, Volume 70, Issue 7-8, pp 329-342
Date: 13 Apr 2014

The Role of Couple Discrepancies in Cognitive and Behavioral Egalitarianism in Marital Quality

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Abstract

Although gender ideologies and perceptions of equity in the division of household tasks have been associated with marital quality, there is limited understanding of the relationship between discrepancies (in husbands’ and wives’ subjective ideals and accounts of the division of labor) and relationship quality. We examined cognitive egalitarianism (beliefs about gender roles), behavioral egalitarianism (perceptions of the division of household tasks and management), and marital quality among 220 heterosexual, newlywed couples (N = 440) living in east and central regions of the United States. We used multi-level modeling to examine associations between cognitive egalitarianism, behavioral egalitarianism, and marital quality with a specific focus on discrepancies in the reports of husbands and wives. As hypothesized, both husbands and wives had lower marital quality when their cognitive egalitarianism was discrepant from their partner, and such a discrepancy had a greater influence on wives’ reports of marital quality, especially for wives with higher cognitive egalitarianism. Although we expected similar results for the associations between behavioral egalitarianism and marital quality, we found that the strength of the association between wives’ behavioral egalitarianism and marital quality decreased as the discrepancy from their husbands’ behavioral egalitarianism increased. The association between cognitive egalitarianism and marital quality also increased as behavioral egalitarianism increased for wives but not for husbands. The results of this study illustrate the central role of spousal discrepancy in perceptions and enactment of household labor.