Washington: Men’s psychological well-being and health are at the worst when they are the sole breadwinner of the family, according to a new study which shows that gendered expectations in marriage may affect both sexes, not just women.
Using data on group of married men and women over 15 years, researchers examined the relationship between men’s and women’s relative income contributions.
They found that as men took on more financial responsibility in their marriages, their psychological well-being and health declined.
During the years when men were the families’ sole breadwinner, they had psychological well-being scores that were five per cent lower and health scores that were 3.5 per cent lower, on average, than in years when their partners contributed equally.
“A lot of what we know about how gender plays out in marriage focuses on the ways in which women are disadvantaged,” said Christin Munsch, professor at University of Connecticut in the US.
“For example, women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, and they still perform the lion’s share of housework,” Munsch said.
“Our study contributes to a growing body of research that demonstrates the ways in which gendered expectations are harmful for men too,” she said.
“Men are expected to be breadwinners, yet providing for one’s family with little or no help has negative repercussions,” she added.
Breadwinning has the opposite effect for women when it comes to psychological well-being. Women’s psychological well-being improved as they made greater economic contributions.
Conversely, as they contributed less relative to their spouses, their psychological well-being declined.
Munsch attributes these psychological well-being differences to cultural expectations for men and women.
“Men who make a lot more money than their partners may approach breadwinning with a sense of obligation and worry about maintaining breadwinner status,” said Munsch.
“Women, on the other hand, may approach breadwinning as an opportunity or choice. Breadwinning women may feel a sense of pride, without worrying what others will say if they can’t or don’t maintain it,” she said.
“Our study finds that decoupling breadwinning from masculinity has concrete benefits for both men and women,” said Munsch.
“Whereas men’s psychological well-being and health tend to increase as their wives take on more economic responsibility, women’s psychological well-being also improves as they take on more economic responsibility,” she said.