Housework

Divorce rate higher for couples that share housework, study finds

Sep. 30, 2012 at 4:50 PM ET

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This is nice, but it may not save your relationship.

A new study is challenging the conventional wisdom that sharing household duties such as scrubbing the kitchen and toilets will reduce your odds of divorce.

But, the researchers caution, the findings are not an excuse for men or women to start shirking their chores.

Researchers used 2007-08 data on thousands of Norwegian adults to determine possible links between marriage, housework and happiness.

They found that divorce rates were actually higher for the approximately 25 percent of couples who shared housework equally than for the 71 percent couples where women did more or all of the housework.

Divorce rates also were significantly higher among the 4 percent of households in which the men did the majority of the housework, although the sample size was quite small for that group.

“The main point is that there is little to indicate that gender equality at home protects against divorce, as many people think and as is typically maintained by scholars in the field,” Thomas Hansen, a researcher with a Norwegian social research institute and one of the co-authors of the study, told TODAY in an e-mail.

Still, Hansen cautions that spouses should not take this as a sign they can throw in the dish towel – or vacuum, dust pan and sponge.

“This should not be interpreted as a causal effect, i.e., that (equality) leads to divorce,” he wrote.

Instead, it could be an indication that the type of modern couple that shares housework equally might also have more modern views on marriage and divorce. In addition, women in those households may have more financial independence to get out of an unhappy marriage.

The full study is available here. If you don’t happen to read Norwegian, skip to page 223 for the English-language summary.

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