Powers of intimate companions: probing the mechanisms that affect sense of gender equali ty
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youth, marriage and family
молодежь, брак и семья
УДК 316. 356. 2
Research Professor, Institute of Sociology, SASS
the powers of intimate companions: probing the mechanisms that affect sense
OF GENDER EQuALITY1
On the basis of comparing and reflecting on diverse measurements of conjugal powers, this study uses & quot-who, on the whole, wields more powers of decision in the household& quot- as the dependent variable, and operationalizes the resources hypothesis, the analysis of cultural norms, the theory of marriage dependence and satisfaction, and the process perspective of power as multidimensional interpretational variables. The results of analyzing urban and rural samples in China'-s Shanghai and Lanzhou indicate that socioeconomic resources such as education and income had no great significance between spouses, and that interviewees who contributed more efforts to the household, were good housekeepers, and received more support from relatives wielded more powers of decision. The party who depends upon and needs marriage is more willing to forgo family powers. Local subcultural and cultural norms have a significant influence on conjugal powers. However, parties who wield greater family powers do not necessarily express satisfaction with their gender equality in the family- the individual'-s autonomous power rather than relative power is more predictive of satisfaction with gender equality.
Keywords: marital power, gender equality, household matters, level of satisfaction.
ПОЛНОМОЧИЯ СУПРУГОВ: ИССЛЕДОВАНИЕ МЕхАНИЗМОВ,
влияющих на смысл гендерного равенства
На основе сравнений и размышления о разнообразных измерениях супружеских полномочий, автор рассматривает проблему & quot-кто, в целом, имеет больше полномочий в принятии решений в домашнем хозяйстве& quot- и реализует гипотезу анализа ресурсов, культурных норм, а также теорию зависимости и удовлетворенности браком. Результаты опроса городских и сельских жителей в Китайском Шанхае и Ланьчжоу показывают, что социально-экономические ресурсы, такие как уровень образования и доходы, не имели большого значения в отношениях между супругами, и что респонденты, осуществляющие больший вклад в семью, были хорошими «хранителями очага» и получали поддержку от родственников, владеющих полномочиями в решении их проблем. Сторона, которая находится в зависимости и нуждается в браке, в большей степени готова отказаться от полномочий принятия решений в семье. Местные субкультурные и культурные нормы существенно влияют на супружеские полномочия. Однако стороны, обладающие преимущественными семейными полномочиями, вовсе необязательно выражают удовлетворение в связи с гендерным равенством в семье. Автономная власть индивида, а не относительная власть, является более предсказуемой для его согласия с принципами гендерного равноправия.
Ключевые слова: семейные полномочия, гендерное равенство, бытовые вопросы, уровень удовлетворенности.
1 This Paper was originally published in Chinese Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 43, no. 4, 2011.
Retrospect and Commentary on the Research
Examination of the Measurements of Marital Power
Since Blood and Wolfe (1960) published their pioneering research work Husbands and Wives: The Dynamics of Married Living, studies on the powers of husbands and wives have proliferated.
Regarding the concept of conjugal powers, quite a few researchers endorse the ability to influence their spouses on important family decisions by dint of their personal willpower or proclivities [1- 2]. Due to differences in the importance and frequency of various decisions, some scholars call decisions that are not very time consuming but that may affect major orientations of family life & quot-orchestration power& quot-, whereas time-consuming, trouble-some but relatively unimportant decisions are called & quot-implementing power& quot-, and the investigation of relatively infrequent but important decisions (such as buying a house) is seen as a fairly good choice . McDonald (1980) points out in a commentary on family power studies in 1970−1979 that the best multidimensional power concept is the three-tiered operational process structure of family power posited by Cromwell and Weiting (1975) — that is, the resources possessed by husband and wife, respectively (the basis of power), the interactive process between the two parties in terms of negotiating issues, resolving problems, and handling conflicts (the process of power implementation), and who ultimately makes decisions or gains the upper hand (the result of decisions). Kom-ter'-s (1989) & quot-hidden power& quot- concept maintains that it is shaped and justified by gender ideology and merged into the wives'- thinking and concepts, so that objectively unequal spousal power structures become acceptable to, and are even taken for granted by, the parties concerned.
