How you and your partner parent and divide household responsibilities directly correlates to satisfaction levels in the bedroom, according to a new study. Researchers at Georgia State University have found that heterosexual couples who share parenting duties and chores in roughly equal amounts are happier in their relationships, fight less often, and have better sex than couples in which the mother bears the brunt of the work.
The findings, which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association last week, were based on an evaluation of data on nearly 500 couples from the 2006 Marital and Relationship Survey. All of the couples involved had at least one child and were in their prime childbearing years.
To evaluate the data, researchers split the couples into three relationship-types: couples in which the mother did most of the childcare, those in which the split was fairly even, and those in which the father provided the bulk of the childcare. They found something somewhat surprising — the only group who experienced a negative perception of their overall happiness were those couples in which the mother was responsible for most of the childcare. Those who split the parenting duties and the couples in which dad was primarily responsible for kids both measured high in relationship satisfaction, which was marked by overall happiness, less fighting, and higher quality sex.
That’s right – the study revealed that parents in all three categories have sex on more or less the same frequency. That is, how your parenting responsibilities are divided between partners doesn’t necessarily impact how much sex you have, but how good it is. Study researcher Dan Carlson, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University, explains that they evaluated each partner’s assessment of their sex lives. “Couples were more satisfied with how much sex they were having when they shared childcare equally,” said Carlson. “And they assessed their sex as being higher quality as well.”
What researchers weren’t able to figure out is why the outcome is so different for relationships in which the moms are primarily responsible for childcare. Carlson does point out that dividing the responsibilities can be just one part of an overall strategy for a healthy relationship between parents. “Sharing in this way requires good communication, cooperation and coordination,” he said. “And those are the things that a good, strong relationship is founded on.”
One of the societal gaps Carlson recognizes is the lack of support in the workplace for parents to equally share in parenting responsibilities. He hopes this research will illustrate to companies that splitting childcare can lead to more overall happiness (and, theoretically, happier and more productive workers). Perhaps, he says, workplace and family leave policies will adapt to give all parents greater flexibility and support.