The Allocation of Household Labor in Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Married Couples


  • Lawrence A. Kurdek

    Corresponding author
    1. Wright State University
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      LAWRENCE A. KURDEK received his Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1976. He is currently Professor of Psychology at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. His current research interests include the effects of divorce on parents and children, the relation between family structure and children's adjustment, and the development of relationship quality in homosexual and heterosexual couples. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the following periodicals: Journal of Marriage and the Family, Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, Journal of Family Issues, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, Psychology of Women Quarterly, and Journal of Genetic Psychology.

Wright State University, Department of Psychology, Dayton, OH 45435-0001.


This study compared how gay, lesbian, and heterosexual married couples (ns = 95, 61, and 145, respectively) allocated household labor. Partners in each couple lived together without children. Compared to both married and gay couples, lesbian couples tended to share tasks. Compared to lesbian couples, gay couples and married couples were likely to have one or the other partner perform the tasks; in married couples, this was most likely the wife. Compared to married couples, gay couples and lesbian couples were likely to split tasks so that each partner performed an equal number of different tasks. The relation between the extent to which household tasks were performed and personal power, gender role orientation, relationship satisfaction, and psychological symptoms generally varied by partner and type of couple. It is concluded that although gender is a powerful determinant of how household labor gets allocated in heterosexual married couples, no single variable carries as much weight with gay or lesbian couples.