Breadwinner pressure for husbands

The pressure on husbands to be the main breadwinner of the family has not waned in recent times, new research has found. The study is to be published in the American Journal of Sociology and revealed this ideal still remains, despite a weakening in social attitudes discouraging women from working away from the home.

Liana Sayer of Ohio State University - established in 1870 and enrolling almost 50,000 undergraduates - led the investigation, which considered how the decisions of both males and females to end a marriage were influenced by employment status.

The research showed that a husband is no likelier to leave his wife if she loses her job, yet an employed woman may be tempted to file for a divorce if her partner is made redundant.

Furthermore, a husband who is out of work is also more likely to leave a marriage than those who are still in employment.

The investigators wrote: "Women's employment has increased and is accepted, [yet] men's non-employment is unacceptable to many."

Micheal Gallagher, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "The findings of this research perhaps raise more questions than answers for sociologists, economists and psychologists, both social, occupational and clinical.

"I wonder if it is the psychological effects of unemployment on the individual, mediated through social and economic factors, which explains the gender differences in reaction to the spouse's unemployment?

"Even today most people enter long-term (heterosexual) relationships with gender role expectations and some form of psychological contract or agreement, often implicit, about share of responsibilities for providing family income and for home-making.

"Most employed men have not taken on an equal share of child care and domestic activities and when they lose their jobs they do not switch as easily to taking the lead in childcare and home making.

"If they believe that they have the primary responsibility to provide for their family, ie as breadwinner, this may contribute to a lowering of mood, frustration and irritability.

"The behaviour of such men might put a great strain on the relationship with their wives, prompting the women to seek separation and/or divorce."

"The loss of self-esteem might prompt men to remove themselves from the family, rather than face the constant reminders of their 'failure'."