Gender Inequality in Sleep following Parenthood: Does Being Married or Cohabiting Matter?

Shih-Yi Chao , Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Ann M. Berrington, University of Southampton
Brienna Perelli-Harris, University of Southampton
Niels Blom, The University of Southampton

Parenthood changes many aspects of people’s lives, including their sleep. Women are often primary responsible for childrearing. Their sleep may deteriorate more than men’s after parenthood. Therefore, sleep is described as the fourth shift. However, as couples are increasingly likely to have the first birth in cohabitation instead of marriage, the question arises whether sleep changes, as well as the gender gap in sleep, differently by partnership status. Married people differ from cohabitors in gender role attitudes, socioeconomic conditions, and the division of labour, which might contribute to their difference in the change in sleep between mothers and fathers. This study investigates how sleep changes following the first birth, how this differs by gender, and whether this gender gap differs by partnership status. We use change models in OLS and employ the UK Household Longitudinal Study Wave 1, 4 and 7. Sleep is measured as the quantity (self-reported hours) and quality (self-rated quality). Preliminary results show that women experience a larger decline in sleep quantity and quality following the first birth than men. Cohabiting men (but not women) experience a larger decline in sleep quantity and quality than married men. Cohabitors have a smaller gender gap in the change of sleep hours and quality than their married counterparts. There is thus gender inequality in sleep following parenthood, but the size of this inequality differs between cohabiting and married couples. In further analyses, we investigate the mechanisms that may explain these differences.

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 Presented in Session 120. Gender Equality and Fertility