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Culture, Time and Marital Wellbeing

Social norms determine how we use our time, which affects our marriages

Between American, Spanish and French couples, who spends the most time together? With their children? Without them? The amount of time spent with one’s partner is a well-accepted indicator of marital wellbeing, but finding the time can become challenging with children.

In their new study, Joan García-Román, Sarah Flood and Katie R. Genadek look at cross-country differences between the United States, Spain and France to see how cultural norms and policies on work and family affected the time partners spent together, with and without their children under the age of 10. Using time-use surveys, they compare time use on weekends, weekdays and the hours spent in paid work.

They find that US couples spend the least time together, both as a couple and with their children. Spanish couples spend the most time together as a family. French couples spend the most time as a couple. Of the three scenarios, family time stands out. Not only was the difference between countries here, especially Spain and the others, biggest, but the effect of time spent in paid work was unexpectedly small—meaning the differences are more a matter of culture than anything else.


Original paper: García-Román, J.,  Flood S. & Genadek, K. (2017) Parents’ time with a partner in a cross-national context: A comparison of the United States, Spain, and France. Demographic Research, 36(4): 111-144.