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Stephen, Lynn. 2006. Oaxaca Women Democratize Media Radio Cacerola and the APPO Movement. LASA Forum XXXVII(4):23?24.
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Vaughn, Mary Kay. 1997. Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1930?1940. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Waterbury, Ronald. 2007. The Rise and Fracture of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca. Anthropology News 48(3):8?10.
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Yescas Mart?inez, Isidoro, and Gloria Zafra.  2005. La Insurgencia Magisterial en Oaxaca 1980, 2nd Edition. Oaxaca: Serie Estudios Sociales Fonda Editorial IEEPO/IISUABJO.
Children and Chores: A Mixed-Methods Study of Children's Household Work in Los Angeles Families
Wendy Klein, California State University, Long Beach
Anthony P. Graesch, University of California, Los Angeles
Carolina Izquierdo, University of California, Los Angeles
This ethnographic study investigates children's contributions to household work through the analysis of interview data and scan sampling data collected among 30 middle-class dual-earner families in Los Angeles, California. We discuss convergences and divergences between data collected with two independent methodologies: scan sampling and interviewing. Scan sampling data provide an overview of the frequency of children's participation in household work as well as the types of tasks they engaged in during data collection. Children's interview responses reflect their perceptions of their responsibilities, how
they view family expectations regarding their participation in household work, and whether allowance is an effective motivator. Comparative analysis reveals that most children in our study spend surprisingly little time helping around the house and engage in fewer tasks than what they report in interviews. Within the context of children's minimal participation in household work, we find that allowance is not an effective motivator, but that children in families with access to paid domestic help tend to be less helpful than children in families without. We suggest that while most children are aware that their working parents need help, in some families, inconsistent and
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unclear expectations from parents negatively affect children's participation in household work.
Keywords: children, household work, ethnographic mixed methods, scan sampling, working families, United States
Introduction The substantial increase in dual-earner families
in the United States in recent decades, along with changes in child-rearing approaches, has complicated the issue of household work distribution, and no clear model of children's contributions has emerged. This ethnographic study examines children's participation in household work among 30 dual-earner middleclass families in Los Angeles. Our investigation covers new ground on the topic of children's involvement in household work by merging the analysis of quantitative and qualitative datasets, each of which derives from uniquely ethnographic data-collection methods. Specifically, we use a comparative analytical framework to present the results of: (1) over 11,000 personcentered observations of parents' and children's activities; and (2) 52 interviews with children about household chores. This approach allows for the examination of children's accounts of their lives along with the tabulation of actual occurrences of children engaging in household chores.
Children's household work is a crucial site of socialization into family roles, responsibilities, and obligations, yet very little recent ethnographic research focuses on this topic as an area of inquiry in contemporary American family life. Historical examination of children's household work in the United States document the changes that were brought on by industrialization and the institutionalization of schooling (Nasaw 1985; West and Petrick 1992; Zelizer 1994). Zelizer discusses the shift in parental attitudes in the United States from initially viewing children as an economic asset in the 19th century, when they were engaged in the labor force, to their emotional value as ``priceless'' in the 20th century. As laws regulating children's work participation curtailed their economic contributions, people had fewer children, and children began to spend an increasing amount of time on schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Today, most children are expected to help with household tasks, yet the level and consistency of their participation appears to vary greatly across families (Coltrane 2000).
This study analyzes two subsets of data ? scan sampling and interview data ? collected for a larger ethnographic project on working families carried out by the Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) at the University of California, Los Angeles. Scan sampling data reveal the frequency of children's par-
ticipation in household work as well as the types of tasks they engaged in during CELF visits to families' homes. Children's responses to questions in interviews provide information about the tasks for which they view themselves as responsible, their attitudes toward participation in household work, and whether they receive an allowance. Our analyses evaluate the contribution of each data collection method and consider the points at which the findings intersect and diverge.
