Household Labor in Gay and Lesbian Families, Research Paper Example
Words: 7272Research Paper
The division of household labor differs across family types and changes as expectations of social roles change. Heterosexual families have been the primary focus of scholars and these families have traditionally included a breadwinner male and a homemaker female. This has led to the societal norm of the division of household labor in heterosexual couples being predominantly disproportionate, with the female performing a larger portion of the labor. In the latter half of the 20th century there has been a decline of the breadwinner, the rise of dual earner family, cuts to social welfare policies, and new legislation on who is able to marry. These issues have promoted changes to the family structure. These include, but are not limited to, a significant rise in single mothers, cohabitating and married gay and lesbian couples, and cohabiting heterosexual dual earner couples. These changes have led to research on non-traditional family types and their strategies for dividing household labor. Gay men typically do less overall housework, in lesbian couples where one has a biological child the mother will do the majority of housework, single fathers put more strain on children to do housework.
Gender has typically defined how roles in the household have been divided. According to Betty Farrell, Alicia VandeVusse, and Abigail Ocobock (2012), “at its root, the modern US family that had developed by the early 20th century was defined by the relationships between a male breadwinner and female caretaker” (p. 284). During the 20th century, marriage provided that there was a gendered division of labor. Based on all studies throughout the literature, it is clear that traditional marriage is the institutionalization of a gendered division of labor. However, in 2010, things began to change. “Married couples, for the first time made up fewer than half of all US households, down from over three-quarters of US households in 1950” (Farrell et al. 2012: 284). The number of nuclear family households that contained a married couple with children under the age of 18, which was 21 percent was surpassed by the number of single person households during 2010 (Farrell et al. 2012). Another source backs up this statement as it states that “families with children under 18, stay-at-home mothers and employed fathers account for approximately 23 percent of families today. This figure was nearly 70 percent in 1940” (“Sexual Division of Household Labor” 2012: 1). It is known that social and cultural events since World War II. Welfare was put into place mainly for widows, but has evolved to be for single mothers. An argument can be made that deindustrialization, taking away many male breadwinner earning jobs, and the rise of “women’s work”, or domestic work, being included in the formal economy have influenced family relations. There are many women that do want men who fit traditional roles and many women that do not. According to Jennifer Sherman (2009), many women get frustrated that their husbands or partners do not do some of the housework. However, there are others that are completely happy with doing it on their own as they know that it is their role as the female caretaker. It depends on the woman in general. Job loss and not being able to fulfill the traditional roles “have destructive effects on men’s self-esteem, with results that range from authoritarian stances within the family, to drinking and substance abuse, to domestic violence” (Sherman 2009:600). They tend to experience feelings of guilt, shame and a sense of loss. Men are expected to be able to provide for their families and if they cannot do this, their self-worth is compromised. Certain ideologies have drastically changed the foundation on which marriage rested in historical times. According to Farrell et al. (2012)
Among the most dramatic changes has been the expansion in women’s labor force participation and the related phenomenon of the decline of the ‘family wage’ with which a single breadwinner could support a group of dependents. Changing incentives to marry and the subsequent delay in the age at first marriage have spurred an increase in living alone and in cohabitation (P. 284)
It is clear that marital instability has increased and more individuals prefer to live alone or with another without the commitment of marriage. Since 1990, “the number of unmarried partner households has increased 70%” as quoted by Simmons and O’Neill in 2011 (Manning and Brown 2006: 345). In addition, there was almost a 100% increase in the number of children who lived in cohabitating families. The rise in number was from 2.2 million in 1990 to 4.3 million in 1999 (Manning and Brown 2006). As seen throughout the research, many are now cohabitating instead of marrying, but this does not mean that men are taking on a whole lot more responsibility in reference to household labor. Joe F. Pittman and David Blanchard (1996) state that even though women are now in the job market, men have only slightly contributed to household labor. “In fact, the underlying theme of the family work literature is that unpaid work is divided systematically according to gender” (Pittman and Blanchard 1996: 78). In “Dubious Conceptions” Luker references a study that shows that men create an extra 8 hours of household labor per week despite what they contribute. They’re making less money and adding more work (Luker 1997:168) So, one of the major