Social scientists at UCLA stuck film crews and cortisol monitors in 32 family homes. From 2002-2005, they videotaped "nearly every waking, at-home moment during the week." Unsurprisingly, this was more stressful on the researchers than it was on the families.
One anthropologist the New York Times that the study is "the richest, most detailed, most complete database of middle-class family living in the world." He was not involved in the research. Another childless researcher who spent days on end observing the minutae of family life called it "the very purest form of birth control ever devised. Ever." Which makes sense: What they did was basically watch a 3 year-long episode of Big Brother except nothing actually interesting ever happened and half the contestants were belligerent five year-olds.
They survived, and here are their initial findings, according to the Times:
- Moms do most of the house work: They spend 27 percent of their time compared with 18 percent for dads.
- Moms also spend more time alone with the kid: 34 percent compared to 25 percent for dads
- Parents are never alone: They spend just 10 percent of their waking life alone in the house.
- Women like to talk about their day; men not so much. Researchers measured levels of the stress-related coritsol throughout the day and found that
The more that women engaged with their husbands in the evening, talking about the day, the faster their cortisol dropped. But the men's levels tapered more slowly when talking with a spouse.
- Spouses hate each other: The couples that were least stressed had a strictly defined division of labor so they didn't get in each other's way.
- Every single tiny aspect of family life takes an insane amount of co-ordination and fighting.
Another important piece of evidence in the growing scientific consensus that you should never have kids unless you want to be consistently miserable.