Background Ethnographic research as early as Mead's (1928)
study of Samoan culture demonstrates that children's responsibilities and household task allocation reflect the social organization of family groups and the strong relation between kinship and obligation. Indeed, cross-cultural studies have found that when children are relied on for performing tasks that contribute to their families' survival, they tend to show less antisocial behavior and act more responsibly than children in cultures who do not take on such work (Whiting and Whiting 1975; Munroe et al. 1984). Ethnographic studies of household activities indicate that tasks such as sibling care, running errands, fishing, weaving, and cultivating crops, are undertaken at an early age in certain parts of the world and serve to socialize family roles and obligations (Mead 1928; Rogoff et al. 1975; Whiting and Whiting 1975; Ochs 1986, 1988; Loucky 1988; Whiting and Edwards 1988). More recent anthropological inquiries into children's household work have further enriched our understanding of child socialization and children's roles in families (Schieffelin 1990; Solberg 1990; Nieuwenhuys 1994; Weisner et al. 1994; Klein et al. 2008; Ochs and Izquierdo 2009). Solberg (1990), for example, found that children in Sweden who had parents employed outside the home and were held responsible for certain domestic tasks reported a higher degree of autonomy than those who were not assigned such duties. Further, these children gained a sense of competence by managing basic chores and, in turn, this resulted in children's sustained contribution to household work. Similarly, Weisner (2001) stresses the significance of children contributing to the family for their own successful development, pointing out the importance of understanding what children do as well as their willingness or resistance to participate in household work.
Much of the research addressing children's contribution to household work in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, has been conducted by sociologists and psychologists, many of whom use questionnaires, interviews, and time diaries as their data collection instruments (Coltrane 2000). According to some of these studies, children in
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Anthropology of Work Review
single-parent and dual-earner families are often required to take on domestic chores on a regular basis (Benin and Edwards 1990; Blair 1992a; Bowes and Goodnow 1996). Questionnaire data indicate that in addition to receiving assistance, parents believe that the assignment of chores helps to socialize their children into becoming responsible, independent, and skilled individuals (White and Brinkerhoff 1987; Goodnow 1988; Blair 1992a; Grusec et al. 1996). Other studies report that as children get older, the tasks they assume become more gender-specific, with girls performing primarily inside chores (e.g., cooking and cleaning) and boys engaging mostly in yard work (Benin and Edwards 1990; Antill et al. 1996). These studies, however, rely primarily on information provided by parents and do not examine children's perspectives or actual participation in domestic activities. We argue that the results indicate more about parents' perceptions than about the nature and quality of children's involvement in household work. In this study we demonstrate the utility of an ethnographic approach to investigating children's daily routines, task allocation in families, and children's attitudes toward participation in household work.
Sample and Methods Families that participated in the CELF study
were recruited from the greater Los Angeles area as part of an interdisciplinary investigation into the everyday lives of middle-class, dual-earner families with children.1 To be eligible to participate in this study, parents (n 5 60) were required to each work outside the home for at least 30 hours per week, be homeowners with a monthly mortgage, and have at least two children living at home, including one target child between 8 and 10 years of age (Table 1). Families were recruited through flyers in schools and recreational facilities as well as with advertisements in community newspapers, and all families were paid in exchange for their participation. Members of participating families self-identified with a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, including European, Asian and South Asian, African American, and Latino.2 Parent's occupations were also varied and included, among others, lawyer, restaurant manager, architect, teacher, and firefighter.
