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Children’s Participation in Household Work: Ideologies and Practices in 30 Los Angeles Families

Wendy Klein


Carolina Izquierdo


Anthony P. Graesch

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 74


While children’s household work is a crucial site of socialization into family roles, responsibilities, and obligations, very little ethnographic research focuses on this topic as an area of inquiry in contemporary American family life. This study examines ideologies and practices of children’s participation in household work in 30 middle-class working families in Los Angeles, California. Drawing from linguistic and socio-cultural anthropology, and ethnoarchaeology, this study analyzes interviews, scan-sampling data, and naturally occurring family interactions in the home. Interviews conducted with children reveal their perspectives on family expectations to contribute to the household, their accounts of tasks they are responsible for on a routine basis, and their attitudes toward these activities. Scan-sampling data provides an overview of the frequency of children’s participation in household work as well as the types of tasks they engaged in during data collection. Our analysis of videotaped everyday family interactions examines whether children’s tasks are self-initiated or requested by parents, and how parents attempt to socialize their children into household activities. Specifically, we analyze the formulation of parental requests and children’s responses, and the patterns of interactions that emerge within and across families. Combining these methods allows us to explore children’s perspectives, tabulate actual occurrences of children’s household work, and analyze the types of interactions parents and children engage in during their everyday lives.

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