Happiest Couples Share the Paid and Unpaid Work

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True

Does sharing the dish-washing and the money-earning lead to a happier family?
Credit: alaskaval, Flickr

A new study finds that couples who share the responsibility for paid and unpaid work report being happier than couples who divide the work in other ways.

Approximately one-quarter of the couples surveyed say they split the paid and unpaid work evenly (each doing about 40 to 60 percent), and report higher average levels of happiness and life satisfaction compared with couples who use other arrangements.

But this study of family structures, published last month by the University of Western Ontario, finds that couples with children are less likely to use this "shared roles" arrangement.

Couples with kids were more likely to have what the researchers call a "complimentary-traditional" model, where the woman does more unpaid work for the family and the man does more paid work. Or, they use a "women's double burden" model, where the woman does as much or more paid work as the man and also does more of the unpaid work.More than 25 percent of couples surveyed are in that "women's double burden" category, and many of those have young children.

"The shared roles model, with its advantages in terms of gender equity and ability to maximize labor force participation by all adults, is beneficial to society in many ways," the researchers conclude. But, they say, "questions regarding stress, health, life satisfaction, belonging and social cohesion show that the differences are typically small across models and there is no clear 'winner.' "

Although the "shared roles" model receives high average indicators on happiness and life satisfaction for both men and women, the researchers say, it is also "high on stress" for men.

How is work divided in your household? Are you happy with the arrangement, or would you prefer to change it?

Related: Married With Children ... and More Perks at Work?

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