The Effect of Gender Norms on the Risk of Divorce

The Effect of Gender Norms on the Risk of Divorce

The modern day families are rapidly becoming individualized. The nuclear family was characterized by married heterosexual partners, the traditional division of labor and with children. The mentioned is presently under a challenge. In the 20th century, there was a rise in the participation of women in the labor market. This made both wife and husband participate in paid employment. Therefore, it is evident that a shift in the traditional division of labor where males no longer represent the only source of income as women started taking on a full-time job has affected marital stability and increased the risk of divorce, in particular, if the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 Killewald (2016, p. 697) divorce takes place if the women beliefs she will be better off when divorced than stating in a marriage. The author further argues that there are high rates of divorce if partners do not depend on the marriage for financial stability. This makes them to exit the marriage easily and happily. On the other hand Killewald (2016, p. 698), argues that the income of the both spouses is likely to minimize the financial strain that both partners experiences. This is because there is possibility of the couples spending their leisure time together rather than using the extra hours to supplement the family income. Therefore, it is evident that the income of the wives minimizes chances of divorces, particularly if the husband is earning less.  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, Killewald (2016, p. 700) emphasises that 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.

According to Greenstein (1995, p. 31) 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. Greenstein, (1995, p. 32) further adds that white women are employed approximately 35 hours weekly, and even more. This makes to them to have 60% risks of developing marriage issues over a period of 5 years.  The author further adds that the work history of the wife is positively linked to divorce. 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. 32) further points out 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 Bird (1999, p. 33), husbands lower contributions in sharing the household chores is a major contributor in gender difference in terms of depression. The author further adds that inequity experienced in unpaid household labour has higher effect on distress compared to the amount of work done. Therefore, employment moderates the impact of the division of the household duties on stress/depression.  Depression rates were reported lowest for individuals who do 79.8% of the household duties.  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 (Bird 1999, p. 36), This can be attributed to the fact that 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.

According to equity theory, when people participate in inequitable relationships, they are likely to be distressed (Yogev and Brett 1985, p. 610),   Therefore, the higher a partner perceives spouses share in the domestic chores, the greater the marital satisfaction hence reduced divorce risks. Yogev and Brett (1985, p. 614), further points out that spouses who are happy in their marriages are those who share the household responsibilities. The author further adds that wives are happier in marriages where they feel less burdened with family responsibilities due the fact that their husbands have shunned the traditional models are positively making contributions to the family domestic chores. 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. 614) 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.

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.


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