A Widening Parental Leisure Gap

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Research Briefs

Today’s Parents of Young Children Work More, Have Less Free Time

A new study published by the Canadian Journal of Sociology reveals that parents of young children today just don’t have enough free time.

Sociology professor Glenn J. Stalker, from York University, analyzed time-use data from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States from the 1960s to the early 2000s. He discovered that “while leisure time is either stable, or, in fact, increasing in [these] countries, there are, simultaneously, growing disparities occurring since the early 1970s in the amount of leisure time available to parents of young children and those employed full-time.”

In the United Kingdom in the 1960s, parents of younger children had, on average, 4 minutes less leisure time than parents of older children. By 2000, this number had increased to 42 minutes less leisure time. Canada and the United States show similar patterns.

Stalker also discovered that differences in leisure time among men and women have decreased. In the 1960s and 70s, men generally had much more leisure time than women. Now, in all three nations, women are gaining leisure time and men are losing it. He proposes that, as time allocated to paid and domestic work is becoming less gendered, so too is time allocated to leisure.

However, increased female participation in the labour market creates unmet needs within the household. Now more than before, partners share household and labour market work, or mothers assume a “double burden” of household and labour work. In either situation, today’s parents face increased stress and fewer opportunities for leisure than parents of previous generations.

Stalker suggests that although social policies have increasingly encouraged the full economic participation of women, they have ignored the high investments and costs of reproduction.

He proposes that social policy catch up with working parents’ lives by providing families with greater resources to negotiate their work in the market and within the home.

The study used data from the Multinational Time Use Study. A summary of the research can be found at http://sociology.uwo.ca/cluster/en/publications/research_briefs/research_brief_08.html/a>.

For more information, contact Glenn Stalker at gstalker@yorku.ca.

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