Working wives help marriages last, shows study

30 May, 2007: The marriages of women who work outside the home are more likely to stay stronger than the marriages of those who do not, a new study conducted in the United States has revealed.

The findings may give satisfaction to about 67 million women in the United States who are married and working.

The study also reflects a growing equity among couples when it comes to income, decision-making, parenting and housekeeping. If working wives promote stability at home, the trend is likely to reinforce arguments for more paid paternal leave and more help with child care.

Stacy Rogers, sociologist co-author of the book Alone Together: How Marriage in America Is Changing, says of the findings: “It is good in so many ways, but let us move on.”

Sociologists had, from 1980 onwards, struggled to find clarity in a fast-changing domestic world of rising marriage ages, more cohabitation, and rising incomes for women. Confounding them was the numerous domestic effects based on whether a wife wanted to work or had to work.

As time went on, things got simplified – more wives worked and made more money, more husbands appreciated it and more families adapted to the new situation. This was the essence of Stacy Rogers’ book comparing the attitudes of married couples in 1980 with those in 2000.

The main shift was from the traditional breadwinner-homemaker marriages to what the authors call ‘egalitarian marriages.’ In the so-called egalitarian marriages, husbands and wives share decision-making power more equally and housekeeping and child-care duties more equitably.

The number of such marriages rose during the period from 1980 to 2000. These couples were happier than in traditional marriages, according to the book Alone Together: How Marriage in America Is Changing.

During the 20-year period from 1980 to 2000, wives’ contribution to family income rose sharply – from 21% to 32%. Also, the wives generally did less housework, while husbands did more. Grumbling about unfairness shifted accordingly.

The shift to more equitable housework may have helped marital stability since wives initiate about two-thirds of divorces in the United States.




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