Equitable child care responsibilities can benefit relationships, study finds
Taking care of a child is a full-time job, especially when done alone. Having a helpful partner eases the task and a recent study finds this scenario enhances the partnership in a few ways.
Researchers from Georgia State University analyzed data from the 2006 Marital Relationship Study that gathered testimonies of 487 heterosexual couples. Scientists compared three different groups of pairings, one in which the woman did most or all of the parenting, another in which the man did the bulk of the care and the final group in which upkeep was spread evenly between the two parents.
Poor relationships, marked by lack of intimacy and communication, were most common among couples in which women were mostly on their own in rocking the cradle, according to study co-author Daniel L. Carlson, an assistant professor of sociology. Interestingly, when men were in the same situation, the couples had satisfactory levels of intimacy and overall positive relationships.
The child care in question was defined in three ways: physical/emotional, interactive and passive (such as supervising). Researchers also looked at the quality of care, such as rule-making and enforcing. Limitations of the study include lacking in same-sex couples and data gathering about certain tasks usually done by parents, such as feeding or bathing.
“We only had one physical task, and that task revolved primarily around playing with the child, including sports and games, but nothing about who feeds or bathes the child,” Carlson said. “The latter physical, instrumental tasks have traditionally been the responsibility of women.”
Good partners make good parents, according to Samantha Rodman, Ph.D. She says toxic partnerships will poison parenting efforts. Dr. Rodman finds these negative practices occurring in the form of badmouthing and implying he or she is a mean or neglectful person.
Dr. Rodman also finds these kinds of behaviors often happen without conscious intention. One common behavior in unbalanced partnerships is the “good cop, bad cop” routine. One parent is harder on the child, doling out punishment when necessary while the other may undermine the effort directly or indirectly. This can create favoritism in a child’s mind, depriving the disciplinarian of a good relationship with the kid.
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Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer