Families with nursery age children in which the woman is the main wage earner are significantly less likely to separate or divorce, a study has claimed.
Researchers Dr Shireen Kanji of Leicester University and Dr Pia Schober of the German Institute for Economic Research examined data from the Millennium Cohort Survey, which set out to follow the lives of children born in the UK in 2000-1, involving 4,000 couples. They wanted to find out whether the traditional economic dependency of women on men affected family stability.
Examined as a whole, couples in which the woman earned more than the man were no less stable than families with higher earning husbands. However, when those couples in which the women earned more had children aged three to five, the couples were as much as 80 per cent less likely to separate.
Dr Kanji said: “Sociological and economic theories have long predicted that women’s increased economic independence would undermine the institution of marriage. The reasoning was that interdependence, in the sense of specialisation in paid and unpaid work between husband and wife, was the glue keeping couples together. Such perspectives did not envision that women could be the ones to specialise in paid work, or that a desire for greater gender equality or a need to mitigate the risk of relying on one male-earner income could keep relationships together.”
However, she added:
“The proportions of couples in which the mother is the main or equal earner decrease significantly as the first child ages.”
The study was published in the journal Sociology.