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Children in the Family Division of Labor

Only recently have sociologists began to analyze the kind of intergenerational relationships that are actually practiced in real family life. The division of domestic labor between children and adults in the family is an important topic in this context (Hengst & Zeiher, 2000a; Zeiher, 2000a, in press-b). The dominating social pattern of childhood as a period of development and learning has increased the care dependency of today's children.

If children do not participate in domestic work serving common needs and reciprocal care, the question may arise of whether this might dissolve the links between children and adults and result in further separation of the generations. On the other hand, recent changes in the roles of the mother and the housewife and trends toward more maternal participation in the labor market may challenge these patterns. Case studies of ten-year-old children have been conducted, with each child being followed through the entire sequence of his or her activities on seven days. Analysis started with the investigation of transitions from one activity to the next in order to reconstruct every decision in its situation-specific and biographical contexts.

The results of these decision analyses formed the basis of subsequent analysis on the specificity of intergenerational processes in each family. Comparisons were made in order to outline differences and similarities in individual childhoods, and to reveal general characteristics of social childhood which are apparent in the daily life of particular individuals.

Project Team

Helga Zeiher