Couple runs with baby stroller

Couple runs with baby stroller

Want to spice up your sex life? Make child care a 50-50 proposition. That’s what sociology researchers from Georgia State University in Atlanta told an audience at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in  August.

The Georgia research team, led by Assistant Professor Daniel Carlson, compared relationship satisfaction based on data gleaned from a 2006 survey of heterosexual couples with children. The researchers did not design the Marital Relationship Study (MARS) themselves but survey details included:

  • 487 couples, married and unmarried, who lived together in a household with their children.
  • Combined family income was $50,000 or less.
  • Self-reporting of overall relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and participation in childcare responsibility.
  • Each member of the couple, male and female, responded independently to the survey.

Childcare responsibility categorized the couples as:

  • 50-50% split of responsibility.
  • 60% or more done by the woman.
  • 60% or more done by the man.

Childcare was defined as:

  • Making and enforcing rules.
  • Meting out punishment for broken rules.
  • Issuing praise appropriately.
  • Monitoring and supervising.
  • Playing with the children.

Carlson said the survey did not identify feeding, bathing, and diapering as specific parental responsibilities so it is unknown how these tasks affect relationship and sexual satisfaction. Household chores, inside and outside the home, were not included, either.

Some findings were expected; others were surprising.

  • 50-50 split — These couples reported high levels of satisfaction with their overall relationship and high levels of sexual satisfaction. They reported relationship solidarity, fewer conflicts, more open communications, and more intimacy.
  • 60% or more done by the woman — This group was the unhappiest of the three. Men and women alike reported something missing in both overall relationships and sexual satisfaction.
  • 60% or more done by the man — These couples described their relationships as just as strong as the 50-50 couples and they engaged in sexual activities about as often, too. These women reported higher degrees of sexual satisfaction than those in the 50-50 group but not so the men. These men were OK with the amount of sex the couple had but they weren’t so happy with its quality.

Carlson says “Satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, is a strong predictor of how much conflict a couple has.” It also contributes to how well couples enjoy being together.

“It could be that a relationship suffers when one person feels overburdened, overworked, or overtired. Or it could be that a certain degree of dissatisfaction with having to do all the work, while the other isn't doing any of it, undermines the bond between couples. And that can carry over to the bedroom," Carlson speculates.

Bottom line? The kids belong to both parents. Splitting the childcare chores as evenly as possible just might be an aphrodisiac that actually works.


  1. "Want a better relationship and a better sex life?" EurekAlert! Georgia State University, 23 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
  2. Parker, Kim, and Wendy Wang. "Modern Parenthood: Roles of Moms and Dads Converge as They Balance Work and Family." Pew Research Center / Social & Demographic Trends. The Pew Charitable Trusts, 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.