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Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, The

Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson, Melissa A. Milke

Publication Year: 2006

Over the last forty years, the number of American households with a stay-at-home parent has dwindled as women have increasingly joined the paid workforce and more women raise children alone. Many policy makers feared these changes would come at the expense of time mothers spend with their children. In Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, sociologists Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson, and Melissa Milkie analyze the way families spend their time and uncover surprising new findings about how Americans are balancing the demands of work and family. Using time diary data from surveys of American parents over the last four decades, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life finds that—despite increased workloads outside of the home—mothers today spend at least as much time interacting with their children as mothers did decades ago—and perhaps even more. Unexpectedly, the authors find mothers’ time at work has not resulted in an overall decline in sleep or leisure time. Rather, mothers have made time for both work and family by sacrificing time spent doing housework and by increased “multitasking.” Changing Rhythms of American Family Life finds that the total workload (in and out of the home) for employed parents is high for both sexes, with employed mothers averaging five hours more per week than employed fathers and almost nineteen hours more per week than homemaker mothers. Comparing average workloads of fathers with all mothers—both those in the paid workforce and homemakers—the authors find that there is gender equality in total workloads, as there has been since 1965. Overall, it appears that Americans have adapted to changing circumstances to ensure that they preserve their family time and provide adequately for their children. Changing Rhythms of American Family Life explodes many of the popular misconceptions about how Americans balance work and family. Though the iconic image of the American mother has changed from a docile homemaker to a frenzied, sleepless working mom, this important new volume demonstrates that the time mothers spend with their families has remained steady throughout the decades.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Series: American Sociological Association Rose Series

Title Page, Copyright, Series Information

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pp. xi-xii

About the Authors

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pp. xiii-xiv


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pp. xv-xviii

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Chapter 1: Parenting: How Has It Changed?

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pp. 1-18

The cultural image of the American mother has changed from the cheery, doting homemaker to the frenzied, sleepless working mom. The conventional wisdom accompanying this change is that as today’s mothers juggle the dual roles of worker and family caregiver, they...

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Chapter 2: Measuring Family Time

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pp. 19-37

This book takes advantage of a unique social science measurement technique for examining family change: the time diary. Most of what is known about changing family life is based either on small observational studies of unknown generalizability, or on surveys that...

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Chapter 3: Changing Workloads: Are Parents Busier?

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pp. 38-58

There has been considerable debate in the United States about what has been happening to work hours over the past two decades. On the one hand are those who argue that total work hours have expanded, driven by consumer aspirations, acquisitions, and debt, as well...

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Chapter 4: Parental Time with Children: More or Less?

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pp. 59-88

In 1999, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA 1999) estimated that parents today were spending 22 fewer hours in the home per week compared with 30 years earlier. The CEA arrived at the number by adding the average estimated labor market hours of mothers and...

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Chapter 5: Housework, Leisure, Personal Care, Relationships: “What Gives” in Busy Families?

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pp. 89-112

For mothers to spend more time in child care (as well as in market work) since 1965, something has had “to give.” For example, many observers expect that the shift to more paid work has caused mothers to find fewer hours for precious sleep. Others surmise that to...

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Chapter 6: Gender Equality, Role Specialization, and “The Second Shift”: What Do Weekly Diaries Show?

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pp. 113-124

Arlie Hoschild (1989) has chronicled the long work days of mothers and the resulting strains in their relationships with their husbands. Working women, who devoted many hours to paid work, came home only to log in many more hours of unpaid work in...

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Chapter 7: Feelings About Time: Parental Stress and Time Pressures

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pp. 125-141

We have concentrated on the behavioral or activity component of time in working families—what parents report actually doing with their time. However, busy and overworked are also subjective classifications. How people feel about their time...

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Chapter 8: Children’s Time Use: Too Busy or Not Busy Enough?

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pp. 142-156

Our description of the changing American family in earlier chapters has almost entirely centered on adults. Although parents clearly play a major role in organizing and making decisions about family life, most observers would probably agree that from a very...

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Chapter 9: Multinational Patterns in Parental Time: How Unique Is the United States?

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pp. 157-168

We have seen that the widespread hypothesis about parents spending less time with children is at odds with the picture of everyday family life that emerges from American time-diary surveys. Here we review parallel diary data from five other Western...

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Chapter 10: Mothers’ Time, Fathers’ Time, and Gender Equal Parenting: What Do We Conclude?

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pp. 169-180

The preceding chapters contain three basic claims from our time-diary evidence. Each is novel and will likely be controversial.
First is that mothers are spending as much time interacting with their children today as forty years ago when they allocated far fewer hours to...

Appendix A: Reliability and Validity of the Time-Diary Approach

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pp. 181-184

Appendix B: Additional Data Sources

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pp. 185-189

Appendix C: Multinational Data

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pp. 190-203

Appendix D: Tables

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pp. 204-222


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pp. 223-228


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pp. 229-240


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pp. 241-249

E-ISBN-13: 9781610440516
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871541369
Print-ISBN-10: 087154136X

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: American Sociological Association Rose Series
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OCLC Number: 835512867
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, The

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Subject Headings

  • Dual-career families -- United States.
  • Parenting -- United States.
  • Families -- United States.
  • Families -- Time management -- United States.
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