Teenagers’ participation in household chores – do girls have a greater responsibility?

Karin Jõers-Türn, Kairi Kasearu 

Despite the promotion of gender equality in Estonian society, differences between men and women are still prevalent in the labour market and domestic sphere. Gender-typed socialization can be seen in boys’ and girls’ upbringing and expectations about their roles and duties. 

In the present article, we investigate boys’ and girls’ participation in household chores and their own reasoning for that extent of participation. Teenagers’ contribution to chores can be seen as preparation for adult roles, as an expression of solidarity or the result of the family’s lack of resources. e data from the 2009 “Value of children and intergenerational relations” survey is used and the main focus is on the respondents’ self-evaluations of their participation in household chores. As expected from previous surveys and literature, overall girls spent more time on chores and their participation shifted towards greater similarity to their mothers’. In other words, teenagers’ household chores more or less reflected the division of household chores between men and women. e data revealed that, for example, in doing dishes and setting the table girls’ participation was appreciably greater, while boys’ contribution to food preparation and doing the laundry was imperceptible. 

Determining other factors that might influence the division of household chores proved to be di cult and results were not straightforward. Mothers’ employment, education, income, marital status, number of siblings and the teenagers’ age were all insignificant whenever teenagers’ gender was included in the model. Nevertheless, some interesting findings did emerge when analysing the explanations and reasons given to participation in domestic chores. We defined five clusters of reasons: “lazy”, “others do”, “according to need”, “reciprocal”, “pleasantness”. For boys the most popular reasons were “no need” or “reciprocal” and for girls “reciprocal” and “helping parents”. Although particular reasons were associated with greater and smaller participation in chores (e.g. pleasantness with extensive participation), we found that for both boys and girls “laziness” was associated with small participation and that both boys and girls appeared to say they were lazy. 

The findings of this article confirm stereotypical gendered participation in the observed household chores. The number of chores done and the explanations given by the teenagers suggested internalized gender stereotypes and expectations. us it can be concluded that teenagers are socialized into stereotypical roles and they themselves take over the behavioural patterns, as is reflected in their interpretations.