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Too much housework? Maybe you could use a little help from your children
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Research suggests that parents who figure soon the baby will be old enough to help out around the house may be in for a surprise. Between school and extracurricular activities, children remain generally unhelpful, creating more work for mom and dad. - photo by Lois M. Collins
Research suggests parents who figure that soon the baby will be old enough to help out around the house may be in for a surprise. Thanks to schoolwork and extracurricular activities, children remain generally unhelpful, creating more work for mom and dad.

Using data from the 2012 International Social Survey Programme, Laurie DeRose wrote on the Institute for Family Studies blog that school-aged children in the United States increase the amount of housework mom and dad face, rather than pitching in to help reduce it.

"Not surprisingly," she wrote, "having a child in the house increases the number of hours that both men and women spend caring for others the world over. It was the effects of children on housework hours that took me aback: school-aged children increase parents housework more consistently than younger children do."

It is worse, she noted, in America, where school-age children bump dad's housework load by 1.4 hours a week per child and 2.6 hours a week per child for women.

DeRose suggests some push-back.

"There is more to childrens development than getting the most out of their school education. I want my children to grow up thinking contributing to their family and their home is important," she wrote.

She is not, she adds, pushing for perfection. But a little help, please.

There are good reasons to get children to do housework, for their sake, according to Psychology Today. Doing housework increases competence and shows values. More surprising, "research tells us that children actually feel happier when they make a meaningful contribution to the family. A diary study by Eva Telzer and Andrew Fuligni found that U.S. teens of Latin American, Asian and European descent reported higher levels of happiness when they provided more family assistance, and they did not find this work stressful, wrote Eileen Kennedy-Moore for the article.

Reasons children should do housework are more pragmatic in a Wall Street Journal article (possible paywall), where Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, told reporter Jennifer Breheny Wallace that children given chores at a very young age learn a "lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance."

The article also quoted a study that said while more than 80 percent of parents had to do chores, only 28 percent make their children do them. Wallace ends her piece with some suggestions for making chores something children will not fight, from scheduling time to making it fun.