Rich girls ready to clean up, study finds

By Suzanne Carbone
August 17, 2004

When today's teenagers grow up, they want it all - especially a clean house. But women from low-income households are likely to clang the saucepans loudly while demanding the equal sharing of housework.

A study of teenagers aged 10 to 18 by the Australia Institute found domestic disharmony between partners who juggle careers and a family looks set to continue, but that attitudes differ on socio-economic grounds.

Regardless of income, men will wriggle out of their chores and yearn for a robot to come to the rescue.

The study's author, Associate Professor Barbara Pocock from the University of Adelaide, found that working-class girls would demand equality if their partners did not share the housework, but high-income girls were resigned to "picking up the slack" as part of their desire to be virtuous wives.

Contradicting a widespread belief that the rich outsource their domestic work, low-income girls were likely to hire a housekeeper, whereas high-income girls relished housework because it was "good for the soul".

"These accommodating approaches among young women from higher socio-economic areas may reflect specific cultures of motherhood, and their internalised hopes of fulfilling the ever-competent, able and caring standard of 'proper' (middle-class) motherhood, as well as being paid workers," Dr Pocock said in the study.

The qualitative study involved 93 students in years 6 and 11 from Sydney and Adelaide.

The study found 41 per cent of boys expected their wife would do the housework but only 2 per cent of girls expected that their husband would do it.

One student, Jack, 15, predicted robots would do all the housework within about five years.