Where the measurements of husband and wife powers are concerned, the majority of researchers base their observations of marital powers on the results of family decisions [4- 1]. However, there are a wide variety of measurements for the powers of husband and wife- most researchers adhere to relative power evaluation methods and multidimensional analyses, but differ regarding the number and definition of subvariables. Since everyone is conversant with Western classical documentation, this study will primarily sort out the studies in China on husband and wife powers. Studies on marital powers started at a relatively late date in China. Descriptive studies began to appear in the 1990s and entered the theoretical purview of sociology of the family early in the current century. Broadly speaking, the following models exist in China for the measurement and evaluation of marital powers:
1. Theorem of the synthesis of multiple indicators. Some studies regard multiple indicators — the power to make decisions on major household affairs (production and house-building), everyday issues (everyday life and money management), and children'-s affairs — as the indicators for measuring rural spousal power structures - or used the sum of the points obtained from multiple indicators, such as management and control of household economies, purchases of durable consumer goods, right to speak up on the children'-s future (advancement to higher schools or choice of schools/choice of vocations/choice of spouse), childbearing decisions, and right to
make personal decisions, to gauge the overall level of women'-s position in the household .
2. Theorem of the weight of everyday management powers. Some studies maintain that & quot-everyday management& quot- powers such as control over family finances, division of household work, and external contacts are more important, while occasionally wielding powers of decision over & quot-one-time decisions& quot- such as choice of living accommodations, children'-s advancement to higher schools, choice of vocation, and so forth are relatively less important. Shanghai has the most households of the equally empowered type, but more females than males wield powers of decision in everyday life, and the proportion of females in Shanghai who identify with equal gender status in the family is lower only than that in Sweden and significantly higher than in Britain, the United States, France, South Korea, and Japan .
3. Theorem of major family affairs decisions. Mainstream academic circles in China approve of the & quot-theorem of major family affairs decisions& quot-. They maintain that only the power of decision making over the type of production engaged in, the choice of living accommodations, purchases of high-grade commodities or large-size production implements, and over investments and loans, and so forth symbolizes and genuinely manifests real power in the family, and that possessing such powers signifies control over the family'-s resources and an authoritative status within the family [8- 9- 10- 11- 7], but there is a difference in the specific indicator items. Since the power of decision making over major affairs leans toward husbands, most researchers who use this measurement framework maintain that males still control the principal family resources, and that the family powers of females are still at an inferior level and position.
4. Theorem of interviewee objective identification. In order to do away with the formerly subjective preselection of important decision-making matters by researchers, some scholars in Taiwan use the most important decisions in the family as chosen by the interviewees , or the first two items in the rankings of the most important powers of decision, as the specific indicators of the multifaceted powers of husbands and wives and for their evaluations of the status of females in the family [13- 12].
5. Theorem of the measurement of real family power. Quite a few scholars have used the generalized indicator & quot-who possesses more real family power& quot- as the measurement indicator for marital power [14- 15].
Subsequently, they have further pointed to the many shortcomings of multidimensional measurements (duowei celiang), and maintained that using real family power — a single indicator with comprehensive advantages — to describe and analyze the actual patterns of marital power is more operable and more effective [16- 17].
Four of the above-mentioned methods of measurement — the & quot-theorem of the synthesis of multiple indicators& quot-, & quot-theorem of the weight of everyday management powers& quot-, & quot-theorem of major family affairs decisions& quot-, and & quot-theorem of interviewee objective identification& quot- - all use multidimensional subindicators to measure marital powers. These undoubtedly enable one to obtain abundant connotations about the
various aspects and levels of spousal power relationships, but they have fatal shortcomings.
The Theoretical Perspective of Marital Powers
The most frequently used theoretical explanation of marital powers is the resources hypothesis, that is, that the individual or the spouse with the relatively highest amount of socioeconomic resources has a greater power advantage in family decision making, and in this hypothesis the relative resources theory — the spousal resources disparity — is more explanatory [18- 19- 20- 4- 2], although there are some differences in the results of trans-regional studies.
The cultural norms theory places more emphasis on the cultural and subcultural identification of the authoritative person, on gender norms and religious beliefs, and on the influences of general social criteria on the powers of husband and wife. Some studies indicate that the resources theory is more explanatory in relatively developed regions in the West, whereas the developing countries are more influenced by cultural environments . Quite a few studies show that the higher the husband'-s education, professional level, and income, the more likely he is to accept equal marital relationships [22- 23- 1- 24- 2- 25]. Families with relatively traditional gender concepts are more likely to uphold the system of the husband'-s authority [26- 27]. Tichenor'-s (1999) research results indicate that when the wife'-s socioeconomic resources clearly surpass those of the husband, she will conversely tend toward hiding her powers and will castigate herself for failing to properly play the role of a traditional wife.
The & quot-relative love and need theory& quot- is also believed by some researchers to be an extension of the resources theory, in that males and females bring their personal resources into the marriage and obtain compensation from their spouse. However, the exchange may not be balanced, and the party that obtains more from the marriage frequently relies on his or her spouse and is more subservient to the other in everyday life- while the party who is less dependent on, or relatively disinterested in, the spousal relationship is more likely to use his or her own resources to influence family decision making [28- 23- 4- 29- 30- 3]. Safilios-Rothschild (1976) not only develops the connotations of potentially exchangeable resources between husband and wife but also uses empirical materials to verify the above hypothesis that spouses who are more deeply in love and in greater need of marriage are often more likely to be subservient to their spouse and forfeit their powers because they fear their spouse may have a change of heart and leave them. This theory focuses on analyzing the subject'-s evaluation of and need for his or her spouse and his or her desire to maintain the marital relationship. Here the female often regards marriage as her destiny, is more dependent financially and emotionally on her husband after getting married, is in greater need of holding on to the family, and is therefore more likely to forgo her powers or accept domination by her spouse.
The & quot-analysis of the process of enforcing power& quot- maintains that power is a ynamic process made up of & quot-context-process-outcome"-, and only by conducting an overall examination of the entire operating process of power is it possible to produce a better explanation of the ultimate power of decision . Although the & quot-analysis of
the process of power& quot- has been extensively cited and acknowledged since it was posited, it has been limited mainly to quantitative analyses in empirical studies due to the multidimensional nature of the power concept and the complexity of the process of power enforcement among different husbands and wives [32- 33- 34], whereas in quantitative studies it has consisted chiefly of measurements of the models of spousal conflicts. For example, Yi (2006) adopts the variable of the presence or lack of conflicts between spouses or whether they communicate when they have conflicts, and Chen (2010) conducts measurements of the frequency of spouses recounting their woes to each other and having conflicts over the use of money. Because 42−60 percent of those interviewed in the former case deny the presence of spousal conflicts, the research results have not received unanimous support, and in the latter case, the variable adopted actually has little to do with the process of implementing powers.
The structure of family and family members has also been used as an influencing factor for explaining husband and wife powers. Females in nuclear families possess greater advantages in terms of power or status than those in extended families, while wives have the greatest powers in matrilocal families and the least power in patrilocal families and traditional patrilineal families [2- 15].
Reflections on the Relationship Between Marital powers and Gender Equality
Most studies on marital powers in China are related to the family status of females. A great many studies involve whether females possess powers of decision over family affairs as one of the main variables or indicators for measuring the status of wives in the family [13- 8- 35- 6- 36- 10- 11- 37]. In addition, the fact that wives undertake many of the household chores is also seen by most of the above studies as an indicator of or influencing factor on the relatively low status of females in the family.
The husband and wife power model, as a main indicator for measuring the family status of females in the macroscopic aspect, once played, and still plays, an important evaluating role. Particularly when era or regional comparisons are conducted, increases or decreases in the ratio of the wife'-s participation in family decision making has indicated the changes or differences in females'- family status. Taking China as an example, a number of studies report that in urban areas, the ratio of husband and wife together deciding family affairs is highest and that wives also possess more actual family powers than their husbands, whereas in more than half of rural households males still have the final say, and decidedly fewer females wield real power as compared to their husbands [13- 10- 26- 17].
However, since the marital-powers indicator is a relative concept, any increase in wifely powers means a decline in the husbands'- powers. If, in micro studies, husband and wife family decisions are also taken as the main measurement indicator of the family status of males and females, one will be faced with the following paradoxes or perplexities.
First, when the husband'-s powers diminish, does the wife'-s status get higher?
Since fu quan (the authority of the husband) is a product of the traditional system of patriarchal hierarchy and constitutes (a means for) control over and oppres-
sion of women, it should be thoroughly negated. It is thus frequently affirmed that women'-s increased powers in the family correspondingly raises their status in the family. However, while relative power indicators increase the wife'-s powers in the family, they inevitably bring about a corresponding decline in the husband'-s power indicators. This not only arouses doubts and resentment in the husbands but also conflicts with the concept of building up equal and harmonious male-female partnership relations and with the scientific view of developing gender coordination. Actually, if husband and wife practice a division of work, willingly choose to let the husband take responsibility for making decisions, and are both satisfied with this arrangement, what call is there for outsiders to conduct value judgments of their power model? Or what reason is there to accuse the husband of being feudal and of sticking to old ways, or to defend the wife against her husband and insist that they change their behavior and become models of equal rights?! Moreover, why must equal rights between husband and wife inevitably be the best model? If the wife has real powers, does that mean the husband is a & quot-little man& quot-, a & quot-weak male& quot-, a & quot-wimp"-? Or in a family where the husband makes decisions, is the wife bound to be oppressed and have no status? This is clearly inconsistent with the shaping of diverse gender roles and models of marital interaction.
Second, are powers and duties reciprocal and consistent, or are they conflicting and at variance?
Although most studies regard the assumption of many household chores as a direct or indirect indicator of women'-s lack of resources and power — an indicator that may even lead to low status in the family — other studies also acknowledge a positive correlation between family powers and duties and responsibilities and that there is a greater chance that the party who takes greater pains over household matters, puts in more efforts, or is more capable of running the household and contributes more services, also wields power in the family [38- 26- 39]. In real life, many people prefer to work less hard and assume fewer responsibilities, or are unable or unwilling to expend more energy or take on more obligations because of being too busy or in poor health, or because their interests lie in the realm of social powers, or who withdraw from the domain of family power in order to reduce conflicts with or please their spouse — do these factors also indicate that he or she has a low status in the family? Some scholars have proposed that family decision-making power in a family-oriented society involves an element of & quot-taking on worries& quot- in service of the entire family, that the phenomenon of urban wives having greater family decision-making powers than their husbands may sometimes cover up the freedom of some husbands who shirk such «worries» and the drudgery of wives compelled to & quot-monopolize"- all powers. Thus, equality or inequality between husbands and wives should not be defined entirely in accordance with the magnitude of family powers, but should be judged by the protagonists'- willingness or unwillingness to take on such powers . In other words, under certain circumstances family powers are merely an extension of responsibilities and hard work, and the satisfaction they bring of being in an authoritative position is often diminished by the attendant worries and hard work.
Third, what has more relevance for status in the family — females possessing more power or equality and harmony between spouses?
The results of one of my earlier studies indicate that not only do powers of decision on so-called important family matters fail to manifest any significant correlation with female interviewees'- satisfaction with their family status- even comprehensive indicators of & quot-real family powers& quot- and relative indicators of who performed more household chores had little correlation with satisfaction with family status. However, variables that reflected absolute powers of the individual, such as autonomous decisions to purchase personal luxury goods, going afield to study or seek work, or providing one'-s parents with financial assistance, as well as mutual communication between spouses and sense of fairness in the allocation of household chores — all had significant positive correlations with female satisfaction with their family status . The results of another path analysis that used satisfaction with the division of housework as a mediator also indicated that wives who had powers of decision over everyday expenses were, conversely, dissatisfied with their household division of work, which consequently diminished their satisfaction with their marriage and family status . All of these, from different perspectives, put into question the subjective hypothesis of equating females'- relative powers (including relative family chore burdens) with gender equality in the family or with satisfaction with marriage. Zuo (2002) has also proposed that a distinction be made between family decision-making powers and individual decision-making powers, and believes that individual autonomous powers might be a more suitable indication for measuring spousal powers, since autonomous powers signify the extent of the individual'-s independent will and freedom, and accurately reflect the connotations of power.
