Housewife or working mum-each to her own? The relevance of societal factors in the association between social roles and alcohol use among mothers in 16 industrialized countries

Sandra Kuntsche*, Ronald A. Knibbe, Emmanuel Kuntsche, Gerhard Gmel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims To investigate whether differences in gender-income equity at country level explain national differences in the links between alcohol use, and the combination of motherhood and paid labour. Design Cross-sectional data in 16 established market economies participating in the Gender, Alcohol and Culture: An International Study (GenACIS) study. Setting Population surveys. Participants A total of 12 454 mothers (aged 25-49 years). Measurements Alcohol use was assessed as the quantity per drinking day. Paid labour, having a partner, gender-income ratio at country level and the interaction between individual and country characteristics were regressed on alcohol consumed per drinking day using multi-level modelling. Findings Mothers with a partner who were in paid labour reported consuming more alcohol on drinking days than partnered housewives. In countries with high gender-income equity, mothers with a partner who were in paid labour drank less alcohol per occasion, while alcohol use was higher among working partnered mothers living in countries with lower income equity. Conclusion In countries which facilitate working mothers, daily alcohol use decreases as female social roles increase; in contrast, in countries where there are fewer incentives for mothers to remain in work, the protective effect of being a working mother (with partner) on alcohol use is weaker. These data suggest that a country's investment in measures to improve the compatibility of motherhood and paid labour may reduce women's alcohol use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1925-1932
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • Alcohol use
  • GenACIS
  • gender income ratio
  • international comparisons
  • mothers
  • paid labour
  • social roles

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