A New Divorce Study Suggests that It Does!
I confess that I am a bit of a junkie of surveys and studies. So I am always on the lookout for interesting ones that relate to family and/or divorce issues. Recently, I came across this Norwegian study that found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally with their husband was around 50 percent higher than among those where the wives did most of the housework. I showed write-ups about it to my wife of 34 years, and she immediately scowled and dismissively said something like, “Yeah right.” So at the risk of alienating my wife and also being politically incorrect, I decided to share the findings here.
In what many may conclude is a slap in the face of gender equality, the report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally, was around 50 percent higher than among those where the woman did most of the housework.
“What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment,” said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the divorce study entitled, “Equality in the Home”. “The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate”.
The researchers expected to find that where men shouldered more of the burden, women’s happiness levels would be higher. In fact, they found that it was the men who were happier while their wives appeared to be largely unmoved.
Norway is different than the United States. Norway has a long tradition of gender equality and child rearing is shared equally between mothers and fathers in 70 percent of cases. But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples. The divorce study did emphasize that women who did most of the chores did so of their own choice and were “happy” as those wives considered to be living in “modern” relationships.
The divorce study attempted to contrast “traditional” versus “modern” couples. The “modern” couples were described as both having a high level of education and enjoying well-paid jobs. According to the author these modern couples “are extremely sensitive to making sure everything is formal, laid out and contractual. That makes for a fairly fraught relationship. The more you organize your relationship, the more you work out diaries and schedules, the more it becomes a business relationship than an intimate, loving spontaneous one.”
Researchers found no, or very little, cause-and-effect. Rather, they saw in the correlation a sign of “modern” attitudes. One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but these statistics show the opposite. The figures clearly show that the more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate.
The reasons according to Thomas Hansen lay only partially with the chores themselves. “Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes…there could be less quarrels since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight.”
Divorce Rates Higher For Couples From Middle-Class Professional Backgrounds
Dr Frank Furedi, a Sociology professor at the University of Canterbury in the UK, said the divorce study made sense in his mind as chore sharing took place more among couples from middle-class professional backgrounds, where divorce rates are known to be high. He wisely boiled it all down to this: “In a good relationship people simply don’t know who does what and don’t particularly care.”
Divorce Study Conclusion
Perhaps this post will balance the score a bit with some of our male readers who saw my post about the recent divorce study finding a significant link between men whose parents divorced and a higher chance of them suffering a stroke. Honestly, I have no idea about the significance or reliability of this divorce study. I see that there are other ones with contrary findings. In my mind the real value in posting it is that is perhaps it will be a vehicle to start a dialogue between spouses about chores and expectations. That would be worthwhile!
In any event, after all this work of researching and writing this divorce article, I think it’s time for me to put down my “job jar”. You know what? I think I need to grab my remote as I am ready for some football!
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.