For Women, Breadwinning Can Be Dangerous: Gendered Resource Theory and Wife Abuse


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    Department of Sociology, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, OH 44017-2088.

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8107 (


To explain wife abuse, we offer a refinement of relative resource theory, gendered resource theory, which argues that the effect of relative resources is contingent upon husbands’ gender ideologies. We use data from the first wave of the National Survey of Families and Households (N =4,296) to test three theories of wife abuse. Resource theory receives no support. Relative resource theory receives limited support. Gendered resource theory receives strong support. Wives’ share of relative incomes is positively related to likelihood of abuse only for traditional husbands. The findings suggest that both cultural and structural forces must be considered to understand marriage as a context for social interactions in which we create our gendered selves.