Stress as a Driver of the Allocation of Housework

Joe F. Pittman, Catherine A. Solheim, David Blanchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


This study examines the allocation of housework dynamically. Over 10 weeks, a small sample of young married couples used daily logs to report housework time in 6 tasks and the levels of stress they experienced at home and in other role settings. Stress was hypothesized to drive time allocations by spilling over from one setting to another or by crossing over from one spouse to the other. Results supported the hypothesis. For both spouses, less housework followed both high stress from outside the home and low, home-based stress. Gender differences were seen with the crossover of stress. In response to their partner's home-based stress, husbands did more housework, but wives did less. When their partner's stress originated outside the home, men's contributions did not change, but women contributed more. Housework time is not the product of a static contract but a dynamic decision-making process sensitive to the social environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-468
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1996


  • Division of labor
  • Early marriage
  • Gender roles
  • Housework
  • Spillover
  • Stress contagion


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