Children and Chores: A Mixed-Methods Study of Children's Household Work in Los Angeles Families

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Abstract

This ethnographic study investigates children's contributions to household work through the analysis of interview data and scan sampling data collected among 30 middle-class dual-earner families in Los Angeles, California. We discuss convergences and divergences between data collected with two independent methodologies: scan sampling and interviewing. Scan sampling data provide an overview of the frequency of children's participation in household work as well as the types of tasks they engaged in during data collection. Children's interview responses reflect their perceptions of their responsibilities, how they view family expectations regarding their participation in household work, and whether allowance is an effective motivator. Comparative analysis reveals that most children in our study spend surprisingly little time helping around the house and engage in fewer tasks than what they report in interviews. Within the context of children's minimal participation in household work, we find that allowance is not an effective motivator, but that children in families with access to paid domestic help tend to be less helpful than children in families without. We suggest that while most children are aware that their working parents need help, in some families, inconsistent and unclear expectations from parents negatively affect children's participation in household work.

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