Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Divison of Labor, Perceived Fairness, and Marital Quality: The Effect of Gender Ideology

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Divison of Labor, Perceived Fairness, and Marital Quality: The Effect of Gender Ideology

Article excerpt

This study assesses the relations between division of household labor, perceived fairness, and marital quality by comparing three ethnic-religious groups in Israel that reflect traditional, transitional, and egalitarian ideologies. The findings, based on structural equation modeling (SEM) methodology, show that sense of fairness mediates the relation between division of labor and marital quality and gender ideology moderates these relations for women but not for men. Perceived fairness is related to the division of labor for women in egalitarian and transitional families but not in traditional ones. For egalitarian women, a more segregated division of labor is linked directly with lower marital quality whereas for women in transitional families it is mediated by sense of fairness. The findings are discussed on two overlapping levels-conceptual-theoretical and sociocultural-with implications for understanding families in cultural transition.

Key Words: division of labor, equity, gender ideology, Isreal, marital quality.

In the past decade, there has been growing interest in the causes and consequences of the way in which household tasks are allocated. A large volume of research has focused on predictors of the allocation of household tasks, demonstrating its association with a host of factors including employment and relative earnings of husbands and wives, as well as cultural norms and beliefs. In his review of research on the division of household labor during the 1990s, Coltrane (2000) concluded that although men's relative contributions have increased, women still do at least twice as much routine housework as men. Inequality in the division of household labor, in turn, is associated with women's sense of unfairness, depression, and marital dissatisfaction, whereas men's participation in routine repetitive chores is the primary predictor of marital satisfaction (Coltrane, 2000).

In regard to the link between division of household labor and outcome measures such as marital satisfaction, two hypotheses have been posited: (a) The mediating hypothesis of perceived fairness states that inequality in the division of household labor affects marital satisfaction mainly through perceptions of unfairness; and (b) the moderating hypothesis of gender role ideology states that gender ideology shapes the perception of fairness of the division of labor and the extent to which perceived fairness is linked to marital satisfaction, thereby moderating the associations between division of household labor, perceived fairness, and marital quality. Although both hypotheses have received some empirical attention, findings regarding the mediating effect of perceived fairness are mixed and inconclusive. Additionally, research on the moderating effect of gender ideology has typically been discussed in terms of traditional and egalitarian gender ideologies with only scant attention given to families in transition, who are located somewhere in the middle.

In concluding his review, Coltrane (2000) recommended that future research should specify in more detail "how the performance of housework in different families is implicated in various cultural, economic, and gender-reproductive processes" (p. 1227) and how gender ideology influences fairness evaluations and individual well-being. Along this line, the present study extends previous research by examining both the mediating and moderating hypotheses through a comparison of three ethnic-religious groups in Israel that reflect traditional, transitional, and egalitarian family patterns.

DIVISION OF LABOR AND MARITAL QUALITY: THE MEDIATING EFFECT OF PERCEIVED FAIRNESS

Despite the tendency of both women and men to report that the division of labor is fair, research shows significant associations between various characteristics of the division of household labor and perceived justice. In particular, the greater the men's contribution to household tasks, especially those typically relegated to women (Blair & Johnson, 1992; Demo & Acock, 1993; Sanchez, 1994), and the more balanced the relative contribution of husbands and wives to such tasks (DeMaris & Longmore, 1996; Hawkins, Marshall, & Meiners, 1995; Lennon & Rosenfield, 1994), the higher the sense of fairness in regard to division of labor. …

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