A Norwegian team of analysts recently got some attention for publishing findings which indicate that couples who have a non-traditional division of labor (e.g., the man and woman share the housework equally) are more likely to face dissolution and divorce. This finding has some interesting implications for modern society, especially regarding marital structure.
The study (published here, in Norwegian…scroll to the end for an English summary) states that “the risk of divorce is higher when he does as much or more housework than her” and that, after controlling for relevant factors, these findings are statistically significant. (In other words, the statistical relationship between divorce and division of housework is evident even when other factors that lead to divorce are equal.)
The analysts explain this statistical relationship by focusing on the differences in attitude which presumably accompany each marriage model. They theorize that, in relationships where the woman does more housework, there is a more traditional view of marriage as an unbreakable commitment, and divorce becomes less likely. “Untraditional couples” who share housework, however, have a “modern” view of marriage as a contract, and marital difficulties lead more easily to divorce.
Now, it is important to point out that this is a correlation, not a causal relationship. Divorce does not occur because the husband or wife will or won’t do the dishes; it has roots in deeper problems such as lack of trust and lack of commitment. But the Norwegian study does tell us something. Couples that view marriage as a contract rather than a covenant (and tend to divide chores as if they are in a business relationship) are more likely to leave their marriages.
This is in complete contrast to the traditional view of marriage: that marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God, where there is a mutual and unreserved giving of self to the other.
Without this view, marriage becomes simply a contract, something that can be broken without consequence by consenting parties. With the legalization of no-fault divorce, it is even less protected, as one individual can divorce another at will without the other’s consent, and often without penalty.
As MARRI research indicates, economic prosperity and social cohesion both suffer when people take a cavalier approach to marriage. Men who are unmarried are less likely to participate in the workforce, and are also less productive. The well-being of children, both economically and socially, is likewise disrupted by divorce. In addition to economic disadvantage, children who live through divorce are much more likely to be incarcerated, to be abused, and to engage in drug and alcohol consumption.
If society is to prosper, marriage must regain its traditional importance. We must cease to see marriage as simply a contract between two consenting adults (which can be dismissed at leisure) and reaffirm it as the cornerstone of society, unbreakable and essential.