Gender, justice and domestic work: life course transitions and perceptions of fairness


  • Janeen Baxter University of Queensland
  • Michele Haynes University of Queensland
  • Mark Western University of Queensland
  • Belinda Hewitt University of Queensland



fairness, housework, transitions


This paper investigates changes in perceptions of housework fairness as men and women transition from cohabitation to marriage and experience the birth of a child. Using four waves of data from the Negotiating the Life Course project in Australia, we assess how marriage and parenthood alter perceptions of housework fairness. Consistent with previous research we find that the majority of men and women report that the division of labour at home is fair, despite women spending twice as much time on housework as men. Our results show no changes in perceptions of fairness in relation to marital transitions and only weak evidence of changes in relation to parenthood transitions. We conclude that perceptions of housework fairness are not based on an equal sharing of tasks, but are better understood in terms of equity and distributive justice.

Author Biographies

Janeen Baxter, University of Queensland

Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow in Sociology,

School of Social Science and Institute for Social Science Research

Michele Haynes, University of Queensland

Associate Professor and Program Leader, Research Methods and Social Statistics, Institute for Social Science Research

Mark Western, University of Queensland

Director, Institute for Social Science Research

Belinda Hewitt, University of Queensland

Senior Research Fellow, Employment and Education Program, Institute for Social Science Research