Volume 36 - Article 4 | Pages 111–144 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

Parents’ time with a partner in a cross-national context: A comparison of the United States, Spain, and France

By Joan García-Román, Sarah Flood, Katie Genadek

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter


Date received:17 Mar 2016
Date published:06 Jan 2017
Word count:7379
Keywords:cross-national research, family time, paid work, parenthood, time use
Additional files:readme.36-4 (text file, 1 kB)
 demographic-research.36-4 (zip file, 6 MB)


Background: Time shared with a partner is an indicator of marital well-being and couples’ want to spend time together. However, time spent with a partner depends on work and family arrangements as well as on the policies, norms, and values that prevail in society. In contrast to time spent with children, couples’ shared time is underresearched in a cross-national context. Previous studies from specific countries show that dual-earner couples spend less time together and that parents spend less time alone with each other.

Objective: The aim of our study is to investigate partnered parents’ shared time across countries to understand how social conditions, cultural norms, and policy contexts are related to the amount and nature of couples’ shared time. Specifically, we compare time spent with a partner in the United States, France, and Spain.

Methods: Studying data from national time use surveys conducted in the United States, France, and Spain, we extract information about who undertakes certain activities in order to examine three types of time shared with a partner for parents with children under age 10: total time with a partner indicates the minutes per day spent in the presence of a partner, exclusive time corresponds to the minutes per day spent alone with a partner when no one else is present, and family time indicates the minutes per day spent with a partner and a child at the same time.

Results: Our results show that US couples spend the least time together and Spanish couples spend the most time together. Parents in France spend the most time alone with each other. The most striking difference across countries is in time with a partner and children, which is much higher among Spanish families.

Conclusions: The constraints of paid work explain a small part of the differences in couples’ shared time observed between countries. Differences in couples’ shared time across countries seem to be related to social norms surrounding family and general time use.

Contribution: Examination of couples’ shared time in cross-national context is unexplored. By examining cross-national variation in work and family demands on parents’ time with a partner in three countries - the United States, Spain, and France - each with different social and policy contexts as well as cultural norms about the desire to spend more or less time with a partner, this research begins to fill the current void in the literature.

Author's Affiliation

Joan García-Román - University of Minnesota Twin Cities, United States of America [Email]
Sarah Flood - University of Minnesota Twin Cities, United States of America [Email]
Katie Genadek - United States Census Bureau, United States of America [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Measuring US fertility using administrative data from the Census Bureau
Volume 47 - Article 2

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» Household production and consumption over the life cycle: National Time Transfer Accounts in 14 European countries
Volume 36 - Article 32    | Keywords: cross-national research, time use

» Fifty years of change updated: Cross-national gender convergence in housework
Volume 35 - Article 16    | Keywords: cross-national research, time use

» Couples' paid work, state-level unemployment, and first births in the United States
Volume 45 - Article 38    | Keywords: parenthood

» Gendered intergenerational time transfers in Estonia
Volume 44 - Article 34    | Keywords: time use

» Japanese adolescents' time use: The role of household income and parental education
Volume 44 - Article 9    | Keywords: time use