Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Husbands' Participation in Housework and Child Care in India

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Husbands' Participation in Housework and Child Care in India

Article excerpt

A wealth of sociological research has found that men's and women's earnings in the labor market are significant predictors of the gendered division of housework. Much of this work supports bargaining, or relative resources, theory, which holds that individuals with greater relative earnings have power to influence decisions within the household, including the distribution of domestic labor (e.g., Brines, 1994; Kan, 2008). With respect to men's involvement in housework, the theory predicts that as women's share of household resources increases, husbands will do more housework. Additional scholarship has found that the bargaining model does not apply when men earn less than their wives. In female-breadwinner couples, men often perform less housework than their relative incomes would predict. The theory of gender deviance neutralization, also known as gender display, seeks to explain this behavior, arguing that these men counter their gender deviance in the labor market by enacting more traditional gendered behaviors at home, including reducing their participation in housework (e.g., Bittman, England, Folbre, Sayer, & Matheson, 2003; Greenstein, 2000; Schneider, 2011). Interestingly, research points to the disappearance of male gender display in recent decades, likely because nonbreadwinner husbands have become more egalitarian in their views toward sharing housework (Sullivan, 2011).

Empirical research testing theories of housework has largely been undertaken in Western countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Sweden, and Australia. These countries are characterized by relatively egalitarian gender ideology and norms of behavior (Stickney & Konrad, 2007) as well as expansive marital power for women. There are remarkably few investigations in non-Western contexts, where gender norms are more traditional, and women's power within marriage can be considerably constrained (Coltrane, 2010). In these settings, traditional gender norms often set limits on the household domains in which bargaining can occur (Agarwal, 1997). Some areas of household decision making are strictly gender segregated and offlimits to women's inputs regardless of their economic contributions. Other areas are more gender neutral, and women have power to negotiate their associated outcomes. The performance of housework is governed by societal norms as well. Some domestic tasks remain strictly within the female sphere within particular societies, and we propose that women cannot negotiate for husbands' participation in these activities regardless of their earnings share. With respect to more gender-neutral tasks regarding which women have more say, we expected husbands' participation to increase with women's relative earnings. Nevertheless, in developingcountry contexts where strong norms of male breadwinning persist, we expected male gender display to be pronounced when wives outearn their husbands.

Existing theories of bargaining and gender display need to incorporate the gendered nature of specific housework activities, and therefore studies should examine the determinants of tasks individually. Most previous research has collapsed housework activities into single measures, such as hours involved in a range of chores in a day or week (e.g., Brines, 1994; Schneider, 2011). This generalized view masks areas of household work that could be resistant to women's bargaining power in many non- Western contexts.

To address this gap in existing research, we examined the relationship between spouses' relative earnings and men's participation in multiple female-typed housework tasks in India. We conducted a mixed-methods investigation in a group of tea plantations, where workers have permanently migrated to live in the isolated mountain estates. We chose the unique tea estates setting for an exploration of bargaining power within marriage for two reasons. On the one hand, gender norms and ideology are relatively traditional in the tea estates, as in much of urban and rural India today (Chatterjee, 2001; Luke&Munshi, 2011; Ramu, 1987; Saraff& Srivastava, 2010; Shukla, 1987). …

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