Invisible Household Labor and Ramifications for Adjustment: Mothers as Captains of Households

Lucia Ciciolla, Suniya S. Luthar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


We address the issue of invisible labor in the home by examining how the distribution of the mental and emotional labor inherent in managing the household between spouses may be linked with women’s well-being, including their satisfaction with life, partner satisfaction, feelings of emptiness, and experiencing role overload. In a sample of 393 U.S. married/partnered mothers, mostly of upper-middle class backgrounds with dependent children at home, results showed that a majority of women reported that they alone assumed responsibility for household routines involving organizing schedules for the family and maintaining order in the home. Some aspects of responsibilities related to child adjustment were primarily handled by mothers, including being vigilant of children’s emotions, whereas other aspects were shared with partners, including instilling values in the children. Responsibility was largely shared for household finances. Regression analyses showed that after controlling for dimensions of emotional and physical intimacy, feeling disproportionately responsible for household management, especially child adjustment, was associated with strains on mothers’ personal well-being as well as lower satisfaction with the relationship. The implications of our work highlight the need to consider the burden of household management on mothers’ well-being and speak to mothers’ own needs for support and care as the primary managers of the household. In future research on division of labor, it will be useful to measure these critical but often neglected dimensions of who coordinates the household, given potential ramifications of this dimension for the quality of marriages and women’s personal well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-486
Number of pages20
JournalSex Roles
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Division of labor
  • Intimacy
  • Motherhood
  • Partner satisfaction
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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