"Gender differences in multitasking are not only a matter of quantity but, more importantly, quality," said Shira Offer, the lead author of the study and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. "Our findings provide support for the popular notion that women are the ultimate multitaskers and suggest that the emotional experience of multitasking is very different for mothers and fathers."
In terms of quantity, the study found that working mothers spend about 10 more hours per week multitasking than do working fathers, 48.3 hours per week for moms compared to 38.9 for dads.
"This suggests that working mothers are doing two activities at once more than two-fifths of the time they are awake, while working fathers are multitasking more than a third of their waking hours," said study coauthor Barbara Schneider, the John A. Hannah Chair and University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology at Michigan State University.
But the authors said an even bigger issue than the time discrepancy is the difference in the way multitasking makes working mothers and fathers feel. "There is a considerable disparity in the quality of the multitasking experience for working moms and dads," Offer said. "For mothers, multitasking is—on the whole—a negative experience, whereas it is not for fathers. Only mothers report negative emotions and feeling stressed and conflicted when they multitask at home and in public settings. By contrast, multitasking in these contexts is a positive experience for fathers."
The Offer-Schneider study relies on data from the 500 Family Study, a multi-method investigation of how middle-class families balance family and work experiences. The 500 Family Study collected comprehensive information from 1999 to 2000 on families living in eight urban and suburban communities across the United States. Most parents in the 500 Family Study are highly educated, employed in professional occupations, and work, on average, longer hours and report higher earnings than do middle-class families in other nationally representative samples. Although the 500 Family Study is not a representative sample of families in the United States, it reflects one of the most time pressured segments of the population. The Offer-Schneider study uses a subsample of 368 mothers and 241 fathers in dual-earner families from the 500 Family Study.
According to Offer and Schneider, their study shows that at least some of the difference in the way multitasking makes working mothers and fathers feel is related to the types of activities they perform.
"When they multitask at home, for example, mothers are more likely than fathers to engage in housework or childcare activities, which are usually labor intensive efforts," Offer said. "Fathers, by contrast, tend to engage in other types of activities when they multitask at home, such as talking to a third person or engaging in self-care. These are less burdensome experiences."
The study found that among working mothers, 52.7 percent of all multitasking episodes at home involve housework, compared to 42.2 percent among working fathers. Additionally, 35.5 percent of all multitasking episodes at home involve childcare for mothers versus 27.9 for fathers.
The authors also believe that multitasking—particularly at home and in public—is a more negative experience for working mothers than for fathers because mothers' activities are more susceptible to outside scrutiny.
"At home and in public are the environments in which most household- and childcare-related tasks take place, and mothers' activities in these settings are highly visible to other people," Schneider said. "Therefore, their ability to fulfill their role as good mothers can be easily judged and criticized when they multitask in these contexts, making it a more stressful and negative experience for them than for fathers."
Working fathers don't typically face these types of pressures, the authors said. "Although they are also expected to be involved in their children's lives and do household chores, fathers are still considered to be the family's major provider," Offer said. "As a result, fathers face less normative pressures and are under less scrutiny when they perform and multitask at home and in public."
So, what can be done to improve the situation for mothers? It's pretty simple—fathers need to step up.
"The key to mothers' emotional well-being is to be found in the behavior of fathers," Offer said. "I think that in order to reduce mothers' likelihood of multitasking and to make their experience of multitasking less negative, fathers' share of housework and childcare has to further increase."
Policymakers and employers can help facilitate this, the authors said. "Policymakers and employers should think about how to alter current workplace cultures, which constitute serious obstacles when it comes to getting fathers more involved in their families and homes," Offer said.
"For example, I think that fathers should have more opportunities to leave work early or start work late, so they can participate in important family routines; to take time off for family events; and to limit the amount of work they bring home, so they can pay undivided attention to their children and spouse during the evening hours and on weekends. The goal is to initiate a process that will alter fathers' personal preferences and priorities and eventually lead to more egalitarian norms regarding mothers' and fathers' parenting roles."
About the American Sociological Association and the American Sociological Review
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society. The American Sociological Review is the ASA's flagship journal.
The research article described above is available by request for members of the media. For a copy of the full study, contact Daniel Fowler, ASA's Media Relations and Public Affairs Officer, at (202) 527-7885 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Fowler | EurekAlert!
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.
The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
23.03.2018 | Event News
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy