Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Intersection of Time in Activities and Perceived Unfairness in Relation to Psychological Distress and Marital Quality

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Intersection of Time in Activities and Perceived Unfairness in Relation to Psychological Distress and Marital Quality

Article excerpt

This article investigates the perceived unfairness of paid work, household chores, and child care to self and spouse and its relation to psychological distress and marital quality We consider the effects of perceived unfairness on relations between time in role activities and distress and between time in activities and marital quality. The sample consists of mothers and fathers of children aged 10-17 years interviewed for the 1992-1994 National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH). The findings indicate that perceived unfairness to self is positively related to psychological distress .for mothers and negatively related to marital quality for mothers and fathers. However, perceived unfairness does not mediate relationships between time in activities and psychological distress and marital quality. Mothers' perceived unfairness of household chores to self exacerbates relationships between hours in household chores and psychological distress and marital disagreements, especially for mothers who are remarried or who hold an egalitarian gender ideology.

Equity theory suggests that perceptions of inequity or unfairness are based on the lack of a desired outcome, unfavorable comparisons with referent others, and no acceptable justification for being deprived of a desired outcome (Major, 1987; Thompson, 1991). Several studies using this approach have examined the sources and consequences of perceived unfairness of household chores, paid work, and child care to self and spouse. Studies of the sources of perceived unfairness have focused on the extent to which hours spent in household chores or the proportion of time in household chores performed by wives is associated with perceived unfairness to wives. Most of these studies have used data from Wave 1 of the NSFH. In general, studies of wives indicate that wives' hours in household chores are positively related to perceived unfairness to self. In addition, wives' doing more of the housework and child care than their husbands is positively related to perceived unfairness to self (Blair & Johnson, 1992; Hawkins, Marshall, & Meiners, 1995; John, Shelton, & Luschen, 1995; Mederer, 1993; Sanchez, 1994; Wilkie, Ferree, & Ratcliff, 1998). However, in other studies in which both the total hours and the proportion of hours in chores are included in the same regression equation, wives' proportion of hours in household chores is positively related to perceived unfairness to self, whereas total hours are not (Glass & Fujimoto, 1994; Sanchez & Kane,1996).

Several studies of husbands also examine whether their time in household chores is associated with their perceptions of unfairness to their wives. When husbands perform little household work, they may feel that they have benefited more from the arrangement than their wives. Husbands' hours in household chores and their proportion of time spent in traditionally female chores are negatively related to their perception that the division of household work is unfair to their wives (DeMaris & Longmore, 1996; John et al., 1995; Perry-Jenkins & Folk, 1994; Sanchez, 1994; Ward, 1993). Glass and Fujimoto (1994) also report that husbands' proportion of time doing paid work is negatively related to the perceived fairness to self of paid work, whereas total hours doing paid work are not. These studies consistently show that both husbands and wives perceive that, as far as household chores are concerned, wives' long hours, husbands' short hours, or wives' proportionally longer hours are unfair to the wife. Proportional measures generally show stronger results than the absolute number of hours.

This study examines the consequences of perceived unfairness to self and spouse of working for pay, doing household chores, and performing child care. We assess the impact of perceived unfairness on psychological distress and marital quality for married parents with children aged 10-17 years. The study focuses on how the perceived unfairness of paid work, household chores, and child care affects relationships between time in these activities and psychological distress and marital quality. …

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