Sources of Materials, characteristics, and Regional Differences of Samples
The materials for checking and verifying the theoretical hypotheses came from four communities in Shanghai'-s and Lanzhou'-s urban and rural areas. The survey samples were families chosen according to the stratified multistage probability sampling method from forty-three community/village committees in twenty-two neighborhoods/townships of nine districts/counties in Shanghai and from thirty-three community/village committees in ten neighborhoods/townships of four districts/ counties in Lanzhou. Family members twenty to sixty-five years old whose birthdays were closest to July 1 served as survey subjects. They were interviewed at their residences by trained interviewers through the use of questionnaires. Shanghai and Lanzhou completed, respectively, 1,200 and 1,000 effective samples. The 1,934 samples used in this study were currently married couples and cohabiting couples of opposite genders, among whom 95,4% percent were newlyweds and 3,4 percent were remarried people. Cohabitants accounted for only 1,3% (of the twenty-five cohabitants, twenty had never married and five were divorced). Female samples accounted for 49,6%, and suburban county samples, for 36,0%. Male and female interviewees had undergone 10,3% years and 9,6% years of schooling on average, and only 0,3% and 1,2% of males and females, respectively, have never been employed or were still in school. Judging from the families'- residential models, 62,8% percent consisted
of independent husband-and-wife households, 0,2 percent consisted of couples living with relatives of both parties, 28,2% were of the male line residential pattern (nan xi juzhu juzhu moshi), and 8,8% were matrilocal. The average family counted 3. 69 members, and had produced 1.3 children on average. For descriptive statistical results of the relevant variables, see table 1. The descriptive statistics reflects only the approximate circumstances of the samples as a whole. Actually, there are fairly
Table 1. Descriptive Statistics
Variable N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
Gender (1 = female) 1,934 0 1 0. 50 0. 50
Number of children 1,934 0 5 1. 30 0. 75
Difference between subject'-s and companion'-s years of education 1,934 -12 12 0. 03 3. 09
Proportion of subject'-s annual income in total husband-and-wife income (%) 1,934 0 100 50. 48 22. 55
Subject'-s personal and family income before marriage better than now (compound) 1,934 2 10 6. 21 1. 32
Subject more capable of managing household 1,933 -2 2 0. 02 1. 04
Family gets more support from subject'-s relatives 1,933 -2 2 0. 29 1. 04
Subject relies economically more on other party 1,934 -2 2 0. 03 0. 84
Other party has greater sense of family responsibility 1,934 -2 2 0. 07 0. 85
Subject gets more in the family 1,934 -2 2 -0. 07 0. 95
I couldn'-t find a better companion if I separated from mine 1,934 1 5 3. 45 1. 08
Region (1 = Shanghai) 1,934 0 1 0. 56 0. 50
Urban or rural (1 = urban area) 1,934 0 1 0. 64 0. 48
Years of schooling 1,934 0 23 9. 89 4. 04
Acknowledges that & quot-men are masters of the
household, and fathers/husbands make the main 1,934 1 5 2. 89 1. 19
decisions in a household& quot-
Subject'-s satisfaction with spousal interaction/ communication 1,934 1 5 3. 93 0. 80
Subject yields more frequently during husband-and-wife conflicts 1,934 -2 2 0. 12 0. 99
Mode of residence (-1. With husband'-s parents or
patrilineal relatives, 0. nuclear/bilineal, 1. With 1,934 -1 1 -0. 19 0. 58
wife'-s parents or matrilineal relatives)
On the whole, the subject has more powers of decision in the family 1,934 -2 2 -0. 25 0. 97
Subject'-s satisfaction with autonomous powers to decide personal matters 1,934 1 5 4. 12 0. 62
Proportion of household chores assumed by subject last month in overall husband-and-wife household 1,933 0 100 53.5 25. 42
Subject'-s satisfaction with fair and reasonable 1,934 1 5 3. 96 0. 82
division of household work
Table 2. Who, on the Whole, Has More powers of Decision in the Family: Regional Differences (%)
Suburban counties Urban areas Suburban counties Urban areas
-2. Husband has much more 19,7 5,6 6,3 3,9
-1. Husband has somewhat more 56,1 43,2 35,4 24,5
0. Husband and wife have about the same 13,1 25,9 40,7 41,8
1. Wife has somewhat more 8,9 20,8 17,2 24,7
2. Wife has much more 2,3 4,5 0,5 5,1
