Unequal housework = divorce? Couples housework, relationship satisfaction and dissolution

Leah Ruppanner, University of Melbourne
Maria Brandén, Stockholm University
Jani Turunen, Stockholm University

Equity theory posits that couples’ housework allocations have consequences for marital satisfaction and stability. Yet, the lack of couple-level data hinders direct exploration of how inconsistencies in couples’ housework reports structure these relationships. We address this limitation by applying Swedish data from the 2009 Young Adult Panel Study (YAPS; n=1,057 couples) to assess whether inequality in housework divisions and mismatches in couples’ housework reports structure relationship satisfaction and stability. Matching our sample with Swedish register data (2009-2014), we determine whether unequal housework divisions contribute to relationship dissolution. We find women who report performing the bulk of the housework are less likely to be satisfied with their relationships, and are more likely to consider breaking-up. Men are also less satisfied with their relationships in couples where women report performing the bulk of the housework. These unions are also more likely to dissolve. Using both partners’ housework reports, we find relationship satisfaction is lower for couples where one partner is under-benefitted, or both report one partner is doing the bulk of the housework. Yet, the most severe consequences are for housework mismatch, or where the male partner reports sharing equally yet the female partner reports doing more housework, as both partners report lower relationship satisfaction. Women in these partnerships also consider breaking-up, and the unions are more likely to dissolve. Our results identify that housework inequality has serious consequences for relationship quality and stability.

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Presented in Session 42: Well-being and family environment