Family responsibilities and domestic activities of US women physicians

Arch Fam Med. 2000 Feb;9(2):134-40. doi: 10.1001/archfami.9.2.134.


Background: Women physicians may have a multiplicity of domestic roles (eg, cook, housekeeper, child care provider) that are of inherent interest and that may affect their professional lives, but are largely unstudied.

Design, setting, participants, and main outcome measures: We report data from respondents (N = 4501) to the Women Physicians' Health Study, a cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study of a stratified random sample of US women MDs.

Results: Women physicians with children aged 0 to 17 years spent a median of 24.4 hours per week on child care. Women physicians typically spent half an hour per day cooking, and another half-hour per day on other housework. Little time was spent on gardening: a median of 0.05 hours (3 minutes) per week. Those performing more domestic tasks are likely to work fewer hours outside the home and to be on call less often. Women physicians who are married or widowed, have more children, have lower personal incomes, and have more highly educated and higher-earning spouses perform more domestic activities. We found no significant adverse relationship between time spent on any domestic activity and career satisfaction or mental or physical health.

Conclusions: Women physicians spend little time on domestic activities that can be done for them by others, including cooking, housework, and especially gardening. Women physicians spend somewhat less time on child care and substantially less time on housework than do other US women. Despite abundant editorializing about role conflicts of women physicians, our measures of career satisfaction and mental health were not adversely affected by time spent on domestic obligations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Care*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Cooking*
  • Female
  • Household Work*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Marital Status
  • Medicine
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Women / psychology
  • Physicians, Women / statistics & numerical data*
  • Specialization
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance