The Impact of Gender Norms on Divorce Risk
Families in today’s world are increasingly becoming more individualized. The nuclear family was defined by married heterosexual couples, conventional labor division, and the presence of children. The above-mentioned is currently being challenged. Women’s involvement in the labor market increased throughout the twentieth century. This forced both the wife and the husband to work for a living. As a result, it is clear that a change in the conventional division of labor, in which men are no longer the sole source of income as women begin to work full-time, has harmed marital stability and and increased the risk of divorce, in particular, if the male no longer fulfills the gender norm of being full-time employed.
In the 1880s, the belief in the separate work spheres for women and men gained momentum in the U.S. Prior to the 19th century, men and women worked together in the farms, doing different duties, but mutually working to run family business or farm. Following industrialization, a high percentage of men joined the paid labor force and worked away from home. Women were perceived as pure, loving and innocent; hence they were suited to take care of the family and home. Therefore, for women, homemaking was an ideal profession. Consequently, the notion that the place of women was in the house and glorification of traditional roles of women was rampant before the industrialization age. Women were glorified as submissive and pure while men were greedy, aggressive and competitive in nature. Studies reveal that the gender roles have been shifting, and this has affected marriages.
According to Yogev and Brett (1985, p. 603), presently, there is a high percentage of women who have similar careers as their male counterparts. Studies show that career women have less time for family and relationships. This is true for demanding careers such as medicine and law. Furthermore, the decisions on how to divide the unpaid and paid work do not occur in the societal vacuum. The female homemaker and male breadwinner models are still prevalent even in the western nations, despite women entering the labor force in significant numbers and gender norms shifting and becoming egalitarian during the 20th century. As a result, gender equity norms emerged, which implied that when spouses spend equal time in the workplace, there is a high chance to have an equitable division of work with household chores (Greenstein 1995, p.38). This increases happiness and minimizes the odds of conflict and risks of divorce.
Killewald (2016, p. 697) further argues that in the female caregiver and male breadwinner societies, gender specialization heightens the mutual dependence of couples, and hence ensure family stability. Additionally, in the process of attaining dual-earner partners, economic empowerment of women reduces their dependence on men. This is a threat to specialization benefits and increases the risk of divorce. Therefore, when women and men are taking part in the labor market, the division of unpaid and paid work in the family changes into the negotiation between partners based on preferences and relative wages. In this case, alternatives to marriage are perceived as significant determinants of spouses bargaining power. Therefore, it is evident that empowerment of women can contribute to divorce.
Bird (1999, p. 45) points out that there is something inherent particularly in the employment of married ladies. This is because they have the anticipation of working far from their families and this makes divorce so attractive to them. The mentioned indicates that employment of wives is a contributing factor to divorce. In the real sense, it does not result in marital conflict, but it is an avenue for conflict for partners who are already conflicting. Consequently, employment removes women from home, hence making them shun homemaking duties, with the possibility of increasing not only stress but also clashes in the marriage.
Greenstein (1995, p. 34) argues that if society holds that female employment reduces the marital stability because of the resulting conflicts related to the traditional division of labor, then there is a possibility of married women possessing traditional gender attitudes. This might demonstrate a minimal impact on their employment status and marital relationships. Therefore, traditional women who readily accept the doctrine of separate responsibilities, whereby the ideal marriage entails a supporting husband and dependence wife, stability is likely to reign in the marriage. On the other hand, non-traditional wives will find the inequality exhibited in the division of household labor inequitable and onerous. This is likely to contribute to reduced marital stability, lead to conflict and tear the marriage apart.
According to equity theory, when people participate in inequitable relationships, they are likely to be distressed. Therefore, the higher a partner perceives spouses share in the domestic chores, the greater the marital satisfaction hence reduced divorce risks. Drawing from Yogev and Brett (1985, p. 609), even though the role of men is directly associated with their potential income earnings, lack of employment threatens gender identity and further interferes with gender relations. Men are used to higher income levels because they are considered as household heads and breadwinners. However, the mentioned is not always the case when men feel that their wives have displaced them due to their higher earnings. This results in tension that contributes to family disintegration and stress. Additionally, women blame their husbands when the family faces the financial crisis and blame for not finding a well-paying job for sustenance. Underemployed or unemployed husbands feel angry and emasculated to the extent of losing their tempers and hitting their wives or children. This leads to domestic violence, a major contributing factor to divorce. Conceptually, when men find it challenging to find employment, they not only give up but also neglect their families (Greenstein 1995, p. 39).
Furthermore, a lot of attention has been drawn to the possibility of inequality on household labor and its association with divorce. Nonetheless, there is a link between marital happiness, conflict and satisfaction and domestic division of labor. It is evident that equitable arrangement can contribute to higher satisfaction and happiness reducing the risks of divorce. Yogev and Brett (1985, p. 610) in their works examined the link between fairness in completing household responsibilities and divorce, marital happiness and the speculation that dissatisfaction with domestic chores arrangement might reduce marital satisfaction among couples, hence heightening the odds of divorce. Further citing Bird (1999, p. 32) perceived inequity in domestic labor division could be associated with wives and husbands.
Conclusively, it is evident that there is a need to ensure equity in the division of domestic roles. This will ensure satisfaction and happiness among couples thus minimizing the odds of divorce. Society should accept that roles of women have changed, and they are increasingly undertaking male dominated careers. The significant thing is that there should be a balance between the distribution of household roles between husbands and wives and the paid labor. This would reduce tension and stress that can result in conflict, hence increase the odds of divorce. However, inequality alone does not cause divorce. There are other cofounded factors.
Bird, C.E., 1999. Gender, household labor, and psychological distress: The impact of the amount and division of housework. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 40(1), pp.32-45.
Greenstein, T.N., 1995. Gender ideology, marital disruption, and the employment of married women. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57(1), pp.31-42.
Killewald, A., 2016. Money, Work, and Marital Stability Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce. American Sociological Review, 81(4), pp.696-719.
Yogev, S. and Brett, J., 1985. Perceptions of the division of housework and child care and marital satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47(3), pp.609-618.