The influence of parents and family context on children's involvement in household tasks

John K. Antill*, Jacqueline J. Goodnow, Graeme Russell, Sandra Cotton

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    To determine the relative impact of a number of family variables on children's performance of gender-typed household tasks, this study took account of the gender of the child, the gender of a sibling within the same age range (8-14 years), whether a first or second child and three parental variables: the degree of encouragement given to perform masculine and feminine tasks, parental involvement in the same tasks, and parents' general egalitarianism. The sample consisted of 191 white, mainly Anglo Australian two-parent families, with the two oldest children in a boy-boy, girl-girl, boy-girl, or girl-boy sequence. To check on the robustness of effects, measures were taken on two occasions, on average 16 months apart. Among the family context variables, the gender of the child was the strongest contributing variable, with girls doing more feminine tasks than boys and boys doing more masculine tasks than girls There was limited support for the proposition that first children do more housework than second children of the same gender, while the results for gender of sibling were small and inconsistent. Among the parental variables, encouragement had strong positive effects for feminine tasks (i.e., more encouragement by parents corresponded to more involvement by children). In contrast, parental involvement in the same tasks (modeling) and parental egalitarianism predicted only the performance of masculine tasks, and the direction of the effects was mostly negative (e.g., the more a father was involved in masculine tasks, the less a child did of those tasks). The results point to involvement in gender-typed activities being influenced by multiple factors, with parental encouragement and gender of child being most prominent among these. They also point to the value of sampling or more than one occasion and of considering separately the performance of feminine and masculine tasks.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)215-236
    Number of pages22
    JournalSex Roles
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 1996


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