Ethnographic data were collected in 2002 to 2004 using a range of instruments, including semistructured interviews, questionnaires, video-recording of daily activities, sampling of stress hormones, mapping and photographing families' homes and belongings, and scan sampling of family members' activities and use of space. Ochs et al. (2006:393) provide a detailed overview of the organization of data collection procedures. At the core of the project was the video recording of the routine activities that oc-
Table 1. Number of Children in the Study (by Age Group and Gender)
Number of children
5?7 8?10 11?14 15?17 Total
8 0 30
4 3 30
13 32 12
cupied parents and children across a typical week, including the weekend. This entailed two videoethnographers spending approximately 20?25 hours with each family. During this time, a third ethnographer ? working independently of the cameras and videographers ? used a modified scan sampling method for systematically recording behavior, uses of space, and uses of objects at timed intervals.3 This entailed the ethnographer walking through the house every 10 minutes and using a hand-held computer to document the location and primary and secondary activities of each person occupying interior and exterior home spaces (Ochs et al. 2006; Broege et al. 2007; Graesch 2009). Unlike the corpus of video data, the resulting scan sampling datasets reflect the activities and locations of each family member in the home at regular intervals. This provides a high-resolution window onto the frequency and range of household chores enacted by children and parents alike.
Our three-person ethnographic teams captured families' routines on two weekday mornings, before family members left the home for work and school, and during the afternoons and evenings, when parents and children returned home and up to the point that children went to bed. CELF researchers also visited families' homes on a Saturday morning and almost all day Sunday. The CELF ``Children's Interview,'' however, was conducted on a different day, after the 4-day videotaping and scan sampling component of the study was completed. The interview was designed by a group of CELF researchers who focus on children's well-being in the family. The questions cover several domains of children's lives: family, school, friendships, participation in sports, extended family relationships, perspectives on their parents' work, and details about how their household operates. The latter category includes questions about whether the children have chores, how they feel about their involvement in household work activities, and whether they received an allowance. We recognize that embedded in the question of whether the children had household chores is the expectation that
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they did or should engage in helping around the house, and this assumption may have influenced their responses to some degree. Nevertheless, interviews allowed us to capture children's understandings, in their own words, of their responsibilities around the house and their degree of participation in household work.
Observations of Children's Contributions
to Household Work Our scan sampling dataset reflects a systemati-
cally documented account of parent's and children's activities over the course of 4 days in CELF project families' homes. As such, we gain a unique window onto children's contributions to the work required for maintaining and meeting the daily needs of dualearner households. Specifically, our scan sampling data reflect a wide range of children's activities that can be classified as household work, including feeding pets, taking out the trash, making beds, setting the table, folding laundry, among others. For the purpose of this analysis, we used children's interview responses (discussed below) to define six categories of household work-related activities by which scan sampling observations could be grouped: (1) cleaning bedroom, (2) meal preparation, (3) cleaning house, (4) sibling care, (5) pet care, and (6) outside chore. ``Cleaning bedroom'' comprised tasks performed to keep children's bedrooms orderly, including making the bed, folding and storing clothes, organizing desk and/or dresser surfaces, and keeping the floor free of clutter. ``Meal preparation'' included work involved in cooking, preparing, and plating food for individual or family consumption as well as setting the table for a meal. Oftentimes, these tasks were performed in collaboration with a parent, although some observations of food preparation entailed children preparing their own meals. Activities classified as ``cleaning house'' included all cleaning tasks (e.g., washing dishes, washing windows, sweeping, and vacuuming) in interior house spaces other than children's bedrooms, and ``outside chore'' activities included all chores (e.g., garbage-related tasks, washing the car, and yard work) performed in exterior home spaces. ``Pet care'' comprised tasks related to family pets, such as feeding and watering animals, cleaning cat boxes, and picking up after their dogs in yard spaces. ``Sibling care'' included changing diapers, combing hair, dressing, and supervising younger siblings.
Despite the wide range of children's household chores represented in our dataset, we observed children attending to these tasks in no more than a handful of instances. Over the course of 4 days with 30 families, scan sampling methods were used to document 6,213 observations of children's activities, including leisure activities, schoolwork at home, eat-
ing, and household chores, among others. However, fewer than 3 percent (n 5 175) of these observations reflect children engaged in activities classified as household work. In contrast, over 27 percent of all observations of mothers' activities (including nonchore activities) and nearly 15 percent of all observations of fathers' activities entailed some type of household work.
