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Women are the Real Bosses at Home

A new study has found that women are the real bosses at home .

According to Iowa State University researchers, wives have greater power in marriage problem-solving behaviour.

The study, which examined 72 married couples from Iowa, found that wives, on average, display greater situational power, in the form of forceful and dominant behaviours, than their husbands during problem-solving discussions, not considering who raised the topic.

Associate Professor of Psychology David Vogel and Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Megan Murphy led the research.

"The study at least suggests that the marriage is a place where women can exert some power. Whether or not it's because of changing societal roles, we don't know. But they are, at least, taking responsibility and power in these relationships. So, at least for relatively satisfied couples, women are able to take some responsibility and are able to exert some power-but it's hard for us to say why that's so," Vogel said.

"Women are responsible for overseeing the relationship-making sure the relationship runs, that everything gets done, and that everybody's happy," said Murphy, "And so, maybe some of that came out in our findings in terms of women domineering and dominating-that they were taking more responsibility for the relationship, regardless of whose topic was being discussed," he added.

The researchers requested participation from married couples in and around the Iowa State campus. On average, spouses were around 33 years of age and had been married for seven years. Most participants were European Americans (66 percent), followed by Asian (22 percent), Hispanic (5 percent), and African-American (4 percent), with the final three percent representing other nationalities. Each spouse was asked to separately complete a questionnaire on relationship satisfaction and an evaluation of overall decision-making ability in the relationship.

Each spouse also was asked to spot a problem in their relationship, an issue in which he or she wanted the most change and which could not be resolved without the spouse's cooperation. Spouses were then asked to answer some questions about their chosen topics, including the type of problem-solving behaviours that generally take place when this topic arises, and the importance of the topic. The researchers then videotaped the couples, who were brought together and asked to discuss each of the problem topics for 10 minutes apiece.

"We actually just asked them to start talking about the issue, and then we left the room. And so they were all by themselves in the room talking. We were as non-obtrusive as possible. We just came back at the end of the period of time, and asked them to talk about the other topic," Vogel said.

The researchers reviewed and coded the videotapes of couples' interactions using a widely-accepted interaction rating system. The system consists of five dimensions to calculate demand and withdraw behaviours-avoidance, discussion, blame, pressure for change, and withdraws.

The results showed that wives behaviourally displayed more domineering attempts and were more dominant, i.e., more likely to have their partner give in, than husbands during discussions of either spouse's topic.

Vogel said that wives weren't simply talking more than their husbands in discussions, but in fact were drawing favourable responses from their husbands to what they said.

"That's what I think was particularly interesting. It wasn't just that the women were bringing up issues that weren't being responded to, but that the men were actually going along with what they said. They (women) were communicating more powerful messages and men were responding to those messages by agreeing or giving in," Vogel said.

The paper titled "Sex Differences in the Use of Dema nd and Withdraw Behavior in Marriage: Examining the Social Structure Hypothesis," is published in last month's issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology.


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