Why men shy away from helping with everyday chores: Study

Monday, 3 February 2014 - 9:57am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Researchers say they may have finally found the answer to why men shy away from helping with everyday tasks. We get experts to study the findings
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Men who have sisters are less likely to perform housework and more likely to fulfill traditional gender roles, researchers claim. Not only are they less likely to get out the ironing board, they are more likely to hold right-wing views, according to an American study. The latest study found that men who have sisters and no brothers are 13.5 per cent more likely to back right-wing parties than men who only have sisters. And the men who had sisters were 6.6 per cent less likely to do the dishes at home.

More about the study
The researchers think that the difference goes back to childhood. Young daughters are more likely to be asked to help in the house, they say, and the habit of watching their sisters work prevails for boys into adulthood. Women’s political views and willingness to do housework, on the other hand, is unaffected by their sisters. The authors wrote, “Younger sisters have been found to make male siblings less likely to be assigned to female-stereotyped tasks. This effect emerged in a striking way for boys. In summary, we find that having sisters makes males more politically conservative in terms of gender role attitudes and partisanship. Particularly for gender role attitudes, we find that these effects persist into adulthood. Other studies have found that having a son or a daughter can change the behaviour and attitude of a new father. A third study found that daughters are not only likely to make a father more generous, they also make him less attached to gender stereotypes.

Does the study have any truth to it?
Varkha Chulani, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, says, “The findings may have some truth to it. This is simply because in childhood we ‘learn’ certain habits. So in a stereotypical society where girls are looked upon more as homemakers and boys as bread winners, it isn’t surprising to see such results. However slowly attitudes are altering and boys are being asked to pitch in. Today with more women in the workplace, she can influence her partner to change his ways. This can be done by working on the mindset that she too brings to the table income to help the family enjoy a better lifestyle and if he pitched in with chores it will make her life less burdensome. This way once he sees that his help releases her from extra responsibilities and she feels more energetic, less tired and is able thus to contribute more to her work and therefore to the family coffers he may just begin to break his old beliefs.”

Things are changing
Psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria adds, “The findings may not entirely be true. Perhaps it may be more apparent in more traditional societies where gender roles are clearly defined. For example, certain errands, jobs or chores are associated with only women or with men. This could also be due to the assumption that women are good at certain tasks while men are good at others. Thus, these roles have become specific to each of the genders and have remained more or less constant over the generations. Now with the trend of nuclear families and both parents being earning members of the house, families have started involving their children in household chores irrespective of their gender. Even in cases where there are more women in the house, there are some families who continue to include the men to do tasks too.”

How to get your man to help out?

Ask for help in small parts initially. For example, ask him to buy groceries or help in chopping vegetables instead of asking him to cook an entire meal.

Inform him in advance that you will need his help and try and inform him of the job before hand. This way he will be prepared to do the task and will not feel like he is being ordered.

Appreciate it when he works. This will work as a positive reinforcement and might make it easier for you to involve him in household chores in the future.

Do not demand or order, instead decide mutually and assign roles which are convenient for both. Try and do these chores together as it will be less boring for your partner.

Do not give him a long list of errands to run as it might intimidate them. Start by prioritising the tasks that need to be done daily and gradually increase them.

Try not to check up on him again and again as it might make him averse to doing the task. Give him the time and space to finish the job at hand.

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