Do you have the time? Changes in and implications of spouses' time together.

Open Access
Dew, Jeffrey P
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 26, 2007
Committee Members:
  • David Eggebeen, Committee Chair
  • Dr Alan Booth, Committee Chair
  • Geoffrey Clay Godbey, Committee Member
  • Dr Chalandra Bryant, Committee Member
  • David Manuel Almeida, Committee Member
  • Marriage
  • Time
  • Time-Use
  • Gender
  • Children
Many Americans say they do not spend enough time with their families. Social changes such as increased productivity expectations in the workplace and the movement of mothers into the paid labor force have added to the feeling that family time is scarce. Time is perceived to be an extremely rare commodity in the U.S., and families desire to spend more of it together. Time allocation in families has enjoyed recent scholarly attention. Some studies have analyzed how gender, class, and labor force participation relate to family time use. Other studies have focused on changes in parent-child time. Despite parents’ worries to the contrary, parent-child time has increased over the past 30 years. Very few studies have focused on time use among spouses, however. This three-paper dissertation analyzes research questions related to this understudied area. The first paper studied whether spousal time has declined over the past 30 years. Although previous research has shown that spouses are doing activities less often together, this study used nationally representative time-diary data to quantify and explain the decline in daily spousal time. The declines were significant – between 50 and 90 minutes per day. Regression and population standardization revealed that increases in married couples’ joint hours in the paid labor force and the increased proportion of dual-earner couples explain most of the change. The second paper investigated the mechanisms that link spousal time and marital satisfaction to understand whether decreasing spousal time matters for contemporary couples. Using nationally representative longitudinal data, this study found that spouses’ evaluations of the amount of time they spend together completely mediates the relationship between actual time together and marital satisfaction. That is, if spouses are satisfied with the amount time they spend together their marital satisfaction tends to be high regardless of how much time they actually spend together. Further, because the actual amount of time that spouses spend together was a weaker predictor of positive evaluations of spousal time than other aspects of time, the declines in spousal time are not likely problematic for spouses. The final paper investigated the relationship between family time and marital satisfaction. Qualitative studies have found that family time has some very negative aspects. Consequently, if spouses have to give up spousal time to create family time, they may become dissatisfied with their marriage. Using nationally representative data, the analyses showed a positive relationship between family time and marital satisfaction for wives. For husbands, the association between family time and marriage depended on their relationships with their children. Consequently, although some negative aspects of family time do exist for parents, family time does not seem to interfere with parents’ marital quality. Rather, the analyses show that family time, spousal time, parents’ relationships with their children, and marital satisfaction relate in complex ways.