questions is how gender is done differently in relation to household labor when we are dealing with traditional families versus non-traditional families such as gay and lesbian families. Gay and lesbian families do not or cannot really go about this portion of a relationship as they are the same sex. According to Dan A. Black, Seth G. Sanders, and Lowell J. Taylor (2007), “twenty-five years ago, there were no data allowing for a systematic exploration of the economics of gay and lesbian families. Those data that did exist were typically collected using ‘convenience sampling’ and often failed to include comparable heterosexual men and women, so that social scientists were properly reluctant to draw general conclusions” (P. 53-54). Gender is played out differently in these relationships than those of heterosexual relationships and this will be seen throughout this paper. For definition purposes, a traditional family is defined as “families comprised of two married heterosexual parents residing with their biological child or children” and non-traditional families include “single parents; those divorced, separated, or widowed; intergenerational families within the same household; and non-married family households made up of cohabitating couples, unmarried parents and gay and lesbian families” (Farrell et al. 2012: 286). Many other sources also believe this to be the traditional definition of traditional and non-traditional families such as Manning and Brown (2006). Though many believe this is how a family is defined, Carol Stack (1974) has a different view to some extent, especially for individuals from the Flats of Chicago. Stack (1974) states that it is important to redefine the term ‘household’ in the flats because you could eat in one place, sleep in another, and contribute resources to another. “Family was also redefined as “the smallest, organized, durable network of kin and non-kin who interact daily, providing domestic needs of children and assuring their survival” (Stack 2004: Ch. 2). According to the article entitled “Sexual Division of Household Labor” (2012), “together, divorced families, reconstituted families, single-parent families, dual-earner families, gay and lesbian families, and childless couple families make up the vast majority of U.S. families” (p. 2). All in all, the way in which household labor is played out between traditional and non-traditional families has become completely different since the latter half of the 20th century.
According to the article entitled “Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes,” “gender roles are ‘socially and culturally defined prescriptions and beliefs about the behavior and emotions of men and women’” (2012: n.p.) Gender is always going to play a role in the lives of men and women everywhere. It does not matter if this is within heterosexual families or homosexual families. What matters is just how much gender actually plays a role. “Gender theory suggests that widely held normative expectations about masculinity and femininity should influence the way men and women conduct household labor in all types of families” (Farrell et al. 2012:294). However, many must take into account gender as a social construction as well. Beth Anne Shelton and Daphne John (1996) state the following:
Scholars who regard gender as a social construction (Fenstermaker et al 1991, Lorber 1986) argue that housework produces both household goods and services and gender. Thus, what appears to be an irrational arrangement (if only household goods are produced) becomes rational because gender is one of the products of the division of labor. Women’s time spent on housework and men’s general avoidance of it produces, and sometimes transforms, gender (Coltrane 1989, Connell 1985, DeVault 1991, Hochschild 1989, West & Fenstermaker 1993). Hochschild’s (1989) study reveals how women and men may view their housework as an expression of their gender, while DeVault (1991) illustrates women’s attempts to think of housework as nurturance and love rather than work (P. 312).
Many women believe that their work within the home is for their family, which provides love and nurturance and gives them a sense of purpose (Shelton and John 1996: 299). They fulfill a certain purpose for their family by doing housework and that is the way they think of it. They do not see it as work; they see it as a part of being a mother and wife and having the opportunity to provide love to their families. According to “Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes” (2012), there are four more theories in relation to gender. These theories include evolutionary theory, object-relations theory, gender schema theory and social role theory (2012). In relation to evolutionary theory, “functionalists propose that men and women have evolved differently to fulfill their different and complementary functions, which are necessary for survival” (“Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes 2012: n.p.). Object-relations theorists focus on gender differently. They focus on the effects of socialization on gender development rather than the idea that men and women evolve into these creatures. This theory references a mother’s son learning to detach from her in order to become a man whereas daughters do not have to do so in order to become women. Additionally, “gender schema theory focuses on the role of cognitive organization in addition to socialization” (“Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes 2012: n.p.).
