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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

What a Difference When Husbands Help Out at Home!

The risk of divorce diminishes when husbands help at home with child care and other household tasks, according to Wendy Sigle-Rushton, a senior lecturer in the social policy department at the London School of Economics.

Sigle-Rushton published a study in April titled “Men’s Unpaid Work and Divorce.” It indicates that while there is an increased statistical risk of divorce when not only a husband, but his wife too, hold paying jobs in the work force, that risk is offset entirely when the husband helps out with their household’s “unpaid” work.

But while her study is particularly relevant to dual-income couples, its findings apply whether or not a wife has paid employment. Sigle-Rushton said, “I found that the risk of divorce is lower when fathers engage in the highest levels of [household tasks] and child care, regardless of their wives’ employment status.”

A husband’s involvement in the work of a household plays a role in stabilizing marriage in these times, according to Sigle-Rushton. She found that women’s marital happiness increases when husbands participate in the work that must be done at home.

This study is not the first to conclude that it is valuable for marriage today when both husbands and wives cooperate in household chores. The Washington-based Pew Research Center published a report in 2007 titled “Modern Marriage: ‘I Like Hugs. I Like Kisses. But What I Really Love Is Help With the Dishes.’” The Pew center found that American adults ranked “sharing household chores” third in importance on a list of nine items often associated with successful marriages.

The Pew Center said that “in the public’s ranking of keys to a successful marriage, ‘sharing household chores’” trailed “far behind the perennial leader – ‘faithfulness,’” which was rated “very important” by more than 90 percent of survey respondents. However, the center added, household chores actually were “nipping at the heels of the second-place item, ‘happy sexual relationship.’”

About 62 percent of adults surveyed by the Pew center felt that sharing in household chores is “very important to marital success,” with another three in 10 saying that this is “rather important to a successful marriage.”

The newly released research from the London School of Economics studied couples who had their first child in 1970. Commenting on the very high value often placed on men’s roles at home today, Sigle-Rushton said:

“That men’s failure to contribute to housework can increase the risk of divorce may seem surprising, given that all of the families in my sample had fairly young children over the time period they are followed and a divorce would have had substantial economic consequences and would not have relieved most mothers of housework and child care responsibilities.”

Sigle-Rushton’s study “underscores the importance of taking into account relationships between’s men’s behavior and marital stability,” she said.

About the author 
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.