Extending theoretical explanations for gendered divisions of care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Stefanie Andre*, Chantal Remery, Mara Yerkes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objective

This article extends pre-pandemic theories, empirically testing the salience of pandemic-based absolute and relative resources and time availability mechanisms for understanding gendered divisions of childcare across the COVID-19 pandemic.

Background

Multiple cross-sectional studies have examined gender differences in pandemic divisions of childcare, yet few longitudinal studies exist, particularly using pandemic-specific theoretical mechanisms.

Method

The authors used five waves (six data points, April 2020–November 2021) of probability-based longitudinal data from the Netherlands to estimate fixed-effects regression models (person-wave data; 2165 mothers and 1839 fathers) to analyze the division of childcare.

Results

Essential occupation was associated with a relative decrease in childcare tasks for mothers but not fathers. Mothers whose partner worked in an essential occupation experienced a relative increase in childcare tasks. Time availability also mattered; primarily for fathers. Working from home was associated with a relative increase in father's involvement in childcare, whereas an increase in work hours was associated with a decrease. Unemployment affected mothers only and was associated with an increase in relative childcare.

Conclusion

Having an essential occupation potentially functioned as a new resource for some mothers to bargain for more gender-egalitarian divisions of care but also reaffirmed the relative importance of men's paid employment over that of women's in shaping divisions of care. Time availability played a role in divisions of care during the pandemic, but mostly for fathers.

Implications

The findings extend traditional resources and time availability theories to explain pandemic-based gender differences in the division of care across the pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Early online date21 Nov 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Nov 2023

Keywords

  • absolute resources
  • division of care
  • essential occupations
  • gender
  • parents
  • relative resources
  • time availability

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