Gender, household labour, and psychological distress
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Although considerable progress has been made in documenting the nature and gendered allocation of unpaid family work in Canada over the last several decades, relatively few epidemiological studies have addressed the potential consequences of household labour for women’s mental health. Even fewer have focused on the consequences for men. The limited research which has examined the relationship between household work and well-being has produced conflicting findings. Conflicting findings may be due, in part, to the almost sole focus of researchers on time spent in family work as the key determinant of mental health outcomes, ignoring other conditions and characteristics of family work. The objective of the present study was to examine more nuanced relationships between the perceived division of household labour and psychological distress, taking into consideration other aspects of family work, including the nature of the household task and the perceived fairness of the division of family work. Of particular interest in the study was whether the nature of these relationships differs for men and women. The study involved secondary data analysis of a recently conducted telephone survey of employed, partnered parents with children. Data analyses involved a multi-stage process consisting of univariate, bivariate, and multivariable analyses. To address the key objectives of the study, a series of multiple linear regression models were estimated with psychological distress as the outcome, adjusting for key confounders. The results indicated that the perceived division of family work was important for women’s psychological well-being and the perceived fairness of the division of family work for men’s. That is, for women, perceiving spending more time than their partners in housework and child rearing was associated with greater psychological distress. For men, perceived unfairness to themselves in the division of housework and perceived unfairness to their partners in the division of child rearing were both associated with greater psychological distress. The results of this study, combined with previous research, suggest that the gendered nature of household work has implications for the psychological well-being of both women and men and that both paid and unpaid work needs to be considered when examining the social determinants of parents’ psychological well-being.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentCommunity Health and Epidemiology
ProgramCommunity Health and Epidemiology
CommitteeMartin, Stephanie; Green, Kathryn; Abonyi, Sylvia