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Stress and Performance Standards: A Dynamic Approach to Time Spent in Housework



Daily logs collected over a 10-week period from a small, nonrepresentative sample of young, childless married couples were examined. Housework was conceptualized as a daily decision predicated upon personal standards, social rhythms, and stress variables that shape the perception of need for housework. Findings indicate that home-based stress, stress from outside the home, and standards are independent, additive predictors of housework time. In addition, stress and standards interact in ways suggesting that stress modifies the meaning of performance. High home-based stress and low imported stress lead to more critical evaluations of ones' own performance and more monitoring of one's spouse's contributions. Husbands do more when wives do more, but only when wives import little stress from outside the home or perceive high demand for housework. Results are interpreted in terms of patterns of meaning and obligation.