Gender roles are as old as civilization itself especially when it comes to what duties men and women should perform within the family setting. For example, most of the contemporary societies claim that men should provide income for the household while their wives take care of the children. These gender roles may seem reasonable and harmless at first, but that may not be the case.
In a recent study on men’s health, Christin Munsch, an assistant professor in the field of sociology from the University of Connecticut, examined whether gender expectations had any harmful effects on men. She focused on the idea that men should be breadwinners for their families. Here are some of the details from her study.
It involved 9000 young men and women who were married. They all came from the United States. Those who undertook the studies surveyed these 9000 participants over a fifteen-year period, and then they analyzed the information from those surveys. The study focused on issues such as psychological well-being, physical health, and income status. It revealed that the psychological well-being of men who became sole breadwinners was wanting. More specifically, such men scored 5% lower on psychological well-being then those who were not the only breadwinner in the family.
Surprisingly, the study found that earning income for the family single-handedly (although considered to be a boosting thing when it comes to a man’s self-esteem) is not good for you i.e. doing so is likely to heighten your level of anxiety. This increased level of anxiety stems from the frustration of shouldering the financial burden that comes with taking care of your family. If you share this burden with your wife, then your level of frustration is likely to diminish.
However, one big problem still exists. Society expects a man to provide for his family or at least earn a higher level of income than his wife does. These societal expectations make sharing the burden between spouses difficult and as such, the man continues to shoulder the bulk of the family’s financial burdens.
So maybe it is time for men to consider a new approach to handling the family’s financial obligations, allowing their wives to participate more in bringing in household income. In fact, the same study by reveals that psychological well-being of women improves as they take on more financial responsibilities in the household.
However, the study finds that women who take on too much responsibility vis-a-vis their male counterparts may suffer greatly in the end. In these cases, men may feel belittled by women who earn higher incomes than they do. As a rule, it greatly affects men’s self-esteem and they might resort to infidelity and domestic violence to compensate for their insecurities. Therefore, the best approach, as researchers believe, is a balance where a spouse earns an amount of income that is close to what the other spouse earns.