What is it about?

Around the world, most women do most of the housework and childcare in their homes. We wanted to figure out whether kids notice, and when. We asked kids in the US and China to tell us about who does more of various household and childcare chores (mom, dad, or both), since both of these countries have distinct cultures, but share the commonality that many women both work and do a lot of family labor. We found that in both countries, by age 4, children already knew moms did more of the work in the home. But what did they think of this? Given that young children are often optimistic and quick to recognize when unfairness is happening, we wondered if they might say this wasn't fair. Instead, we found the opposite was true. Nearly all of them said this was okay. This was true even for families in which moms worked full time and still did more housework.

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Why is it important?

Given that young children recognize what's happening in their families and normalize it, the preschool age may be an important time to have conversations about family decisions. Children internalize that what they see and believe that what they see is what's fair, which means they may end up doing so for their own future families. If that's not something we want for them, we suggest that the preschool age is an important time important window during which discuss how social structures and gender norms constrain family decision making.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: US and Chinese preschoolers normalize household labor inequality, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2301781120.
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