A study from a Harvard University researcher finds that men who don’t work full-time are more likely to get divorced. Harvard sociology professor Alexandra Killewald examined data from 1968 to 2013 and concluded that “the husband breadwinner norm persists” and “husbands’ lack of full-time employment is associated with a higher risk of divorce.” Neither salary nor the wife’s working situation factor into the equation. Division of household labour is also not associated with divorce risk.
Killwild, who studied over 6,300 heterosexual couples as part of her study, told Fatherly.com that society has a tough time getting away from the breadwinner mentality.
“Culturally, our expectation is that men who can work should work,” she explained. “That hasn’t changed. We still expect men to be the breadwinner. That doesn’t mean women can’t as well.”
Killwald believes the reason behind this could be high expectations for both men and women. A man may get depressed or drink more alcohol if he can’t contribute what’s expected. A woman may think her partner isn’t a good husband if he doesn’t work full-time. “Another possibility is that other people around the couple could have opinions about him being out of work and that could affect the stability. The social network could provide less support,” she added.
Killwald did not find any evidence that salary plays a part in the scenario. It’s irrelevant who earns more money. It doesn’t matter if the husband works full time and the wife makes more money or if the husband doesn’t have a big paycheck. The work itself is the issue. “It speaks to expectations that men work full-time for pay,” she noted.
As for why the breadwinner expectation carries on, Killdwald explained that feminism gave women more options when it came to work and financial independence. However, caregiving is not considered prestigious, and men are not expected to step up to the task. “There hasn’t been a social movement that has men protesting for paternity leave. I think that many men do wish they could spend more time with their kids,” she said.
Men are expected to work full-time, giving them fewer options, particularly if they are fathers. And there’s a stigma attached to dads who choose to work part-time. “When men deviate, like not working full-time, it may cause a strain because it’s a new circumstance for a couple,” Killwald said, adding that there hasn’t been a high-profile social movement advocating for men’s options in the workplace.
Killwald would like to see additional research on couples with husbands who cut back their work schedules or have flexible, full-time schedules enabling them to engage more in caregiving activities.
The research also examined the amount of housework men perform. These days, they do on average 28 percent compared to 19 per cent pre-1975. In 90 percent of the couples, the women did at least 50 percent of the housework.