Guess Who’s the Caregiver Tonight?

File this in the “Support my Hypothesis” file:

“Women are more likely than men to give up sleep to care for children and others,” states Charity Brown in the Washington Post.

Women are 2 ½ times as likely as men to interrupt their sleep to care for others, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Michigan. And once they’re up, women are awake longer: 44 minutes, compared with 30 minutes for men.

For the study, which is slated to appear in the journal Social Forces, researchers analyzed data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau via the American Time Use Survey: more than 20,000 time diaries kept by working parents from 2003 to 2007.

Among dual-income couples with a child younger than 1, 32 percent of women reported sleep interruptions on a given 24-hour period, compared with 11 percent of men. For those with children ages 3 to 5, 3 percent of mothers and 1 percent of fathers experienced interrupted sleep. Overall, after controlling the data for differences in work commitment, partnership status and other factors, Burgard said, mothers took “the night shift of caretaking” about 21/2 times as often as fathers.

Previous research into women’s lack of sufficient sleep noted problems such as undiagnosed sleep apnea and depression, she said, but this study sheds light on another factor: gender-defined responsibilities.

Whether the woman was the “primary caregiver, primary breadwinner, it didn’t matter,” says Burgard. Among parents of children younger than 1, 28 percent of women who were the sole earner in the couple reported getting up in the middle of the night to take care of children, compared with 4 percent of men who were the sole breadwinner.

“The primary care responsibilities still belong to females regardless of other obligations,” says Burgard.

25. February 2011 by Ruth Folger Weiss
Categories: Family, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment