A quarter of parents prefer a male "breadwinner"

A quarter of parents prefer a male "breadwinner"

Media release — 25 August 2015

One in four Australian partnered mothers and fathers believe that the male breadwinner model is better for the family, according to new research published today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

AIFS Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said the study involved 5,942 mothers and fathers from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children with children aged 12-13 and examined their views on whether it’s better for fathers to be the breadwinner. 

“The study found that around 28 per cent of mothers and 27 per cent of fathers believe that a male breadwinner was better for the family,” Dr Baxter said.

“Eighty-three per cent of more traditional mothers—those who agreed with the male breadwinner model—who were not employed themselves, said that they did not have a job due to family reasons, compared to 52 per cent of less traditional mothers (those who did not support a male breadwinner model).

“Even when parents preferred fathers as the primary breadwinner, 65 per cent of employed mothers with more traditional views agreed, or strongly agreed, that their working had a positive effect on their children, while 10 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

“This suggests that believing the male breadwinner model is better often coexists with an appreciation of the positive effects of employment and does not mean that mothers with more traditional views don’t want to work at all.

“Some mothers might prefer to be working but are not because they can’t find a suitable job, while others opt out of employment to care for children. Conversely, some who prefer the male breadwinner model might be employed, motivated by financial concerns, other personal rewards or their partner’s expectations.

“Mothers and fathers with more traditional views about gender roles were more often found among those with religious beliefs and those speaking a language other than English at home, while less traditional views were associated with higher education, particularly among women. 

“Most couples tended to hold similar views about who should be the primary breadwinner, although in around 12 per cent of two-parent families, partners held diametrically opposing views.” 

Dr Baxter said that regardless of parents’ views about the male breadwinner, there was wide agreement about the need for the equal sharing of unpaid work when both parents work, with 83 per cent of mothers and 77 per cent of fathers agreeing that housework and child care should be equally shared. 

The study found that gendered time use was still apparent in most couple families:

  • mothers spent 24 hours and fathers 45 hours per week on paid work
  • mothers spent 19 hours and fathers 10 hours per week on child care
  • mothers spent 20 hours and fathers 10 hours per week on other household tasks. 

“When mothers and fathers both had more traditional views, mothers did 22 per cent of the paid work done by the parents, 69 per cent of the child care and 76 per cent of the other household work,” she said.

“This compares to families in which mothers and fathers were both less traditional in their views, in which mothers did 43 per cent of the paid work in the household, 60 per cent of the child care and 59 per cent of the other household work.”

Read LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2014 Chapter 3: Gender role attitudes within couples, and parents’ time in paid work, child care and housework

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