Mothers, Fathers, and Coparenting
Having children can be a great joy, and most parents report that if they could start over, they would do it again (Cowan & Cowan, 1992). Raising children, however, does put a great strain on many marriages, and this is part of the marital relations subsystem. Although couples tend to think that having a baby will bring them closer together, the reality is that new forms of tension accompany the transition to parenthood (Cowan & Cowan, 1992). After the birth of a new baby, parents are on call 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Infants need attention all day and even through the night, and their feedings, crying, and illnesses can be very disruptive. Parents struggle to meet their own sleep needs and maintain their daily routines. As children mature, the nights return to normal, but then come the challenges of keeping up with school schedules, homework, extracurricular activities, and the children's time with friends. It may surprise you (or may not, if you have children) to learn that the vast majority of couples report a significant decline in marital satisfaction in the first year after the births of their first babies. One quarter of all divorces occur before the babies are 18 months old (Cowan & Cowan, 1992).
Another complication for new parents is that today most parents work outside the home. Married women with children ages 6 to 17 years are now as likely to work outside the home as are married men. Single women with children and married women with children under 6 years don't lag far behind. In recent decades more women have entered the workforce, while the percentage of men working has decreased slightly. The decrease for men is due mostly to the fact that the overall population is aging, so a larger percentage of men are now over the age of 65 and retired.
When children are born, couples tend to move toward more traditional gender roles, with new fathers spending less time on household chores and mothers spending more (Cowan & Cowan, 1992). At the same time, new fathers usually increase the number of hours they work outside the home. The result: Mothers must decrease their paid work time, quit altogether, or struggle to maintain their job while also providing most of the family care at home. An Australian study showed how large the discrepancy in time spent with children can be. On average, mothers spent 23 hours per week alone with children, whereas fathers spent only 2 hours! And mothers were available 55 hours per week for their children, but fathers were on hand only 35 hours (Russell & Russell, 1987). Another study showed that adolescents aged 14 to 18 spent twice as much time alone with their mothers as with their fathers (Montemayor & Brownlee, 1987). Other researchers have documented this predominance of mother involvement in U.S. families of African, Asian, Hispanic, and European descent, as well as in families in Great Britain, Australia, France, and Belgium (Hossain, Field, Malphus, Valle, & Pickens, 1995; Park & Buriel, 2006; Roopnarine, 2004).
© ______ 2009, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- First Grade Sight Words List