Division of Labor and Conflict Across Three Stages of Heterosexual Romantic Relationships



Couples often argue about dissatisfying household labor divisions. First, the present investigation provided descriptive data about how young cohabitors in college distribute household labor. Second, it examined correlations between inequities in household labor divisions and conflict about those divisions in three unique samples in different heterosexual relationship stages: young, dating cohabitors; newly married couples; and couples transitioning to parenthood. The cohabiting sample consisted of 97 undergraduate cohabitors between the ages of 18 and 27 from The University of Texas at Dallas. Data for newlyweds and couples transitioning to parenthood were obtained from the Louisiana Marriage Matters Panel Survey of Newlyweds archival data set and included 219 newlywed couples without children and 49 couples transitioning to parenthood. Inequities in labor emerged in all three samples, but only women reported increased conflict from those inequities. Although the pattern of inequities between cohabitors sharing a residence and cohabitors simply spending significant time together at each other’s residences differed, inequities in labor divisions emerged for both types of living arrangement. Among newlywed couples, greater conflict about inequities in household labor divisions predicted a decrease in those inequities between the first two waves and the latter two waves, and this association emerged indirectly through greater conflict at wave two. Gender and gender role attitudes are offered as potential explanations for findings. In the primary models examining adolescents’ reports of disclosure, adolescents’ overall positive mood was associated with higher levels of disclosure. In the exploratory models utilizing mothers’ reports of adolescent disclosure, on days when mothers reporting experiencing a more positive mood, they perceived their adolescent to disclose more information to them. Results from the current study can help lay the foundation for future research and practice that aims to improve parent-adolescent daily communication.



Heterosexuals, Unmarried couples, Newlyweds, Married people, Division of labor, Sexual division of labor, Chores



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