This theory postulates that children learn how their cultures and/or societies define the roles of men and women and then internalize this knowledge as a gender schema, or unchallenged core belief. The gender schema is then used to organize subsequent experiences. Children’s perceptions of men and women are thus an interaction between their gender schemas and their experiences. Eventually, children will incorporate their own self-concepts into their gender schema and will assume the traits and behaviors that they deem suitable for their gender (“Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes” 2012: n.p.).
Finally, social role theory or socialization is another explanation for gender development. We are taught and learn by socialization and understand gender based on our environment and the things around us. According to the article “Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes” (2012), “in his theory of masculine gender role strain, Joseph Pleck (1976) asserted that boys and men are pressured to fulfill a standard of masculinity (n.p.). Masculinity and femininity do play a role, but these variables are not the prime reasons for the division of household labor anymore. Gender only plays so much of a role as to define male and female differences and their differences in relation to housework to some extent. The context of the family type as well as other characteristics plays much larger roles in the 21st century than they did many years ago. In the past years, women have reduced their number of hours spent on housework whereas men have slightly increased the hours that they spend doing housework. “We also know that women still do at least twice as much routine housework as men, and that the vast majority of men and most women rate these arrangements as fair” (Farrell et al. 2012:292-293). This is just the way that things are working out these days. According to Farrell et al. (2012), “much of the sociological study of the family still views the two-adult, heterosexual, married couple, residing together with their biologically related offspring, as constituting ‘the family’” (P. 296). “Gender roles and stereotypes affect couple and family interaction. (Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes 2012: n.p.). The division of household labor is said to be based specifically on gender and that is how many still believe it should be. “Traditionally, white women in heterosexual couples remained at home and completed most of the domestic labor, while their male partners worked outside the home to provide the family income” (Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes 2012: n.p.). Yet, this paper will show that these types of families are depleting and the non-traditional families are taking over as the “traditional family.”
Traditional Families vs. Single Parents
Single parent families are a little different than traditional families in the division of household labor. Shelton and John (1996) state the following in reference to women in dual-earner households compared to their single mother counterparts:
Generally, studies find that women in dual-earner households still are responsible for the majority of household labor (Berardo et al 1987, Bergmann 1986), and that the division is often sex-typed by task (Coltrane 1990, Mederer 1993), although women in dual-earner households typically have less responsibility for such tasks than do women in single-earner households (P. 308).
Single parents have more of an economic burden for the family and they are also required to do the majority of the household labor. This is much different than those traditional families where the husband and wife can create divisions of household tasks and economic work. According to Farrell et al. (2012), “among the formerly married (divorced and widowed), single men appear to spend slightly more time appear to spend slightly more time on housework than do married men, and single women spend less time on housework than their married female counterparts” (P. 294). Many single men are required to do more work because they do not have women in their lives to do the housework. Single women also do not have to do as much housework due to the fact that they do not have children to take care of unless they have children from previous marriages. Single parents also do not have as much time as couples; therefore, they are not as clean as their counterparts. However, this is not true in all cases. There is a specific image that many married, cohabitating and single individuals attempt to portray. Married couples may want to portray a stereotypical image of cleanliness and cohabitating couples may be younger and don’t have as much pressure on them. This also depends on the couple as well. There are many couples that do not care about portraying a certain image. However, the majority do. “Researchers who compared mothers and fathers in married (first marriages and remarriages) and single households (never married and divorced) found that, across family types, mothers spent between 40 and 44 hours per week on household labor and fathers averaged 13 hours per week” (Farrell et al. 2012:294). From the research, being single did not hold a major significance or change the ways in which men and women did housework or the meanings that are actually attached to doing the housework. According to Farrell et al. (2012), “single fathers tended to rely much more heavily on their offspring to help with domestic work than did single mothers” however (P.294). In heterosexual families consisting of a husband and a wife, work patterns are of significance and should be discussed. According to Pittman and Blanchard (1996), “analyses indicate that husbands who have similar work patterns to their wives do more housework than those with dissimilar patterns” (p. 80). However, the work patterns for wives are unrelated to the amount of housework that these women actually do. These women are still doing more housework than their husbands while working their full time or part time jobs. In addition, the number of years in which individuals work also plays a role in the division of household labor. Pittman and Blanchard (1996) state the following:
For respondents of both genders, working a larger fraction of one’s adult life and entering marriage at a later age will be related negatively to the amount of housework one reports doing. Alternatively, greater continuity of work experience and older age at first marriage will be related positively to the amount of time one’s spouse reports spending on household tasks (P. 80).
