Work Family Preferences, Behavior, and Marital Satisfaction in an Age of Egalitarianism

Brian J. Serafini, University of Washington

In this paper I argue that although trends point to increasing egalitarianism in marriage, dual-earner spouses are heterogeneous in their family role preferences. Dual-earners who prefer traditional family roles may experience a marital satisfaction penalty because their ideals are incongruent with their family reality. I use data from the 1997 and 2002 waves of National Study of the Changing Workforce to test this hypothesis. Because the survey contains a variety of family and workplace measures, I am able to test competing explanations for the marital satisfaction penalty experienced by traditionally-minded dual-earners. I find that after accounting for time spent with one’s spouse, economic dependency, and the interaction between workplace characteristics and traditionalism, the penalty for holding traditional family preferences on marital satisfaction remains. I conclude that in an era where preferences increasingly determine one’s lifestyle, the mismatch between traditional family preferences and a dual-earner reality may lower marital wellbeing.

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Presented in Session 102: Cohabitation and Marriage