It’s not just women who are negatively impacted by gender roles. The expectation to “bring home the bacon,” is putting a lot of pressure on young married men.
A new study from the University of Connecticut found that young men who took on more financial responsibility in their marriages experienced a decline in their psychological health.
“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, assistant professor of sociology at UConn and lead author of the study. “Our study contributes to a growing body of research that demonstrates the ways in which gendered expectations are harmful for men too. Men are expected to be breadwinners, yet providing for one’s family with little or no help has negative repercussions.”
Men who made significantly more money than their partners were found to have the lowest scores in happiness and health.
For women, the opposite was true. Their psychological health improved the more money they were able to contribute in their marriage, and declined when they weren’t able to contribute as much as their spouses.
“Men who make a lot more money than their partners may approach breadwinning with a sense of obligation, and worry about maintaining breadwinner status,” Munsch said. “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.”
Munsch suggested that removing the association between breadwinning and masculinity would be beneficial for both partners.
Charlotte Hays of the Independent Women’s Forum argued that both partners should have a sense of obligation to the family.
“It’s great if women are happy to have ‘opportunity’ and ‘choice,’ Hays said. “Your work is your choice, to the extent that talents and economic realities permit, it should 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,” she said.
To come up with these results, researchers looked at 15 years of data on married people between the ages of 18 and 32. According to Munsch, millennials are more likely to want “egalitarian relationships in which both partners contribute financially and both partners are responsible for domestic labor and childcare.”