“The children don’t do enough”: Including children in fairness perceptions of housework



The present study set out to investigate how all the members, including children, of nuclear US families conceptualize a fair division of household labor.


The majority of the literature has focused on how couples perceive their family’s division of labor. However, for many households, children are also present and potentially involved in the division of household chores. Thus there is a need to investigate how the whole family, rather than just couples, perceive and understand the fairness of the family’s division of labor.


This study employed thematic analysis of in-depth interviews with all family members of nine primarily White US middle-class families (N = 33).


This study found two main themes: (1) the kids don’t do enough and that’s not fair, and (2) if we agree and are happy, then it’s fair. The findings highlight how children’s involvement is considered in fairness evaluations, whereas a specific amount of labor is often considered less important than emotional satisfaction and agreement.


Children are seen as important actors in conceptualizing a fair division of labor. Generational differences highlighted distinct understandings about the possibility of equality suggesting that the role of the (im)possibility of a type of division may result in other factors being used to evaluate whether a division is fair.


Future studies on fairness perceptions should include both children’s perceptions and expectations for their involvement by both children and parents, to better understand how family’s approach conceptualizing the division of their household’s labor.

withyou android app