 0%; M: 85%; E: 15%
FS – F: 10%; M: 25%; E: 65%

MS – F: 0%; M: 85%; E: 15%
FS – F: 0%; M: 75%; E: 25%

So in short, most young males expect their partners to shoulder much of the parental responsibility, expect their friends households to be exactly the same, and certainly don’t see themselves as the main care-giver, while most young women seem to believe that their own households will be egalitarian yet expect their friends to end up in mother led arrangements. Most interesting are the 10% who believe their own partners will shoulder the burden that nobody’s else’s would.

Brigman points out the inevitable conflict lying dormant in these differing expectations. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist in the very political sense, but one can only hope that couples discuss these things before deciding to form a household.


~ by Jin on March 8, 2009.

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