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Title: Managing a Household During a Pandemic: Cognitive Labor and Parents’ Psychological Well-being

Rising domestic burdens for mothers fueled concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated gender inequalities in well-being. Yet, survey research has not considered whether and how cognitive labor—planning, organizing, and monitoring family needs—contributed to gendered health disparities during the pandemic. Using data from the Study on U.S. Parents’ Divisions of Labor during COVID-19 (SPDLC) and a stress process perspective, we examine the association between cognitive labor and parents’ psychological well-being, and whether this association (1) differs between mothers and fathers and (2) is moderated by employment status and telecommuting. Mothers performed more cognitive labor during the pandemic than fathers, and cognitive labor was negatively associated with mothers’ psychological well-being—particularly for mothers who never or exclusively telecommuted. Mothers’ psychological well-being was higher when fathers did more cognitive labor, especially among mothers who worked outside the home. Overall, cognitive labor appears to be another stressor that contributed to increased gender inequality.

 
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Award ID(s):
2148610 2148501
NSF-PAR ID:
10412800
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  
Publisher / Repository:
SAGE Publications
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Society and Mental Health
Volume:
13
Issue:
3
ISSN:
2156-8693
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: p. 187-207
Size(s):
["p. 187-207"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    The Study on U.S. Parents’ Divisions of Labor During COVID-19 (SPDLC) collects longitudinal survey data from partnered U.S. parents that can be used to assess changes in parents’ divisions of domestic labor, divisions of paid labor, and well-being throughout and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of SPDLC is to understand both the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic for the gendered division of labor, work-family issues, and broader patterns of gender inequality.

    Survey data for this study is collected using Prolifc (www.prolific.co), an opt-in online platform designed to facilitate scientific research. The sample is comprised U.S. adults who were residing with a romantic partner and at least one biological child (at the time of entry into the study). In each survey, parents answer questions about both themselves and their partners. Wave 1 of SPDLC was conducted in April 2020, and parents who participated in Wave 1 were asked about their division of labor both prior to (i.e., early March 2020) and one month after the pandemic began. Wave 2 of SPDLC was collected in November 2020. Parents who participated in Wave 1 were invited to participate again in Wave 2, and a new cohort of parents was also recruited to participate in the Wave 2 survey. Wave 3 of SPDLC was collected in October 2021. Parents who participated in either of the first two waves were invited to participate again in Wave 3, and another new cohort of parents was also recruited to participate in the Wave 3 survey. This research design (follow-up survey of panelists and new cross-section of parents at each wave) will continue through 2024, culminating in six waves of data spanning the period from March 2020 through October 2024. An estimated total of approximately 6,500 parents will be surveyed at least once throughout the duration of the study.

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    • Communication with Partner, taken from the Marriage and Relationship Survey (Lichter & Carmalt, 2009)
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    • Depressive Symptoms (CES-D-10)
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    Full details about these scales and all other items included in the survey can be found in the user guide and codebook
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    In both stages, participants were informed that the survey would take approximately 20 minutes to complete. All panelists were provided monetary compensation in line with Prolific’s compensation guidelines, which require that all participants earn above minimum wage for their time participating in studies.
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    This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. In accordance with this license, all users of these data must give appropriate credit to the authors in any papers, presentations, books, or other works that use the data. A suggested citation to provide attribution for these data is included below:            

    Carlson, Daniel L. and Richard J. Petts. 2022. Study on U.S. Parents’ Divisions of Labor During COVID-19 User Guide: Waves 1-2.  

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