Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Division of Labor, Gender Ideology, and Marital Satisfaction in East Asia

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Division of Labor, Gender Ideology, and Marital Satisfaction in East Asia

Article excerpt

Economic, political, and demographic transformations are occurring in East Asian societies, driven by industrialization, urbanization, and closer integration into world markets (Vogel, 1993). These forces have increased women's educational and employment opportunities, but the gendered division of labor remains stubbornly entrenched (Oshio, Nozaki, & Kobayashi, 2013). What may have changed in East Asian societies is women's perceptions of the fairness of unequal divisions of labor and their alternatives to entering and remaining in an unsatisfactory marriage. In Western societies, unequal shares of housework reduce marital satisfaction, and the negative association is stronger in countries with egalitarian gender norms, particularly those with cultural beliefs that spouses should equally share work and family roles (Greenstein, 2009).

The diffusion of Western ideals of egalitarian partnerships that has accompanied modernization and globalization suggests that inequalities in the gendered division of labor should also reduce marital satisfaction in East Asian societies (Casterline, 2001; Cherlin, 2004; Wong & Goodwin, 2009). However, the historical-cultural emphasis on familism and gender specialization in East Asian societies (Slote & De Vos, 1998) may function to normalize women's greater and men's lesser time investments in housework, even among egalitarian spouses, and thus remove the gendered division of labor as a source of marital dissatisfaction. This study contributes to the literature on gender and family change by taking a cross-national comparative approach to investigate the independent and joint influences of the gendered division of labor and gender ideology on marital satisfaction among women and men in four East Asian societies.

Research on industrialized Western countries indicates that the gendered division of household labor and its consequences for family outcomes vary across national contexts. Women do more housework than men across the contemporary world (Sayer, 2010), but the division of housework is more egalitarian in countries with higher levels of aggregate gender equality, full-time employment of mothers, public child care, and access to paternity leave (Fuwa, 2004;Hook,2010;Knudsen&Waerness,2008). A more egalitarian division of housework is associated with increased levels of perceived fairness and marital satisfaction, especially for women who espouse egalitarian gender ideologies (Coltrane, 2000; Greenstein, 1996; Lavee & Katz, 2002; Yodanis, 2010). Associations are contingent on national levels of gender equity because these provide a comparative referent that married women use in forming perceptions of justice about the division of household labor (Greenstein, 2009). National levels of gender equity are associated with public policies and organizational structures of employment and care. These affect women's perceptions about the compatibility of work and family and thus options within and outside of marriage. Structures of employment that influence ability to harmonize work and family continue to vary across East Asian societies (Yu, 2009). Hence, we anticipate that the complex nexus of the division of labor, gender ideology, and marital satisfaction should also vary across East Asian societies.

Greenstein (2009) has suggested that in countries with greater gender equity in nonfamily (e.g., economic, educational, political, health) domains, women are less likely to accept micro-level gender inequalities as "fair," which leads to a stronger association between gendered divisions of housework and perceptions of fairness as well as stronger associations between perceptions of fairness and satisfaction with family life. Theoretically, macro-level gender equity is positively associated with gender egalitarianism at home because of three mechanisms (Yu & Lee, 2013). First, women have more opportunities outside of marriage and thus can bargain more effectively in relationships because their "threat point," or ability to leave unsatisfactory relationships, is more credible. …

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