It is known that age at marriage for men is not necessarily related to housework contributions as it is for women. However, the work history is one of the largest predictors for men in reference to housework. Pittman and Blanchard (1996) back up this argument by stating the following:
Controlling for husbands’ personal and family background factors, their own gender-role attitudes, their work-based resources, and the comparison between these resources and those of their wives, we find that men with more extensive work histories do less of the mundane house work than do husbands with less extensive work histories (P. 82).
Traditional Families vs. Cohabitating Couples
Cohabitating couples are also a little different than those of the traditional family. These couples tend to have a more egalitarian idea in reference to housework. This, in turn, helps these individuals divide the housework a little more equally than those individuals in traditional families as the ideology is not so much focused on gender in the cohabitating family types. “Research findings show cohabitating men doing slightly more housework than their married counterparts, and cohabitating women less than married women” (Farrell et al. 2012:295). There could be many reasons for this, but according to Farrell et al. (2012), “perhaps outside of marriage women are less gender ‘accountable,’ or perhaps the special nature of the relationship between cohabitating women and men impacts the way they perform housework” (P. 295). Socio-demographic factors such as age, employment status, earnings and the presence and age of children in the household are all important to the allocation of household labor within the cohabitating couples. These factors all help decide who does the housework and how much is actually done by whom. As will be discussed later, the presence of children also makes a difference on how much housework is done by the cohabitating individuals in the household. Sondra Solomon, Esther Rothblum, and Kimberly Balsam (2005) give some insight into the heterosexual couples and their division of household labor:
One of the problems in studying division of labor among heterosexual couples is that gender is confounded with income. Because most men earn higher incomes than most women, it is hard to know whether women do more of the housework because of gender role socialization, or because they have less power due to earning less money than their male partners (P. 562).
As stated, the division of household labor primarily relates to gender identity and how men and women associate gender with the importance of taking care of the home compared to making money for the home and the children living within it (Solomon et al. 2005).
Traditional Families vs. Stepparent Families
According to Manning and Brown (2006), “distinguishing two biological and stepparent families is important because typically stepchildren do not receive the same family benefits as biological children (p. 347). Many studies have found that biological children get more attention than stepchildren. These children seem to get the short end of the stick with stepparents as the stepparents do not feel they need to invest as much time and attention in those children. “Across several domains, stepparents tend to invest less than biological parents in their children. Stepparents often spend less on food, schooling, clothing, gifts, and health care than biological parents” (Manning and Brown 2006:347). This is true for many cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Children in stepfamilies do not get as much as those in biological families. Many children in stepfamilies believe they are worse off than others, especially in reference to housework. “Children in stepfamilies report worse family environments in terms of cohesion, warmth, and conflict, on average, than their counterparts residing with two biological parents” (Manning and Brown 2006:347). Children in stepfamilies tend to do a lot more housework than their counterparts as well. More is expected of children in stepfamilies as the two parents normally work full-time jobs to support the family where this may not be the case in traditional biological families. Therefore, most of the household labor falls on children and the biological parent in stepfamilies. It is also stated that children with stepfathers achieve less and suffer more than those with a single parent (Edin and Kafalas 2005). This could be true for many reasons such as the time and effort the parent puts into the child, the self-assurance given to the child, the amount of money that the parent contributes to the child’s well-being and growth along with many more. Typically, step-parents do not put as much time into the kids in the household unless they are their own kin. This is stated throughout this paper in reference to step-parents as well as the biological mothers of lesbian couples.
