Most Norwegian couples now share equal responsibility for child care, with a new study showing that the vast majority of fathers in Norway take an active role in their children’s lives. Women, however, still take care of most other domestic chores – because they want that responsibility.
The study, called Likestilling hjemme (Equality at home), was conducted by Norwegian Social Research (Norsk institutt for oppvekst, velferd og aldring, NOVA) and also found that the greatest number of divorces occurred among couples who divided housework equally. More equality, it seems led to more divorces.
“What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment,” NOVA researcher Thomas Hansen told newspaper Aftenposten. He said he was surprised there was no clear connection between equality at home and quality of life.
“One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home,” Hansen said, “but our statistics show the opposite.”
Women rule the roost
While 65 percent of couples interviewed shared responsibility for children under age 14 almost 50-50, only 25 percent shared other domestic duties equally. In around 11 percent of the partnerships surveyed, women did almost all the cleaning, laundry and cooking, for example, while they did “a bit more” in 60 percent of couples questioned.
The study indicated that many women don’t want to relinquish responsibility for, example, the laundry, or for cleaning and home decorating. Women seem to rule inside the home, while men took care of traditional chores like yard work or looking after the garage and automobiles.
In child care, though, it’s become standard for men to do their share. “It shows that family politics (which have resulted in such things as paternity leave and subsidized day care) have been quite successful, with men getting much closer to their children,” Hansen said. “It has a bit to do with local culture, also. It’s almost a stigma for men if they don’t take part in child care.”
‘Uncomfortable’ if duties weren’t shared
Per Anders Todal, age 43, confirmed that when picking up his nearly two-year-old daughter at her day care center on a recent afternoon. Little Ellen’s mother, a journalist, was off on a reporting job in Afghanistan and he thus had full responsibility for their daughter and all other chores at home. He told Aftenposten they otherwise share responsibility equally.
“It’s not any conscious, ideological decision, rather a natural consequence of us both working full-time,” Todal said. “It’s more about what’s the most practical, efficient solution.”
He admitted, though, that he’d feel “uncomfortable” if he and his partner didn’t share duties equally. That seemed typical, according to the study, which showed the largest percentages of equality among the most highly educated couples and those living in the Oslo metropolitan area. The lowest percentages of equality were found in counties along the southern coast (Sørlandet).
“Even though that has something to do with education levels, we see that it also has to do with traditions in these areas,” Hansen said.
Full-time day care from an earlier age
New figures released this week by state statistics bureau SSB, meanwhile, showed that a majority of couples nationwide (54 percent) now send their children to day care centers from the age of one. The number was only 3 percent just eight years ago. Only 20 percent of mothers questioned thought day care was the best for such young children, but parents still took advantage of the day care offered by local governments.
Fully 76 percent of all young children in Norway were enrolled in full-time day care in 2010, up from 29 percent in 2002. That was linked to a sharp increase in the availability of day care, a desire by parents for their children to have contact with other children and, according to one researcher, a certain amount of social pressure.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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