These parent-child differences in household work have been observed elsewhere in the United States. In a 30-year old ethnographic study of children in six unique cultural contexts, Whiting and Whiting (1975) found that middle-class children in Orchard Town (their U.S. sample) participated in housework in only 2 percent of their observations. The Orchard Town sample consisted of nine families with a total of 24 children, all of whom engaged in a range of household activities similar to that documented with CELF research. Importantly, Whiting and Whiting (1975) also calculated children's contributions to household work in relation to all activities that transpired during in-home visits.
CELF scan sampling data addressing children's work can be analyzed at even finer scales. Table 2 details the number and proportion of household chores observed and recorded for children by gender and age. Note that percentage data reflect the number of observations of particular household chores divided by all observations of children for particular gender and age categories. For example, 5?7-year-old girls were observed cleaning their bedrooms in only 1.1 percent of all observations recorded for girls of this age group (see Table 2). When age and gender groups are collapsed, we see that ``meal preparation'' (n 5 58), ``clean bedroom'' (n 5 46), and ``clean house'' (n 5 44) tasks were the most frequently recorded household chores. In contrast, activities classified as ``outside chore,'' ``pet care,'' and ``sibling care'' tasks were rarely observed and documented in fewer than half of the CELF project families.
When organized by gender categories, scan sampling data indicate that girls in CELF project families made greater contributions to household work than boys (3.4 percent versus 2.3 percent; see Table 3). Our sample, however, is too small to assign statistical significance to this difference. Nevertheless, we observed this pattern for all age groups for which both genders are represented in the dataset. It is interesting to note that despite the overall difference in girls' and boys' contributions to household work, we did not observe the strongly gendered ``inside-outside'' distinction in chore responsibilities reported by other researchers (e.g., Antill et al. 1996).
Children's age seemingly also affected their participation in household work. Data in Table 4 show that older children ? girls and boys ? engaged in
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Table 2. Number and Proportion of Scan Sampling Observations in Which Children Engaged in Household Work Activities During CELF Visits to the Family Home on Two Weekdays and a Weekend
Household work activities
% n% n
Female (n 5 6)
Male (n 5 7)
Female (n 5 17) 12
Male (n 5 15)
Female (n 5 4)
Male (n 5 8)
Female (n 5 3)
5 .8 ?
? 1 .2 ?
2 .3 ?
.2 4 .2
.1 ? ?
4 1.2 ?
? 2 .6 3
16 1.8 1
.1 ? ?
5 1.8 ?
aPercentages reflect the number of observations of household chore categories divided by all observations of children for particular gender and age categories. For example, 8?10-year-old boys participated in meal preparation activities in only .6 percent of all observations recorded for boys of this age group.
household work activities more frequently than younger children. Specifically, children in the 11?14 and 15?17 age groups were observed performing bedroom and house cleaning tasks more frequently than their younger counterparts. In general, this is not surprising; older children are often expected to make greater contributions to household work than their younger siblings (Goodnow 1988; Whiting and Edwards 1988). That these age-related differences are not also evident among the 5?7 and the 8?10 year olds is perhaps surprising, although this may be attributable to our small sample.
Children's contributions to household work can also be considered in relation to the sum of activities that can be classified as household work, rather than the much wider range of activities that transpire in the home (e.g., leisure, schoolwork). That is, when we focus analysis only on the subset of observations where parents and children were engaged in household
chores, we find that children account for an average of 13 percent of all household work. The average contributions of mothers (60 percent) and fathers (27 percent), in contrast, were notably higher. These findings resonate with the results of other research ? all of which is based on questionnaire methods and large samples ? but that calculate children's assistance with household work only as a proportion of combined parents' and children's contributions. For example, in a national study of 600 families, U.S. parents reported children performing only 12 percent of all housework (Blair 1992a, 1992b). Similarly, in an Australian study, Gill (1998) found that children's contributions accounted for only 20 percent of total housework. Our 30-family sample is considerably smaller than those of the aforementioned studies, but the notable disparity between parents' and children's engagement with basic household chores is nonetheless profound.
