The couple who wash the dishes together will stay together, research revealsBy Jonathan Petre, Mail on Sunday Reporter
Last updated at 10:00 PM on 26th December 2009
It is what women have been saying for decades but men have not wanted to hear - the key to a happy marriage is doing the dishes together.
Researchers have found that couples who share household chores are happier than those where one partner is the breadwinner and the other is the home-maker.
According to new research, neither partner should ideally take on more than 60 per cent of domestic chores, from cleaning to childcare.
Domestic bliss: Research says sharing chores leads to happiness
It found that the ‘working husband and stay-at-home wife’ relationship puts pressure on him to provide and leaves her feeling unfulfilled at not contributing more financially.
A non-earning wife also feels more vulnerable and fears ending up on her own, whether as a widow or divorcee, it adds.
But a family in which the wife is the breadwinner and the husband looks after the house is also problematic because the man is unhappy and unhealthy and the woman is too stressed.
The findings by Canadian academics follow a 2006 study by the British Economic and Social Research Council, which concluded that most women are happier with non-traditional domestic arrangements and do not want to be housewives or stay-at-home mothers.
The Canadian researchers analysed national surveys in which nearly 50,000 adults answered questions about their lives, including the amount of paid and unpaid work they did.
The academics from the University of Western Ontario estimated the levels of happiness experienced by the participants, taking their personal circumstances into account.
The happiest couples share equally the unpaid work, are most likely to be both working and either do not have children or have older children who do not need constant care.
The research found that religious families are most likely to stick to traditional roles, with the husband working and the wife staying at home and doing most of the chores, which academics called the ‘augmented complementary traditional model’.
However, reversing the roles does not work because the man is unfulfilled and the woman feels the pressure to provide as a breadwinner.
The research also looked at other types of partnership.
It found that women who are both the major breadwinner and do housework – called the ‘women’s double burden model’ - are stressed and have low levels of satisfaction. Men who are the breadwinner and also take on their fair share of housework - the ‘men’s double burden model’ - suffer poorer health, though the women have low stress.
The study concludes: ‘For both men and women, the highest average level of happiness and satisfaction with life occurs within the shared-roles model.’
Lead researcher Rod Beaujot said the findings showed the value of providing equal opportunities in the workplace and better childcare, and the benefit of men taking an active part in domestic chores.
‘Adequate childcare facilities and equal opportunities for parental leave should be a focus of public policy,’ he added.
‘By supporting the shared-roles model, there would be support for the type of family model that many would prefer, with less burn-out.’
Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, said: ‘This research shows that it is very important for both parties to have something in their lives from which they derive a sense of independence and accomplishment.
‘But if in addition they do things in common – which could be the domestic chores or the childcare – it creates a bond that facilitates closeness, communication, emotional warmth and, most importantly, trust.’