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Parenthood, gender and sickness absence

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  • Mastekaasa, Arne

Abstract

It is well documented that women have generally higher morbidity rates than men. In line with this women are also more absent from work due to sickness. This paper considers one popular explanation of the morbidity difference in general and of the difference in sickness absence in particular, viz. that women to a greater extent than men are exposed to the 'double burden' of combining paid work with family obligations. We discuss theories of role overload and role conflict, which both assume that the combination of multiple roles may have negative health effects, as well theories of role enhancement, which assume positive health effects of multiple roles. Using two large Norwegian data sets, the relationship between the number of and the age of children on the one hand and sickness absence on the other is examined separately for men and women and for a number of theoretically interesting subpopulations of women defined in terms of marital status (also taking account of unmarried cohabitation), level of education, and working hours. Generally speaking the association between children and sickness absence is weak, particularly for married people of both genders. To the extent that married persons with children are more absent than married persons without children, this is largely due to respiratory conditions. The relationship between children and sickness absence is somewhat stronger for single, never married mothers, but not for single mothers who have been previously married or for women living in unmarried cohabitation. The findings thus provide little support for either role overload/conflict or role enhancement theories. The possibility that these effects are both present and counterbalancing each other or that they are confounded with uncontrolled selection effects can not, however, be ruled out.

Suggested Citation

  • Mastekaasa, Arne, 2000. "Parenthood, gender and sickness absence," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(12), pages 1827-1842, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:12:p:1827-1842
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Avdic, Daniel & Johansson, Per, 2013. "Gender Differences in Preferences for Health-Related Absences from Work," IZA Discussion Papers 7480, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Olsen, Karen M. & Dahl, Svenn-Åge, 2007. "Health differences between European countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(8), pages 1665-1678, April.
    3. Karsten Marshall Elseth Rieck & Kjetil Telle, 2012. "Sick leave before, during and after pregnancy," Discussion Papers 690, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    4. Gimenez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Molina, José Alberto & Velilla, Jorge, 2018. "Commuting Time and Sick-Day Absence of US Workers," IZA Discussion Papers 11700, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Øystein Kravdal, 2010. "Demographers’ interest in fertility trends and determinants in developed countries: Is it warranted?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 22(22), pages 663-690, April.
    6. Sperlich, Stefanie & Geyer, Siegfried, 2015. "The mediating effect of effort-reward imbalance in household and family work on the relationship between education and women's health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 58-65.
    7. Barnes, Maria Carla & Buck, Rhiannon & Williams, Gareth & Webb, Katie & Aylward, Mansel, 2008. "Beliefs about common health problems and work: A qualitative study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(4), pages 657-665, August.
    8. Elisabeth Ugreninov, 2013. "Can Family Policy Reduce Mothers’ Sick Leave Absence? A Causal Analysis of the Norwegian Paternity Leave Reform," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 34(4), pages 435-446, December.
    9. Paola Pizzetti & Matteo Manfredini, 2008. "“The shock of widowhood”? Evidence from an Italian population (Parma, 1989–2000)," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 85(3), pages 499-513, February.
    10. Markussen, Simen & Strøm, Marte, 2015. "The Effects of Motherhood," Memorandum 19/2015, Oslo University, Department of Economics.

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