Children's household work: Task differences, styles of assignment, and links to family relationships

Jacqueline J. Goodnow*, Susan Delaney

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    49 Citations (Scopus)


    Earlier research on children's work around the house promoted a limited emphasis on consequences for character. This limited approach can be altered by borrowing from current research on adults' household work: research that points to the value of (a) differentiating among places of work, (b) analyzing the way children come to participate in work, and (c) exploring the meaning or significance of work to various family members. The present study was based on interviews with 45 mothers, each with a child aged 9-11 years. Two types of work were considered: self care (e.g., tidying one's own room) and family work (e.g., tidying family space, washing dishes). These two types differed along several dimensions: the value mothers perceived in the work, the amount done, the possibility of work being done by someone else, and the way in which mothers involved children in work (e.g., by direct delegation or by requests for help). Overall, work emerged as a way for mothers to teach children categories of work and categories of relationships (e.g., mothers vs. robots or servants. homes vs. hotels), together with rules which link the nature of work to the nature of relationships (in particular, the rule that expecting someone else to clean up after you, except as a favor, implies a relationship which is more commercial than family in type). The distinctions among tasks, styles, and functions are seen as critical to any further analyses of either the sources or consequences of children's work.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-226
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1989


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