Traditional Families vs. Gay and Lesbian Couples
According to the US Census report of 2000, there were 8.8 million gay, lesbian and bi-sexual adults. 779,867 were same-sex couples, 53.5% were gay males, 46.5 percent were lesbians, and 39 percent of them had children who lived in the household. This is a huge jump from the results of the 1993 US Census report that states “In 1993, US Census reports 601,209 unmarried same-sex households in the U.S.” (Florida International University 2012: 1). As seen through these results, the same-sex community still continuing to grow and it will as more and more people no longer hide who they are. Since there is such a stigma related to homosexuality, there are many gay and lesbian individuals who do not want to disclose their sexual orientation. This measurement error does not provide accurate information on these individuals and helps keep them as an understudied population (Kurdek 2005). Lawrence A. Kurdek (2005) states the following:
Perhaps the best available estimates were derived by Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels (1994), who interviewed a national sample of 1,511 men and 1,921 women. Of this sample, 4.9% of the men and 4.1% of the women reported having engaged in sexual behavior with a person of their own sex since the age of 18, 6.2% of the men and 4.4% of the women reported having been attracted to a person of their own sex, and 2.8% of the men and 1.4% of the women identified themselves with a label denoting same-sex sexuality (e.g., homosexual). (P. 251).
Though some research has been done, there is still not enough research on married and cohabiting same-sex couples to create accurate generalizations. The date from the census of 2000 breaks it down for us a little more:
Data from the Census of 2000 (Simons & O’Connell, 2003) indicate that of the 5.5 million couples who were living together but not married, about 1 in 9 were same-sex couples. Of these couples, 301,026 involved male partners and 293,365 involved female partners. Children under the age of 18 resided with 22% of the male couples and 33% of the female couples (Kurdek 2005:251).
As the body of research on these couples increases and the stigma is disappearing, it can be argued that there will be more scholarly investigations and more accurate reporting in census data. However, it seems as if these couples are the ones that really have it under control. The division of household labor is completely different as gay and lesbian families do not “do” gender as traditional families do. These families tend to have a more egalitarian division of household labor, as well as other tasks According to Black et al. (2007) state that “in the vast majority of heterosexual families, the stay-at-home partner is the woman; that is, the number of households in which the woman works (172, 989) is less than one-third the number in which the man works (596,858)” (P. 62). Gay and lesbian couples are a little different in this context as many gay and lesbians are not able to stay home as both need the extra income to live comfortably in this society. Black et al. (2007) state the following in reference to gay and lesbian couples:
Gay and lesbian couples are less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to have a stay-at-home partner. In general, having a stay-at-home partner for gays and lesbians is more common when children are present in the family. For gays, lesbians, and heterosexuals alike, the stay-at-home partner generally has the lower level of formal education (P. 62).
In heterosexual couples, research findings show that gender is the prime variable for domestic labor rather than family type or statutory relationship (Farrell et al. 2012). Farrell et al. (2012) states:
Early studies did find that gay and lesbian couples were freer to negotiate more equitable work patterns because of the lack of institutionalized gender roles associated with domestic labor. More recent longitudinal research confirmed that household labor among full-time employed lesbian and gay couples tended to be more equitably shared. Researchers also find that the division of labor among lesbian couples continues to be relatively equal even under pressure of childrearing responsibilities. (2012:295)
It is also important to state that, in lesbian stepfamilies, the biological mother may actually perform more housework as well as more childcare than the non-biological stepmothers as the biological mothers feel as if it is their responsibilities to take care of their own children and the household work (Farrell et al. 2012). Yet, in the same context, research finds that lesbian couples tend to do less housework or divide the housework more equitably than gay male couples. Gay men ultimately do less housework than do lesbian couples; however, this is only based on the relationship of the couple. Lesbians tend to share the domestic tasks, but this does not mean that they do not each do a lot of it. The same idea goes for gay men. They tend to divide the housework, so that one is doing more, but this cannot be said for all couples (“Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes 2012). Even gay males still do gender in a certain way. These male figures do not think so much about dividing housework or childcare. In addition,
Lawrence Kurdek (1993) studied white, heterosexual, gay, and lesbian couples without children. He found that heterosexual and gay couples were more likely than lesbian couples to divide household labor so that one partner did the majority of the work. Lesbian couples were most likely to share domestic tasks or take turns doing the tasks (“Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes 2012: n.p.).
