Children's Household Work: Its Nature and Functions

Jacqueline J. Goodnow*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    178 Citations (Scopus)


    Children's household work presents a challenging research history, marked by promise and long standing and also by unfinished questions and studies more isolated from useful theoretical frameworks than they need be. Interest in the topic stems from the usefulness of children's work as a way of exploring a variety of issues: the development of prosocial or cooperative behavior, the fostering of responsibility, the nature of parental control or adult-guided learning, the acquisition of gender roles, and-more sociologically-the relation of children's household work to a family's socioeconomic status, a mother's paid work outside the home, and changes in concepts of childhood or child labor. Despite the extent of interest, questions still remain about why household work is expected at all, why it varies within and across families, how one form of work varies from another, and what positive or negative consequences flow from children's household work. Research on any of these issues and questions would benefit from an awareness of the range of data and conceptualizations available. With this benefit in mind, in this review I (a) draw together a literature scattered across several fields; (b) link past research to concepts used in some analyses of socialization, family functioning, and adults' household work; and (c) highlight issues that cut across studies and could be the focus of further research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5-26
    Number of pages22
    JournalPsychological Bulletin
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 1988


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