Gendered expectations in marriage bad for men too: study

Gendered expectations in marriage bad for men too: study

Gendered expectations in marriage bad for men too: study
Gendered expectations in marriage are not just bad for women, but also detrimental for men, a new study has found. Using data on a nationally representative group of married men and women over 15 years, researchers examined the relationship between men's and women's relative income contributions and found that, in general, as men took on more financial responsibility in their marriages, their psychological well-being and health declined.

Men's psychological well-being and health were at their worst during years when they were their families' sole breadwinner, researchers from University of Connecticut (UConn) in the US said.

In these years, they had psychological well-being scores that were 5 per cent lower and health scores that were 3.5 per cent lower, on average, than in years when their partners contributed equally.

"A lot of what we know about how gender plays out in marriage focuses on the ways in which women are disadvantaged," said Christin Munsch from UConn. "For example, women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, and they still perform the lion's share of housework. Our study contributes to a growing body of research that demonstrates the ways in which gendered expectations are harmful for men too," said Munsch.

"Men are expected to be breadwinners, yet providing for one's family with little or no help has negative repercussions," he added. Breadwinning has the opposite effect for women when it comes to psychological well-being. Women's psychological well-being improved as they made greater economic contributions, researchers said.

Conversely, as they contributed less relative to their spouses, their psychological well-being declined. Relative income was unrelated to women's health, they said. Munsch attributes these psychological well-being differences to cultural expectations for men and women.

"Men who make a lot more money than their partners may approach breadwinning with a sense of obligation and worry about maintaining breadwinner status," said Munsch. "Women, on the other hand, may approach breadwinning as an opportunity or choice. Breadwinning women may feel a sense of pride, without worrying what others will say if they cannot or do not maintain it," she said.

According to Munsch, the findings are good news given that both husbands and wives usually work. "Our study finds that decoupling breadwinning from masculinity has concrete benefits for both men and women," said Munsch.

"Whereas men's psychological well-being and health tend to increase as their wives take on more economic responsibility, women's psychological well-being also improves as they take on more economic responsibility," she added.

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