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Gender differences in the value of contributions to intimate relationships: Egalitarian relationships are not always perceived to be equitable

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Abstract

Little research has directly addressed the role of gender in perceptions of self vs. partner's contributions to a relationship, despite the fact that partners in heterosexual relationships often disagree about whether their relative contributions result in an equitable relationship [N. W. VanYperen and B. P. Buunk (1990), “A Longitudinal Study of Equity and Satisfaction in Intimate Relationships,” European Journal of Social Psychology,Vol. 20, pp. 287–309]. The primary purpose of this investigation was to systematically examine the association between gender and the perceived value of several different types of contributions made by each partner to a committed relationship. We considered both the gender of the perceiver and the source of the contributions (self vs. partner). A sample of 212 men and 348 women (most of whom were college students; 87% white) were asked to judge the value of their own and their partner's hypothetical contributions to a marital or long-term cohabiting relationship. The results indicated that men and women generally agreed about the value of the contributions made by themselves and their partners. However, gender differences in the perceived value of many contributions depended on whether the contribution was made by self or partner (e.g., men attributed more worth to their partner's sexual faithfulness than to their own, whereas women believed that both partners should receive equal value for this contribution). These perceptual differences suggest that at times it may be difficult for partners to agree about the equity of their ongoing relationships.

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Special gratitude goes to Pepper Schwartz for her contributions to an earlier draft of the paper. The authors also wish to thank Elaine Hatfield and Alicia Thompson for their comments on an earlier draft of the paper and Dennis Johnson who contributed to the idea for the study.

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Regan, P.C., Sprecher, S. Gender differences in the value of contributions to intimate relationships: Egalitarian relationships are not always perceived to be equitable. Sex Roles 33, 221–238 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01544612

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