A study of two generations suggests improving equality within a marriage benefits family life and male careers.

The Swedish study, initiated in the 1970s, emphasized share responsibility among couples for home, family, and work. A recent follow-up shows that the couples’ strive for equality was beneficial not only for the family life but also for the fathers’ careers.

Nevertheless, despite being raised in an egalitarian environment, the sons of couples in the study, now themselves parents, have not chosen the same path of shared responsibilities.

“Patterns do not pass on to the next generation as easily as we might have believed,” said Margunn Bjørnholt, Ph.D., researcher in Gender Studies at Örebro University.

The Work-Sharing Couples project, led by the late Norwegian sociologist Dr. Erik Grønseth, involved 16 couples all living in Norway.

Both partners worked part-time, spent the same amount of time at home, and shared the household tasks equally.

“The participating couples reveal that this has been good for their relationship and for the family as a whole,” said Bjørnholt. “On top of that the men did not feel that the change has had any negative effect on their work, even though they went against the flow and worked less hours than other men.

“On the contrary, they thought it had been beneficial, because the responsibility they took at home was highly valued in the workplace,” she said.

Researchers believe the research shows that the time the fathers spent at home was viewed as management experience.

Despite the positive effects for family life and career, however, the follow-up study shows that the second generation, the participants’ sons, have not chosen the same kind of life.

Bjørnholt found that the children are now parents themselves and live in neo-traditional families.

In these families both parents work and both take responsibility at home. But the woman takes more responsibility for the family and the man focuses to a greater extent on work outside the home.

The message is that modeling of family behaviors may not translate into generational change as the environment may influence or trump social behavior.

“Like father, like son is not the case in this instance,’ said Bjørnholt. “The surrounding society, structures as well as social and historical conditions play a decisive role.”

Source: Örebro University