Why emotion work matters: sex, gender, and the division of household labor


Department of Sociology, The University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-1905 (rericks@uakron.edu).


Attempting to explain why biological sex remains the primary predictor of household labor allocation, gender theorists have suggested that husbands and wives perform family work in ways that facilitate culturally appropriate constructions of gender. To date, however, researchers have yet to consider the theoretical and empirical significance of emotion work in their studies of the gendered division of household labor. Using survey data from 335 employed, married parents, I examine the relative influence of economic resources, time constraints, gender ideology, sex, and gender on the performance of housework, child care, and emotion work. Results indicate that gender construction, not sex, predicts the performance of emotion work and that this performance reflects a key difference in men's and women's gendered constructions of self.