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Study finds housework can improve marriage

staff writer

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013

Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 12:04



When students are busy with school, relationships can be put on the back burner. However, a recent study reveals steps couples could use daily to improve a marriage.

In a study published April 1 in the Journal of Family Issues, scholars from Brigham Young University, USU and the University of Missouri found the quality of a married couple’s relationship is affected by couples working together within the home. This study was a follow-up of a newlywed study conducted in 2002 by David Schramm, James Marshall, Victor Harris and Thomas Lee, who were all in the family, consumer and human development department at USU at the time. They used the same people who participated in the first study five years later in 2007 to start the new study.  

“We worked to develop a questionnaire to use in following up with the newlyweds from this study,” said Adam Galovan, a USU alumnus working on his doctorate at the University of Missouri and one of the authors of this study. “We then had the arduous process of trying to locate all of those individuals who participated in the earlier study. Newlyweds move quite a bit in the first five years after they are married. Once we contacted as many as we could, we sent them a paper copy of the survey and a link to an electronic copy of the survey. Once the data was in, we then just went through the process of analyzing it.”

They sent out a one-time survey to 160 couples. Seventy-three percent were between the ages of 25 and 30 and had been married 5 years on average. Their oldest child was 5 years old or younger and about 40 percent of the wives worked full or part-time.

“Young couples should work out a system of dividing the work so that both can be satisfied with the arrangement,” Galovan said. “As children come along, they should realize that the way they do things will need to adjust.”

It doesn’t necessarily matter how fairly the chores are divided up, according to Galovan.

He said whether it’s 50-50 or 40-60 doesn’t matter: What does matter is how satisfied the husband or wife is with the arrangement. It can mean doing chores together, or the husband being more involved and having a good relationship with the kids.

“Being an involved father is about more than just spending time with children,” said Erin Holmes, an assistant professor of family life at BYU. “Part of being an involved father is helping with household responsibilities. Wives in our sample saw father involvement and participation in household chores as related. Both of these things lead to greater satisfaction with family work and higher marital quality.”

She said when husbands do their part around the house and are involved, they found wives feel more cared for, and that leads to a better couple relationship.

Other key findings she mentioned included husbands doing more routine periodic work. When men were more involved with the children,  wives were more satisfied with the division of labor.  For wives, marital quality was defined by the father-child relationship and father involvement with children, followed by satisfaction with family work division.

“Both Mr. Galovan and I are very interested in the work fathers do in their families and the way taking an active role in fathering impacts marital quality,” said Holmes. “We feel that childrearing and the quality of family relationships are an important part of the division of labor in people’s homes.”

The strongest predictor for husbands thoughts toward marital quality was satisfaction with family work division, followed by the wife’s feelings regarding the father-child relationship and father involvement with children, she said.

“Every once in a while we do the chores together, but we’d rather split up the chores and then just be together rather than do chores together,” said Paden Anderson, a freshman studying international business.

Even if couples aren’t doing chores together, they should always find time for each other every day, Galovan said.

“It’s really important that spouses find a way to connect on a daily basis,” said Galovan. “That connection might come in the form of clearing the table or doing the dishes together, reading to the children, or cuddling and watching a movie. We hear a lot about the importance of going on dates with your spouse, but it’s just as important to connect with them between dates.”



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