Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 12 Issue 6 (November/December 2002), Pages 377-450

Division of domestic work and psychological distress 1 year after childbirth: a comparison between France, Quebec and Italy (pages 397-409)



The participation of men in domestic work should have a positive impact on the wellbeing and mental health of women who are mothers of young children. However, cultural factors, which largely determine the expectations and desires of men and women, are likely to modify this impact. The purpose of this study was to explore differences between countries in the division of child care and housework between couples 1 year after childbirth, and to look at possible differences in the relationship between this division and the psychological health of new mothers.


Similar studies were carried out in three countries: France, Italy and Canada (province of Quebec), making it possible to compare the situation of 1598 women.


The results revealed major differences between countries in the division of domestic work. For nearly all the child care and housework tasks studied, answers indicating an unequal division were more frequent in Italy than in France, and more frequent in France than in Quebec. Despite these differences, we found very similar pattern of associations, in the three countries, between the division of domestic work and the mental health of women. An unequal division of child care was linked with psychological distress, but this association was not found for the division of housework.


These results raise questions concerning the mechanisms by which the division of domestic work affects the psychological health of new mothers. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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