Gender, Entitlement, and the Distribution of Family Labor


  • Brenda Major

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    1. State University of New York at Buffalo
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      BRENDA MAJOR is Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She received the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize from SPSSI in 1986 and in 1988, as well as the Distinguished Publication Award from the Association for Women in Psychology in 1985. Her research interests include: the self-protective strategies employed by individuals who are stigmatized, disadvantaged, or experiencing negative life events; social comparison processes in self and outcome evaluation; and the psychology of entitlement.

Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Park Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260.


Research is reviewed demonstrating that although wives contribute a disproportionate share of the unpaid labor of the family (e.g., housework and childcare) compared to their husbands, they nonetheless report relative contentment with this unequal distribution. It is argued that wives' paradoxical contentment can be understood by considering men's and women's sense of personal entitlement with regard to what they should put into and receive from marriage in the domain of family work. Gender differences in entitlement are hypothesized to result from societal norms regarding women's and men's roles within the family, comparison processes, and justifications that legitimize an unequal division of family labor.