Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Health Psychology

Committee Director

James Paulson

Committee Member

Michelle L. Kelley

Committee Member

Mark Scerbo


Shifting social norms are leading to changes in family structures. More women are working, and more families are relying on dual income to provide for the household than ever before. These changes in family income are happening fairly quickly in our society and for that reason, as our society shifts towards a more egalitarian mindset, we should view these variables using primary and secondary earner as opposed to through the lens of a husband and a wife. The aim of this study was to examine relationship satisfaction and how that might be affected by differences in income or earner status of partners within a relationship in conjunction with domestic labor involvement and positive and negative life events.

Instead of looking at the impact of income on relationship satisfaction from a ‘breadwinner/homemaker’ mindset, we examined it from an earner status mindset and found that earner status impacted the relationship between domestic labor involvement and relationship satisfaction beyond that of what was seen by gender. When looking at income disparity we found that domestic labor involvement mediated the relationship between income disparity and relationship satisfaction, where greater income disparity between partners increased the amount of domestic labor that was reported, which also increased the amount of relationship satisfaction.

When looking at housework and emotional labor, non-parents who perceived themselves as more involved than their partner in housework and emotional labor also reported higher relationship satisfaction and when looking at both housework and emotional labor and earner status a primary earner within the relationship would perceive themselves as more involved in domestic labors in the household than their partner and they reported greater relationship satisfaction. Although secondary earners also demonstrated this positive association it was much weaker than that of primary earners.

When looking these results and the importance of them in society it should be noted that a lot of past studies have looked at domestic labor and how it's divided in a relationship through a gender-based lens. Our study found that earner status and emotional labor have an association with relationship satisfaction that's well beyond what's explained by gender.


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