A new study from the University of Connecticut reports that being the family breadwinner is bad for the wellbeing of men but that the same role is good for women.
It also uses "breadwinning" as a verb but in a world of such radically altered gender roles, why cavil about nouns and verbs? UConn Today reports:
Men with the worst psychological well-being and the worst health were those who made significantly more than their partners. In the years when men were their family’s only earner, for example, they had lower psychological well-being and health scores, on average, than in those years their partners contributed equally.
Breadwinning has the opposite effect for women, whose psychological well-being improved as they made greater economic contributions. Conversely, as they contributed less relative to their spouses, psychological well-being declined. Relative income was unrelated to women’s health.
The study, “Relative Income, Psychological Well-Being, and Health: Is Breadwinning Hazardous or Protective?” by Munsch and graduate students Matthew Rogers and Jessica Yorks, will be presented on Aug. 21 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.
“Men who make a lot more money than their partners may approach breadwinning with a sense of obligation, and worry about maintaining breadwinner status,” says 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.”
How families divide their economic duties is their business but, whoever becomes the primary breadwinner, he or she should approach it with "a sense of obligation." That sense of obligation, rather than being an inconvenient neurosis, is what keeps families together and makes them work as a unit, however the unit's tasks are parceled out between the spouses. That sense of obligation is essential to the wellbeing of a family.
And this sentence makes me wonder if there was an agenda behind this research:
These findings are good news given that both husbands and wives usually work, Munsch says, adding: “Our study finds that decoupling breadwinning from masculinity has concrete benefits for both men and women.”
It's great if women are happy to have "opportunity" and "choice." Your work is your choice, to the extent that talents and economic realities permit, it hould be rewarding–but it should also be conducted with a sense of obligation, whether you are a man or woman, especially if there are children dependent on your efforts. It's not all fun and games and choices and self-expression.
We should also not be entirely happy to see masculinity further detached from responsibility.