One of way of measuring the relative effects of motherhood and fatherhood on paid and domestic labour is to compare the following two subsets:
- Mothers in relation to women without dependent children compared to
- Fathers in relation to men without dependent children.
Comparing these two subsets would be a useful contribution to evaluating Liberal and Radical Feminist theories about how family life affects women. Broadly speaking:
- Liberal Feminists claim that family life (compared to women remaining childless) has little or no negative impact on women.
- Radical Feminists claim that family life has a negative impact on women, as women are more likely to quit their jobs when children are born, and they end up doing more childcare than men, and continue to do more housework too, suffering from the triple shift.
Generally speaking if mothers are doing less paid work and more domestic work than women without dependent children, while fathers are doing more paid work and less domestic work than men without dependent children, it’s reasonable to say this suggests more support for radical compared to liberal feminism.
HOWEVER, we’d still need to do further research to test this out: statistics don’t give us in-depth data and allow us to conclusively prove or dismiss either of these broad theoretical positions, they just point in one direction or the other.
This post looks at the following data taken from the ONS’ (1)
- The percentages of mothers, fathers and men and women without dependent children in employment
- The percentage of mothers in full time work by age of child
- The percentages of 24-35 year old mothers and fathers in work.
- How much housework mothers and fathers do.
You can view all of the stats below on my Tableau page.
Motherhood and fatherhood encourage traditional gender roles
The graphic below shows the percentages of mothers, fathers and men/ women without dependent children in paid employment 2002-21, U.K.
In 2021 72% of men without dependent children were in work compared to 92% of fathers. 69% of women were in work compared to 76% of mothers.
So… both men and women with children are more likely to be in work compared to those without children (but this data also includes retired people, so no surprise, maybe!)
What’s interesting is the relative difference between men and women without children and mothers and fathers:
Mothers are much less likely to be work than fathers, the figures for men and women without children in work are much closer together.
This suggests having children is more likely to result in women leaving paid employment to take on a caring role while having children encourages men into the breadwinner role.
Only 30% of women with new born children work full-time
It’s probably unsurprising, but only 30% of women with very young children aged one, and the percentage increases gradually until 49% of women with 18 year olds are in paid employment.
This is a clear trend of women taken a period of employment and then gradually returning in greater numbers as their children get older.
The figures for men hardly change at all with children being born (not shown on graphic).
Young women are affected most
This statistic is the strongest evidence of how motherhood has a detrimental affect on women’s careers compared to fatherhood.
For 24-35 year olds, MORE women without dependent children are in paid work than men.
However, only 69% of 24-35 year old mothers are in employment compared to a massive 92% of fathers in the same age category.
Women do more housework and childcare
In 2022 women did 30 minutes more unpaid housework per day than men and they did one hour extra of childcare.
Over the course of a week, this means women with dependent children are doing 10 hours more childcare and housework combined than men.
This seems to be strong evidence of mothers suffering from the triple shift.
Conclusions: support for radical feminism?
The above statistical evidence seems to offer some support for the radical feminist view that families are harmful to women, in that having children results in women being more likely to take time off paid-work compared to men and mothers doing 10 hours more domestic labour and childcare per week than men.
Sources and Signposting
This material is most relevant to the families and households module, usually taught as part of the first year A-level sociology course.
To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com
(1) Office for National Statistics: Families and the Labour Market UK, 2021.
Screenshots of Tableau embeds: