Working paper

Collaboration and conflict : Insights into the division of household labor among working couples in the United States and Italy

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  • Los Angeles : UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families, 2005
English Previous studies on the division of labor among working couples have indicated that managing parenting responsibilities and household tasks (the "second shift" according to Hochschild 1989, 1997) often becomes a site of contention (Klein, Izquierdo, & Bradbury 2004), partly due to a lack of a successful approach for managing this area of American working families’ busy lives. This paper builds on our past analysis of interview and interactional data in which we examined couples’ ongoing negotiations of responsibilities and expectations, and revealed the need for anthropological and psychological models to address the complexity of how spouses react to one another as they confront the everyday challenges involved in working family life. The current study takes a cross-national perspective and draws from interview and videotaped data of naturally occurring interactions of working couples to examine dinner preparation routines in Italy and the United States. We found a marked difference in the quality of affect and collaborative features of interactions, which appear to reflect couples’ differing strategies on how to manage household tasks in working family life. However, rather than constructing a comparative cross-cultural schema, we point out certain cultural differences as well as similarities related to accomplishing everyday household activities. After reviewing the problems articulated by some of the couples in the United States, we examine collaborative features of interactions illustrated in the data in both countries, in which couples appear to effectively communicate and accomplish their tasks, together and apart. We have found that while the division of labor and the organization of space may differ in the two countries, interactive dimensions of collaboration, such as specific features of language, affect, and humor, shape the successful coordination of tasks between couples in both countries.
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  • WP n. 36 ITALY-USA Household.pdf: 27