Women having careers could be the secret of a happy marriage

According to a recent study involving four thousand couples in the UK, in couples where the female partner is the main breadwinner, there is less likelihood of divorce in comparison to ‘traditional’ households.

The study was published in the journal Sociology and contrary to the traditional view that families would be undermined by women having careers, has found that, overall, couples who have children and where the female partner or wife earns the highest salary, are no more likely to divorce than families where the male partner ears the most money.

In addition, couples with pre-school children and a female partner with the highest salary were up to 80 per cent less likely to split up.

The study was co-authored by Dr Shireen Kanji from Leicester University’s School of Management and Dr Pia Schober from the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin. Dr Kanji and Dr Schober analysed data from the Millennium Cohort Survey, a major study which has recorded information on the lives of children who were born in 2000 and their families.

Dr Kanji’s and Dr Schober’s aim was to put to the test the traditional idea that when women are ‘dependent’ on men, this is a vital bond that helps to hold families together and whether this could be statistically proven. Their conclusion is, that whilst this many have once been the case, there is no longer any evidence that this is still true.

The study divided couples into groups according to how much less the mother earned, with less being defined as 20 per cent less than the father. Couples were also divided into groups according to how old their child is. In the majority of cases, there was no statistically increased risk of divorce or separation for families where the mother brings home a higher salary than the father. Couples with a female breadwinner and children aged between three and five years, were significantly less likely to separate.

Dr Kanji cited papers which dated back as far as the 1940s, explaining that: “Sociological and economic theories have long predicted that women’s increased economic independence would undermine the institution of marriage.

“The reasoning was that interdependence, in the sense of specialisation in paid and unpaid work between husband and wife, was the glue keeping couples together.

“Such perspectives did not envision that women could be the ones to specialise in paid work, or that a desire for greater gender equality or a need to mitigate the risk of relying on one male-earner income could keep relationships together.”

Dr Kanji added: “In some periods, a mother being the main or an equal earner is associated with a lower risk of relationship breakdown than for male-breadwinner couples, and more so within cohabiting than married couples.

“However, these results do not necessarily signal a victory for gender equality.

“Mother-main earner and equal-earner couples are not at a higher risk of splitting up, but they do overwhelmingly change to a male-breadwinner model.

“The proportions of couples in which the mother is the main or equal earner decrease significantly as the first child ages.”


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