Table 3. Number and Proportion of Children's Household Work Activities by Gender Household work activities
n % n % n% n % N %
Female (n 5 30) 29 1.0
Male (n 5 30)
20 .7 4 .1 7 .2 7
.2 102 3.4
24 .7 2 .1 0 .0 7
aPercentages reflect number of observations of particular household chores divided by number of all activities recorded for either female or male children. For example, only 1.0 percent of all activities recorded for female children are observations of girls cleaning their bedroom.
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Table 4. Number and Proportion of Children's Household Work Activities by Age Household work activities
% n% n
5?7 (n 5 13)
8?10 (n 5 32) 23
11?14 (n 5 12) 8
15?17 (n 5 3)
7 .5 ?
.8 12 .4 5
1.2 20 1.6 1
5 1.8 ?
? 1 .1 1 .2 4 .1 5 .1 2 .2 8 ? ?? ?
.1 32 2.3 .2 75 2.3 .7 54 4.4 ? 14 4.9
aPercentages reflect number of observations of particular household chores divided by number of all activities recorded for children of particular age groups. For example, only .6 percent of all activities recorded for children in the 5?7 year age group are observations of children cleaning their bedroom.
It is important to note, however, that the 13 percent figure masks substantial variability in children's contributions to household work across the 30 families. In some families, children were never observed attending to household chores, while in others, children were recorded performing as much as 28 percent of the household work. What accounts for the variation across families? In a related CELF study that addressed parent-child interactions centering on household work, we found that children in 22 of 30 families regularly attempted to negotiate, resist, or refuse to carry out tasks, while in 8 of the 30 families, children often complied with their parents' requests (Klein et al. 2008). Our data suggest that children's behavior is tied to a history of socialization practices within their particular families, which includes the ways parents interact with their children and try to recruit them into taking on tasks (Ochs 1986, 1988). Some families in the study appeared to frequently engage in extended debates, negotiations, and disputes about children accomplishing both self-care tasks (e.g., grooming) as well as general household work. Other families, however, had minimal exchanges devoid of conflict that revealed children's awareness of their responsibilities and their willingness to help with household tasks.4
With respect to the scan sampling data, we did not find a statistically significant correlation between parent's and children's contributions to household work. That is, among families where parents performed numerous household chores, we did not consistently observe their children performing more chores than children in families where parents did few household tasks. Nevertheless, scan sampling data allow us to quantify children's participation in household work and provide a window onto the tasks children perform according to age and gender. We turn now to our interviews with children, which we argue supplement this dataset by revealing children's understandings of their responsibilities in the home.
Children's Perspectives on Household Work Anthropologists have only recently drawn at-
tention to the importance of including children's voices in anthropological research, especially when collecting data on children's lives and activities (Stephens 1995; Helleiner 1999; Bluebond-Langer and Korbin 2007). Scholars in psychology and sociology have also lamented the lack of studies that document children's perspectives on their everyday life experiences (Oakley 1994; Brannen and O'Brien 1996; Corsaro 1997). While Galinsky's (2000) study was an important step toward including children's views on family life, the topic of helping with housework was not broached in her study. As Corsaro notes in his discussion of studies on children's household work:
Although psychologists often consider the effects of such labor on children's cognitive, emotional, and social development (Goodnow 1988), sociologists focus primarily on adult members of the family and on implications for the reproduction of current gender inequalities. In neither case do we learn much about children's perspectives on household chores or how domestic labor relates to other features of children's daily lives. [Corsaro 1997:37]
Corsaro's observations highlight the need for more detailed investigations of children's understandings of household responsibilities and the social organization of the family.
CELF interviews were conducted with 52 of the children in 28 of the 30 participating families.5 Children's responses to the question of whether they performed chores turned out to be more complex than anticipated. Children in 17 families reported that they were expected to do chores; however, children's understandings of the notion of ``chore'' seemed to differ. Children in five families answered ``no'' to the question of whether they were expected to do chores,
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