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High five, dads! You split housework evenly with moms — or so you think

Dads admit that moms handle more of the child-rearing, but they think they're splitting household chores equally. (They're not.)
/ Source: TODAY

It's the stuff TV sitcom couples have bickered about it for decades, and according to a recent Pew Research Center report, it’s true.

Dads believe they do more work around the house than they actually do.

While families with working parents have improved how they divvy up the household duties over the years, moms are still doing the heavy lifting — and moms know it.

The Pew researchers asked 1,807 parents questions about work and family life, including questions about both domestic chores and child rearing.

They found that both parents are most likely to admit that moms tackles more of the child-rearing tasks, but dads often think they’re splitting household chores equally when they’re not.

Although the survey results were self-reported, the team compared its findings with data on how Americans spend their time — and that data syncs up with the the new research, says Juliana Menasce Horowitz, an associate director for social trends research at Pew Research Center. In two career families, according to the data, moms spend an extra hour caring for kids and dads spend an extra hour at work.

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While the Pew report shines a light on domesticity in America, the results underscore the very real human behavior of what experts call over-claiming.

“Over-claiming of this kind is a very common phenomena,” says Nicholas Epley, the John T. Keller Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago. “People tend to think well of themselves so when you are asking them about something good they have done, they say they do more because that is consistent with who they are.”

Epley says a host of things may have factored into the different perceptions. The Pew survey questions, for example, were written vaguely, meaning people might struggle to answer accurately.

If the questions asked how often each took out the trash or swept the floor, people might have been able to answer more precisely.

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But, in general, says Epley, people tend to claim more responsibility. Past research even indicates that when asked about both positive and negative things — such as who does more around the house and who picks more fights — both partners over-claim their roles.

Self-centeredness, for lack of a better word, could also play a role. People know themselves best and so they’re aware of when they wash the dishes, dust, or do laundry.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the things that you do,” says Epley. “It doesn’t mean you can’t think about what your spouse did, you just need to be nudged to do that.”

The problem with over-claiming — at home or at work — is that it can lead to some real unhappiness.

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“The dissatisfaction part comes not from thinking you are put out all the time. The dissatisfaction is [the feeling] that you are being put out all the time and others are not,” Epley says.

Of course, there could be other reasons moms and dads estimate their households contributions differently.

One person may not know what their spouse or partner is doing, says Menasce Horowitz.

Or maybe people value different tasks differently.

"It could be that your idea of doing something is different than someone else’s,” she says.