Parenting Satisfaction: Single Income Families Vs. Dual Income Families
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
FARMER, L. M. (2005). Parenting Satisfaction: Single Income Families Vs. Dual Income Families. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 8. Available online at Retrieved April 20, 2014 .

Parenting Satisfaction: Single Income Families Vs. Dual Income Families
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
For the past twenty years the satisfaction of parents who both work outside of the home has been questioned in comparison to the satisfaction of a family where one parent is able to stay home with the children. The purpose of this study was to compare the parenting satisfaction scores of dual-income families with the scores single-income families. Parents who were married with children under the age of six living in the home were given a 10-item questionnaire and asked to fill it out. The results comparing gender and satisfaction level was not significant, as well as the results of the employment groups were not significant. The interaction also produced results that were not significant. While this study did have several limitations it did however indicate that the level of parenting satisfaction did not depend on whether one parent was able to stay home or not.

Parenting Satisfaction: Single Income Families Vs. Dual Income Families

It is more than apparent that marriage and family life have been undergoing major changes during the latter half of the century (Gerdes & Coetzee, 1996). The major changes are due to numerous factors, such as increased industrialization, urbanization, and the employment of women. It is inevitable the parenting would also incur changes. Over the years an employed mother has been stereotypically labeled as putting her career first and parenting second but there has been little research to indicate that there are any negative effects for children from dual-income homes. According to Nock and Kingston (1985), working wives with children are alleged to shortchange their children of guidance and care, provide valuable role models for a nonsexist societal organization, give distinctive “quality time” to their children, become overloaded with responsibilities, and depend on the aid of others, including their husbands. After looking at all the roles Nock and Kingston mentioned it is more than evident that there is trouble in defining a working mother’s role. A distinction should be made between the single-earner family in which the husband is the sole breadwinner and the wife a full-time housewife, and the dual-earner marriage in which the wife is also in full-time gainful employment. Based on current census data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census (as cited in Dilworth, 2004), over half of all married couples hold the status of “dual-earner couples,” in which both husband and wife participate in paid employment. Of these dual-earner married couples, 56% have children younger than the age of 18, and 24% have children younger than the age of 6 residing in the home. According to Gerdes and Coetzee’s (1996) research there is some evidence to suggest that the greater number of young children in the home, the higher the workload and role strain, especially if the mother is employed. They credited the role strain placed on women with creating the process of role expansion rather than role redefinition and considered there is some justification for speaking of the ‘double day’ of working mothers. Since stay-at-home mothers do not experience the pressures of career and family it is assumed that they are happier with their parenting and consider it to be their utmost priority. Parenthood has been considered one of the most important roles that anyone will ever get the chance to participate in. Research conducted by Thoits on role identities has demonstrated that parenthood is at the top of most parents’ identity hierarchies, ranking ahead of marriage and job as a source of identity (as cited in Rogers & White, 1998). Although there is such importance placed on parenthood there has been very little attention paid to the satisfaction of the actual parents. The lack of attention to parenting satisfaction might be attributed to the fact, that unlike marital and job satisfaction, parenting satisfaction is less likely to predict role tenure. Whether you are satisfied with your parenting you will always be a parent. In past research, the main concern has been to assess whether a mother’s employment is “bad” for children but the purpose of this study is to compare the parenting satisfaction of single and dual income houses.


Data was collected from thirty adult participants or fifteen couples. Each participant was asked to fill out a 10 item questionnaire about their parenting. The participants met the following five criteria: 1. Married with children under the age of six residing in the home. 2. Male, with a wife who does not work outside of the home (single-income group). 3. Female, who does not work outside of the home(single-income group). 4. Male, married to a woman who is employed outside of the home (dual-income group). 5. Female, who works outside of the home (dual-income group).

The ten statement likert Parenting Satisfaction Scale (Appendix) was used to assess the participants’ satisfaction with their parenting. The questionnaire also asked for demographic information such as, the number of children under the age of six in the home, whether or not they were employed outside of the home and their role in the marriage (husband or wife).

All participants were given the questionnaire and allowed to take at their leisure. Once both the husband and wife had filled out the scale they were divided into one of two income categories based on the demographic information; single-income group or dual-income group. To be placed in the single-income group only one of the couple may work outside of the home and to qualify for dual-income status the couple must each be employed outside of the home. Once the income status was determined the scores from the parenting satisfaction questionnaire for both groups were figured and statistically compared with one another.

A 2 (gender) x 2 (income status) between-subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the Parenting Satisfaction scores of participants who were male or female and who were from a single-income household or a dual-income household. The main effect for gender was not significant (F(1,26)=.130, p=.721). The main effect for income status was also not significant (F(1,26)=.115, p=.737). Finally the interaction between the two variables was also not significant (F(1,26)=.264, p=.612). The females who worked and had children actually displayed slightly more satisfaction with their parenting (M=23.00, s=5.58) than the women who stayed home with their children (M=22.7143, s=4.03). See Figure 1 for a representation of this relationship.

The results indicated that there is very little difference in the levels of satisfaction whether one parent is at home or whether both are working. The results also showed that the parenting satisfaction scores were quite comparable and showed that dual-income households are just as satisfied with their parenting as any other parent. Because there was very little difference in the levels of satisfaction one might assume that it is possible, for females especially, to have a career and a family without feeling as if one is suffering. According to Nock and Kingston (1988), it is the fact that dual-earner couples have lesser parental time with children for the simple fact that they work more as unit than single-earner couples. The researchers also mentions it is the loss of that time which makes parents feel as if they are not providing the emotional support and connections for their children which may be provided if one parent were able to stay in the home. But this does not seem to be the case with this study. Because the sample size did not provide adequate data the results of this study could be argued. Also obtaining participants from a broader geographical area, such as larger cities vs. rural/suburban areas rather than just a rural area would probably have an effect on the results of this study. Another obvious limitation of the research is the slightly smaller number of single-income household who participated in the study. Having a larger, as well as diverse, sample size for this research would make it possible to generalize these results to the entire population. In the future, research should include a much larger sample size, while being careful to establish diversity within its participants.

Dilworth, J.E. (2004). Predictors of negative spillover from family to work. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 241.

Gerdes, L.C., & Coetzee, C.H. (1996). Perceptions of parenting task performance: A comparison of single-earner and dual-earner families. South African Journal of Psychology, 26, 81-88.

Nock, S.L., & Kingston, P.W. (1988). Time with children: The impact of couples’ work-time commitments. Social Forces, 67, 59-86.

Rogers, S.J., & White, L.K. (1998). Satisfaction with parenting: The role of marital happiness, family structure, and parents` gender. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 60, 293-309.


Figure 1. Mean parenting satisfaction scores of male and female subjects who were in the single-income and dual-income groups.


Submitted 4/29/2005 8:02:06 AM
Last Edited 4/29/2005 8:16:52 AM
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