December 2, 2011
Multitasking More Prevalent Among, More Stressful for Moms
Working mothers are forced to multitask more often than working fathers, and they are more likely to find the practice of trying to complete multiple duties more stressful than their male counterparts, claims a study published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review.
According to Patricia Reaney of Reuters, the study, authored by professors at Michigan State University and Bar-Ilan University in Israel (BIU), discovered that women multitask nearly 10 hours more per week than men, which she notes the researchers say "constitutes an important source of gender inequality" between working mothers and working fathers.
In a press release describing the findings, the American Sociological Association revealed that moms spend approximately 48.3 hours per week multitasking, compared to 38.9 for dads.
"This suggests that working mothers are doing two activities at once more than two-fifths of the time they are awake, while working fathers are multitasking more than a third of their waking hours," Barbara Schneider, co-author of the study and a Professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology at Michigan State University, said in a statement.
In addition, Jennifer Goodwin of USA Today HealthDay says that the study discovered that 36% of women's multitasking in the home involves child care, while only 28% of males were forced to complete multitasking duties involving the rearing of their children.
On the flip side, Goodwin says that male multitasking is more likely to involve work, and that women are more likely to feel "conflicted and guilty" by splitting their time because they are more likely forced to combine "household chores and child-rearing."
"The mother-nurture-care concept is part of our social unit," Schneider told MSNBC.com's Joan Raymond on Thursday. "That´s not a bad thing, but the pressures of everyday life have made it very difficult."
"At home and in public are the environments in which most household- and childcare-related tasks take place, and mothers' activities in these settings are highly visible to other people," she added in a statement. "Therefore, their ability to fulfill their role as good mothers can be easily judged and criticized when they multitask in these contexts, making it a more stressful and negative experience for them than for fathers."
Shira Offer, the lead author of the study and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at BIU, called upon fathers to take the initiative and help their spouses out more frequently.
"The key to mothers' emotional well-being is to be found in the behavior of fathers," Offer said. "I think that in order to reduce mothers' likelihood of multitasking and to make their experience of multitasking less negative, fathers' share of housework and childcare has to further increase."
The results are part of a two-year study of about 500 middle-class, dual-wage earner families from eight different suburban or urban communities throughout the United States, Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times said in a Wednesday report. That study also revealed that both fathers and mothers log approximately the same total hours of both paid and unpaid work on a weekly basis.
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