Are gender roles changing in the home?

In 2019, women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, while more men are becoming stay-at-home dads and lending a hand with domestic chores. Despite these changing trends, stigmas and struggles with male and female gender roles still exist. With many men adjusting to becoming full-time caregivers and many women facing challenges in the formerly male-dominated workplace, do any of these dilemmas seep into relationships?

  • Men are more likely than women to believe they split most tasks equally, but women average more time on chores each week and are more likely to be dissatisfied with their partners' efforts
  • Respondents who were satisfied with their partners' efforts to maintain the household had sex more frequently
  • Millennials were nearly twice as likely as baby boomers to clean together, treating household maintenance as a bonding activity

Do people assume traditional gender roles within their households, or are chores evenly split between men and women? We surveyed nearly 1,000 people currently in a cohabitating relationship to get a better idea of how chores are navigated. The remnants of traditional roles may still be widespread – keep reading to find out.

Who does more?

Household chores have traditionally been a woman's responsibility. And while society has made significant progress toward changing this, both women and men report that women complete the majority of domestic chores.

Both male and female respondents said women were more likely to be responsible for cooking, vacuuming, ironing, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, mopping, laundry and dusting. While women also claimed they were more likely to wash dishes, buy groceries and take care of the pets, men were more likely to say those tasks were equally shared. But domestic chores weren't wholly one-sided. Both men and women agreed that men mostly completed outdoor duties like maintaining the pool, taking out the trash, washing the car and yardwork.

However, women reported dedicating more time to maintaining a clean household than men (9.5 hours a week versus 7.4 for men), possibly explaining why men were more likely than women to be satisfied with their partners' efforts (82.6%).

Working toward satisfaction

Cohabitation comes with plenty of challenges, but most people may not realize how much household chores impact stress and satisfaction. Dissatisfaction with the allocation of tasks can drive a wedge between partners, but it may affect women significantly more than men. While over 97% of both men and women who said they were content with their partners' efforts also said they were satisfied with the relationship, the percentages dropped significantly for those who said they were discontent. Compared to 80% of men, just under 70% of discontent women said they were satisfied with their relationship.

Of course, with unfinished chores, a messy house and increased stress come arguments. And as arguments increased in weekly frequency, relationship satisfaction decreased — while 90.8% of people said they were satisfied with their relationship when having one weekly argument, 80.9% of people were satisfied after having two arguments each week. Satisfaction dropped once again when arguments increased to three or more times per week, with just 78.5% of respondents satisfied with their relationship.

While increasing sex frequency is said to improve satisfaction, higher relationship satisfaction also seems to lead to more sex. Compared to respondents who were dissatisfied with their partners' efforts to maintain the household getting down and dirty an average of 5.4 times per month, satisfied respondents had sex an average of 7.5 times per month.

Handling allocation

Whether you've just moved in together or have been married for 10 years, conversations about household chores are always necessary. Divvying up the workload seems like it should take place naturally, but it can take some scheduling. However, nearly half of respondents said they either used an informal approach to sharing housework or did not have a method for splitting housework, while 17.1% did housework together. Basing chores on comfort level and free time was also pretty common, with 40.3% and 35% doing so, respectively.

Allocation also remained relatively the same across generations. The majority of baby boomers took an informal approach to share housework, while Gen Xers and millennials were most likely to split chores based on each person's comfort with performing each task. When it came to basing chores on free time, millennials were significantly more likely to do so. A preference for cleaning together was more pronounced among millennials as well, with nearly a quarter reporting they did this compared to less than 13% of baby boomers.

Dealing with incomplete chores

Schedule or no schedule, sometimes chores just don't get done. While women were the most likely to remind their partners to complete the chore (43.6%), nearly 40% of men didn't react at all to their partners slacking on chores. Men were also slightly more likely than women to do their partners' tasks, insult their partners, and stop doing chores as well, while women tended to move the mess to their partners' space, argue with their partners and give their partners the silent treatment.

Fortunately, the majority of people in satisfying relationships took the high road when dealing with unfinished chores. In fact, relationship experts recommend talking to your partner about household duties, which was the top reaction among people satisfied with their relationship. While 38.4% of satisfied people said they provided their partners with a reminder, 33.3% said they did chores for them and 30.9% took no action at all.

Cohabitating made easy

Times have certainly changed — but even without the pressure and expectation to fill typical roles, people still tend to follow them. Whether it was due to preference, free time or because one partner simply did it better, women tended to take care of domestic chores indoors, while men got their hands dirty with tasks outside. Women reported spending about two hours more a week cleaning the home than men. Considering they were much more likely to be dissatisfied with their partners' efforts, it's likely women wish their partners' cleaning habits more mirrored their own. On the bright side, though, they weren't likely to react negatively, preferring to issue a gentle reminder or complete their partners' neglected chores for them.

Moving in with a partner comes with many changes and challenges. Talking about chores prior to moving in together can help avoid arguments, and being flexible with time and energy can save partners a lot of stress. A big part of finding domestic bliss, of course, is picking a home that's right for you. At Apartment Guide, we're here to help take the stress out of the home search. With a clear and simple guide to apartment living, you can effortlessly search hundreds of personalized listings in your preferred area. To get started, visit us online today.

Methodology and limitations

We collected responses from 998 respondents currently in a relationship who indicated they lived with their romantic partners. Of these respondents, 58.2% were female and 42.8% were male. Respondents varied in age with the average respondent reporting they were 42.3 years old. The distribution of respondents' ages carried a standard deviation of 12 years.

To determine gender-based perceptions of chore division, respondents were asked how often they completed a series of domestic tasks in relation to their partners on a scale of 1 to 7. A score of 1 indicated that the respondent completed the chore in their household virtually 100% of the time, while a score of 7 indicated that their partners completed the chore in their household virtually 100% of the time. A score of 4 indicated an equal division. Male responses were inverted so that scores of 1 represented chores always done by the female in the partnership, and scores of 7 indicated tasks always completed by the male in the partnership. Values for each household task were then averaged to obtain the final displayed scores. Same-sex couples were excluded (solely) from this section of the analysis.

Survey results were self-reported and are, therefore, subject to response biases, such as but not limited to social desirability and acquiescence biases.

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