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Delaying marriage and childrearing leads to more stressful lives, study finds

“Large percentages of mothers ... report they ‘are always rushed,’ are ‘multitasking most of the time,’ and that they have ‘too little time for themselves,’” the report states.
Fri Dec 3, 2010 - 4:54 pm EST

LOS ANGELES, December 3, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A new study has found that the current trend of delayed marriage and first childbearing is leading to increased stress for American men and women.

The study, by Suzanne M. Bianchi, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, was undertaken as part of research into time allocation given to work, family and leisure. It was presented November 30 at the Focus on Workplace Flexibility conference co-sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Georgetown University Law Center.

Professor Bianchi used the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data and historical time diary studies in the U.S. to document trends in parents’ time spent in paid work, housework and childcare.

Noting that there has been “a dramatic delay in entering into (legal) marriage and a rise in unmarried (heterosexual and same sex) cohabitation,” the study found that “the median age for first marriage is 28 for men and 26 for women.”

A consequence of this delay in beginning a family is that caring for children, heightened career and workplace demands, and the onset of increased care needs of aging parents may occur simultaneously.

“Delayed marriage and childbearing heighten the likelihood that the greatest childrearing demands come at the same time that job and career demands are great – particularly among the well-educated,” Bianchi points out. “Delayed childbearing also increases the likelihood that one’s parents may begin to suffer ill health and need assistance before one’s children are fully launched.”

The study found that 74 percent of employed mothers with a full-time employed spouse say they have too little time for themselves, 73 percent say they have too little time with their spouse, and 44 percent say they have too little time with their youngest child.

Working mothers reported that they commonly gave up leisure time and sleep (compared with mothers not in the labor force) to meet the demands of childrearing and jobs.

“Large percentages of mothers, no matter their labor force status, report they ‘are always rushed,’ are ‘multitasking most of the time,’ and that they have ‘too little time for themselves,’” the report states.

Among fathers in dual-income, full-time working couples, 58 percent say they have too little time with their youngest child, 62 percent say they have too little time with their spouse and 58 percent say they have too little time for themselves.

“Fathers appear to be ‘picking up some of the slack’ induced by increasing paid work of mothers,” Professor Bianchi reported. “Yet fathers continue to be more likely than mothers to work long hours and may or may not feel they have a choice about working those hours. At the same time, fathers’ long paid work hours may be part of the reason why mothers in some families feel they must curtail their hours of employment. Someone must focus on family caregiving — and that someone remains, more often than not, the mother.”

“Broadly construed,” Bianchi concluded, “given this complex picture, many Americans will experience multiple periods during their working lives when caregiving demands will push up against work demands and vice versa. The most intense period will likely remain the years of rearing young children. However, the later years of the life course also may entail a complex mix of obligations to elderly parents, a spouse who may face a health crisis, or the needs of adult children and grandchildren.”

The full text of the report, titled, “Family Change and Time Allocation in American Families” is available here.


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