Though we see a little about homosexuals with children in research, there are still not enough homosexual couples with a child to create an accurate study with good generalizability about them. Therefore, we have to go off of what has already been studied and learn to seek out the couples that do have children in order to get a better sample.
Also, it is important to note that gays and lesbians make less money than heterosexuals and this can be considered a main reason they are dually active in the workforce. Being dually active in the workforce can create a home atmosphere where they are more equal in distributing the household labor. They are not fixated on traditional gender roles and assigning specific tasks to one person in the relationship. It can be argued that there is a more egalitarian method of dividing housework and childbearing because no one is tied to a breadwinner role and neither is a full time home maker. Shelton and John (1996) state:
Patterson (1995), in a study of lesbian partners, finds that partners report an equal sharing of household tasks, although biological mothers spend more time on childcare than their partners. These studies suggest that the division of household labor reflect gender to some extent but that there are also relational dynamics at work. That is, both gender and marital status are related to housework time (P. 309).
This research shows that gender is important to some extent in gay and lesbian couples, but there are far more important factors that distinguish who actually does the housework and how much they do. It is important for us to understand the other factors in order to make a decision on whether gay and lesbian couples divide housework based on gender. From the research shown, it is obvious that other factors are more important than gender, but it has been demonstrated that non-traditional family types distribute the housework more equally than traditional family types.
Family and Poverty
Poverty is one of the major characteristics that not only influence who does the household labor in the family, but also influences how gender is done and how children are affected. Manning and Brown (2006) state:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a family comprises of two or more persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption who reside together. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommended that the definition of family be expanded so that poverty estimates include the cohabitating partner’s income (P. 347).
There is overwhelming empirical evidence that shows us that if the cohabitating partner’s income is included in the estimated family income, there is a substantial difference in the poverty rate (Manning and Brown 2006). If re-defining the family to include a cohabitating partner’s income moves 40% of poor children out of poverty, it is ideal to include that income. Getting married or cohabitating does not specifically move one of out of poverty, but it definitely has a positive relationship affected by other factors. According to Sharon Hayes (DATE), “around 90% of adult welfare recipients are single mothers, less than 10% are two parent families” (Ch. 1). Also, according to Hayes (DATE), low income, few job prospects, and substandard living conditions produce deviant values among the poor. Values are reinforced through conditions of poverty and cultural atmosphere created by poverty. These practices are likely to be accepted and become legitimate codes of conduct. These traits reproduce poverty. It is more convenient and inexpensive not to attack the social problems and economic conditions that put them there than it is to attack the poor. However, there is no evidence that bad values or bad conditions are the things in which produce poverty in the first place.
There are, however, positive factors for children who live in cohabitating families in reference to poverty. This is not only so that the estimates of poverty decrease on the scales, but also so that children are no longer considered poor based on their family’s income. This is only one of the positive factors of cohabitating individuals or married couples. Income is very important and having two incomes helps the children in the family as well as the adults. This helps these children grow into mature, caring, helpful, intelligent individuals with higher self-esteem (Manning and Brown 2006). “Differences in outcomes between children from families living at 50 percent of the poverty level versus 100 percent of the poverty level are large and significant” (“Poverty – Consequences of Poverty 2012: n.p.). The article “Poverty – Consequences of Poverty (2012) states the following:
It is important to recognize that the effects of poverty can be interactive as well as cumulative. That is, research indicates that poor children are more vulnerable to further negative influences than are children from families with higher incomes. For example, Pamela Klebanov, of Columbia University, and her colleagues found that family risk factors had greater negative effects on infant intelligence for poor children than for nonpoor children (n.p.).
If children have access to better schools, live in better neighborhoods and are able to participate in extracurricular activities, they would be better off. They would have the opportunity to learn, do better on tests, have a higher chance of going to college, and be able to learn how to work as a team. However, if they continue to live in poverty, they risk a lot such as their self-esteem, self-worth, faith, and much more.
“The majority of children living with cohabitating partners remain in poverty in part because cohabitating partners, on average, are not high-income earners” (Manning and Brown 2006: 347). Poverty divides household labor in the fact that many poverty stricken individuals have to work in order to provide as much as they can for their families. At this point, there is not a significant division of household labor in these families as both partners work and are not able to stay home all day to take care of the house or the children. Therefore, the division of household labor is either more equal between partners or still dominant for the mother in non-traditional heterosexual families. Manning and Brown (2006) state the following:
Poverty levels vary widely by family type, ranging from less than 8% for children residing in married two biological parent families to 43% for children living with single mothers. Ten percent of children in married stepparent families are poor compared to 19% in cohabitating stepfamilies. In cohabitating two biological parent families, 23% of children reside in poverty (P. 351).
Non-traditional homosexual families are a little different in this aspect of household labor and poverty. Gay and lesbian couples tend to make more money than their heterosexual counterparts, but that does not mean that the household labor goes unnoticed. According to Black et al. (2007), “men in gay partnerships have moderately lower wages and income than men in heterosexual relationships (married or unmarried partners), while women in lesbian partnerships have moderately higher wages and substantially higher income than corresponding heterosexual women” (p. 64-65). Those wages help in the division of household labor as many gay and lesbian couples are working so they tend to divide the housework. Most heterosexual couples do not do this as, a lot of the time, the woman stays home and is responsible for the household work. Black et al. (2007) state the following to help us understand lesbian women and lesbian couples a little better:
The patterns for lesbian women – with women in same-sex partnerships having higher levels of education, higher wages, and greater labor force attachment than women in heterosexual partnerships – are consistent with the theory of human capital accumulation and specialization within the household. Lesbian women who realize early in life that they will not marry into a traditional household will generally invest more heavily in market-oriented human capital, and will be more likely to undertake a series of career-oriented decisions – staying in school longer, taking a major that is likely to lead to higher-paying jobs, having continuous labor force attachment, or working long hours – that differ from those they would have made if they were adopting traditional gender-based household specialization (P. 65-66).
Traditional and Non-Traditional Families with Children
A lot changes when children are involved. “Gender – Gender Roles and Stereotypes” (2012) suggests,
Gender roles often become more differentiated when men and women become parents. Overall, women provide more direct care for and spend more time with children (Walzer 2001). This care includes taking responsibility for the mental work of gathering and processing information about infant care, delegating the tasks related to infant care, and worrying about infant health and well-being (n.p.).
“The presence and ages of children are also recognized as important variables. The literature is relatively, consistent in noting that children affect mothers’ family work more than they do fathers’; however, some research reports that young children predict greater involvement of fathers in housework, especially in families where childbearing was delayed or where there are more young children” (Pittman and Blanchard 1996:79; Coltrane, 1990). A husband’s contribution to housework does not necessarily change with preschool or school-aged children; however it does change with more adolescents in the home. According to Pittman and Blanchard (1996), “husbands report doing less housework” (p. 84). This is also the case with wives. Many women with adolescent children do not have to do as much of the housework as it is divided among all family members.
