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Research Shows Gender Equality is Essential To Health & Happiness

Gender roles within the household have changed greatly over the last 60 years. It was not long ago when a woman’s place was expected to be in the home, caring for the children and keeping the house in order. Once women started working more often out of the home, men gradually began to take more responsibility. Young adults nowadays prefer to go Dutch and split household and financial roles within relationships, according to a new study published in American Sociological Review.

The researchers looked at 330 unmarried adults between the ages of 18-32. The volunteers were split into three groups and asked different questions about household and financial duties. The first group were asked to choose between one of three options: being totally self-reliant regardless of marital status, being the primary income earner in a relationship or being the primary homemaker in a relationship. In this group, volunteers tended to answer along traditional gender roles.

The second group was asked the same question, but added an option where roles were equalized in a relationship. This group had much different results, with around 60% of women and 70% of men preferring an egalitarian relationship (both parties are equal). The third group was asked to envision a world in which all workers had access to subsidized childcare, flexible schedules, and paid family leave; even more men and women in this group said they wanted egalitarian relationships.

Researchers believe that the results show that people’s current opinions of gender roles could be a result of restrictive workplace policies with a lack of work-life balance. "The assumption is that you have backup support — a stay-at-home person who is helping you take care of the children,” said Sarah Thébaud, lead author of the study. If a couple with children are both working full-time, child care can sometimes be a struggle. More often than not the defecit will land on the female in the relationship, as her “homemaker” place in society rears its head.

The research also suggests that people’s feelings on gender roles will change as workplaces continue to work towards a more balanced work and home life. Companies are starting to notice that a lack of balance can lead to reduced productively, encouraging many employers to rethink some of their policies. Once people feel more supported at work, they tend to be more loyal and dedicated to their company than those who do not feel supported. The new study states that as more employers take notice, relationship attitudes will shift towards egalitarianism.

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