The Psychology of Everyday Life:Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage


What impact do changing sex roles have on marriages?

The impact of changing sex roles on marriage is complex. In the 1970s when the women’s liberation movement reached full force, there was a strong increase in divorce rates. Divorced rates peaked in the 1980s and leveled off by the 2000s. It is likely this peak in marital turmoil had more to do with the disruptions in sex roles and to couples’ difficulty adjusting to changing expectations than with the specific nature of the new sex roles. As both men and women become accustomed to women’s greater participation in the workforce and their greater autonomy, it seems marriages have become more stable. Nonetheless, greater individualism in general tends to lead to higher divorce rates, as people prioritize their personal satisfaction ahead of family ties. On the other hand, several studies have found that greater equality in sex roles correlated with higher marital satisfaction even in fairly traditional cultures.

Egalitarian sex roles appeared to increase marital harmony, which correlated with higher marital satisfaction in both partners. Accordingly, a 2006 study by Mariet Hagedoorn and colleagues showed that marital partners who perceived their marriage to be equitable reported less psychological distress than those who perceived it to be inequitable. Interestingly, even the partners who believed they benefited more from the inequity than their spouse reported greater psychological distress.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Psychology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App