Wendy D. Manning and Susan Brown (2006) report that children fare better when they are involved in a family where there is a married couple compared to those that are living in single-mother homes. This is understandable since these children are living in a household where there may be two parents bringing in an income within married couples and not so in a single mother home. In addition,
Cohabitation may benefit children when the family type is single parents. By providing two potential income providers, cohabitation may be more financially advantageous for children than a single-parent family. It is expected that children may also benefit from resources garnered from the cohabitating partner’s social network (i.e., friends and family) (Manning and Brown 2006:346).
However, there are disadvantages for children living in cohabitating families rather than living with a married couple. According to Manning and Brown (2006), “cohabitation may be economically disadvantageous for children when compared to marriage for at least three reasons” (P. 346). First of all, cohabitation is not as stable for children as marriage. More individuals have different partners these days and this can change sporadically throughout a child’s life. Secondly, cohabitating individuals are not typically high income earners in comparison to their married counterparts. This, of course, causes financial strain as well as poverty if it gets bad enough. Finally, “cohabitating parents may be less able to activate social networks to receive income or support than married parents” (Manning and Brown 2006: 346). These individuals do not get as much help from friends or family members and are not supported enough by these family members. This makes it difficult on the children as their parent’s choice to cohabitate is not their fault, but they still lose something in the process.
Gay and lesbian couples are also included in the category of non-traditional families and these individuals still have children themselves. Of course, gay and lesbian couples have far fewer children than heterosexual couples, but they are still prevalent in the homosexual category. Black et al. (2007) state the following in reference to homosexual couples and their children:
In the case of children residing in gay and lesbian households, many have a gay or lesbian parent who was previously married (or in a smaller number of cases, a gay or lesbian parent who is still married) to a person of the opposite sex. Costs of children are higher for gay and lesbian couples than for their heterosexual counterparts (P. 57).
According to a fact sheet issued by Florida International University entitled “Gay and Lesbian Families, Raising Children” (2012), same-sex couples are more egalitarian than heterosexual couples in the division of household labor. They depend on each other and depend on their dependents in order to get things accomplished around the home. They are also more egalitarian in reference to the child-rearing responsibilities as each parent wants to be a part of his or her child’s life in numerous ways. These individuals do not feel one should be more involved than the other in reference to their children. It is also known that lesbian mothers are more involved in the child-rearing process than are heterosexual fathers on average. However, in a lesbian family, the biological mother does more housework and child-rearing than does the other mother (Florida International University 2012). It is common for the biological mother to do more housework and to have more child-rearing responsibilities (at least in their minds) as they are the ones in which had the children. However, there are many lesbian couples who divide the household labor and the child-rearing responsibilities in order to play a significant role in their children’s lives. It is said that gay and lesbian children may even invest more time in their children than heterosexual couples as they are always trying to avoid stereotypes that come along with being gay and lesbian parents. Their division of household labor will always be more equal than their counterparts as they enjoy dividing the housework and giving to their children.
The division of household labor really depends on the family type, their income levels, education levels, and their employment status. There are differences in the division of household labor in relation to traditional families versus non-traditional families as well as families that include children. The well-being of children also differs based on many different variables and families with children normally have those children do a portion of the household work. “Children’s economic well-being depends on parent’s cohabitation status, parent’s socioeconomic circumstances, race and ethnic group, the measure of material well-being, and the biological relationship of children to adults” (Manning and Brown 2006:357). As seen throughout this paper, the traditional family is being replaced by the non-traditional families of America. Many individuals are cohabitating instead of marrying; some are divorced or widowed while others are gay and lesbian couples. Based on gender and many other factors, the division of household labor is done differently. In keeping with the hypothesis of the paper, the hypothesis has been found to be true and of a relevant nature. Gay and lesbian couples do interpret gender differently and this does create a more equal distribution of household labor than heterosexual couples. However, as stated, gender is not the only variable to the equation. Many other variables exist such as income, working hours, type of employment, the presence of children, and social status. More research needs to be done on gay and lesbian couples and individuals in order to completely understand how their relationships work as well as what they think, believe, and feel in relation to their past and current stereotypes. They do things equally. Maybe they should be treated equally in the society in which they all live.
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