Becoming a Female‐Breadwinner Household in Australia: Changes in Relationship Satisfaction

Niels Blom, Belinda Hewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (SciVal)


This study longitudinally investigated the associations between becoming a female‐breadwinner household and changes in relationship satisfaction for men and women.

Female‐breadwinner households pose a fundamental challenge to gender norms, particularly in countries such as Australia with a strong male breadwinner culture. Despite an increase in their prevalence, the implications for relationship satisfaction is understudied. Hypotheses were formulated based on specialization, relative resource, role collaboration, and doing gender theories.

A total of 17 waves of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia household panel survey (76,866 observations, 11,986 people) and fixed effects models were used to study the associations between changes in breadwinner arrangements and relationship satisfaction. Building on previous research our breadwinner typology combined employment and income differences between partners, differentiating single earners from dual earners.

Both men and women became less satisfied when they transitioned to dual‐earner households where women out‐earned their partners. Becoming a female‐breadwinner household due to male unemployment or illness decreased relationship satisfaction for women. Respondents were most satisfied when they were in male‐breadwinner, female‐homemaker households. For women, but not men, gender role attitudes influenced some of these associations.

The results extend our understanding of the consequences of the increasing prevalence of female‐breadwinner households and suggest that they may be contributing to lower relationship quality and stability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1340-1357
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number4
Early online date26 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • couples
  • employment
  • family economics
  • gender roles
  • longitudinal research
  • marital quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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