Husband's job could determine whether a marriage will end in divorce

'Contemporary husbands face higher risk of divorce when they do not fulfil the stereotypical breadwinner role'

Harriet Sinclair
Saturday 30 July 2016 09:19 BST
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Will your relationship stand the test of time?
Will your relationship stand the test of time?

Husbands’ jobs appear to be an all-important factor in determining whether marriages stand the test of time, according to a new study on the impact of money on nuptial bliss.

While wages won’t make or break a couple, a paper by Harvard sociology professor Alexandra Killewald suggested that if a man was not the main breadwinner – because he was unemployed or had a part-time job – then divorce was more likely.

In May, a therapist who works with high-earning bankers told how many hated their jobs and were "dying inside" but feared their wives would leave them if they quit.

Professor Killewald said: “My results suggest that, in general, financial factors do not determine whether couples stay together or separate.

“Instead, couples' paid and unpaid work matters for the risk of divorce, even after adjusting for how work is related to financial resources.

“While contemporary wives need not embrace the traditional female homemaker role to stay married, contemporary husbands face higher risk of divorce when they do not fulfil the stereotypical breadwinner role, by being employed full-time."

The professor studied couples who were married pre- and post-1974 for the study, called Money, Work, and Marital Stability: Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce, which was published in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.

She found that for couples married prior to 1974 in which women did more housework than men, divorce was less likely.

But for couples married post-1974, the division of household labour had less of an impact on the length of the marriage than whether or not the husband was in full-time employment.

“Often when scholars or the media talk about work-family policies or work-family balance, they focus mostly on the experiences of women,” Professor Killewald said.

“Although much of the responsibility for negotiating that balance falls to women, my results suggest one way that expectations about gender and family roles and responsibilities affect men's lives, too: men who aren't able to sustain full-time work face heightened risk of divorce.”

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