Total 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0
Number of samples 285 568 412 669
Mean -0. 82 -0. 25 -0. 30 0. 02
Standard deviation 0,94 1,00 0,84 0,93
F test 66,57*** 32,96***
p & lt-. 0001
significant differences among the four regions. Take, for example, education. Male and female interviewees in Lanzhou'-s suburban counties had on average 6.5 and 4.6 years, respectively, of schooling- in Lanzhou'-s urban areas, 10.6 and 10.1 years, respectively- in Shanghai'-s suburban counties, 8.8 and 8.0 years, respectively- and in Shanghai'-s urban areas, 12.6 and 12.0 years, respectively. In terms of the number of children per family, Lanzhou suburban county families produced on average 2. 24 children- urban areas, 1. 24 children- Shanghai'-s suburban counties, 1. 23 children- and urban areas, only one child. In terms of differences in cultural norms or regional subcultures, interviewees who approved of the traditional gender concept that & quot-men are masters of the household, and fathers/husbands make the main decisions in a household& quot- amounted to as many as 69,2% in Lanzhou'-s suburban counties, 36,9% in Shanghai'-s suburban counties, and 34,1% in Lanzhou'-s urban districts, but to only 22,4% in Shanghai'-s urban districts.
In terms of the gender distribution of marital powers, table 2 shows that powers were fairly evenly distributed in Shanghai'-s urban districts, with very few cases of either companion wielding substantially more powers, 41,8% of families practiced equal gender powers, and 28,4% and 29,8% were male-dominated and female-dominated, respectively. Meanwhile, in Lanzhou'-s suburban counties, only 13,1% of families practiced equal gender powers, as many as 75,8% were male-dominated, and only 11,2% were female-dominated. This shows not only that substantial differences exist between the regions selected but also that, on the whole, male power still occupies a dominant position in Chinese families, while family power is fairly evenly distributed between the intimate companions in the urban districts of big cities, such as Shanghai. Similar results have been obtained in studies conducted by Shen, Yang, and Li (1995) in seven large cities — Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Lanzhou, and Harbin (all samples from urban districts) and other
surveys by Xu (2001) in the cities of Shanghai and Harbin and the rural areas of Guangdong and Gansu, and the survey by Xu and Wang (2002) in Wuhan.
Mechanisms that Influence the Powers of Intimate Companions Results of analyses of comprehensive regression analysis models that use companions'- powers as dependent variables basically confirm the net effects of the resources hypothesis, the cultural norm interpretation, the theory of relative love and need, and the implementation processes of powers. The R2 of all samples, male, and female sample models are all 30% or higher (see table 3).
Because improvements were made to the relevant concepts and independent variables in the explanatory model, several new findings figure among the study results. These are:
1. Potential, relationship, and role competence resources possess greater explanatory capabilities. Some studies previously maintained that the Chinese family was more heavily influenced by the cultural environment. However, it may be because the studies focused so much on social and economic resources such as the education and income of individuals and among spouses that they were unable to observe the potential effects of hidden resources such as relation-ships, emotions, and premarital personal and family resources. The present study maintains that the undertaking of family responsibilities and the ability to fulfill family roles may be more explanatory. And, after the resources concept was expanded, it was found that the relative education and economic resources among companions did not have a significant effect of the interviewees'- decision-making powers (nor did the individual'-s absolute income have any effect). Instead, the hypothesis has been proved that the person who puts more hard work into the family, is better at managing the household, and contributes more services has more say and influence in family life. The party whose relatives provide more support to the family when needed also possesses more potential capital. Furthermore, although the long-term and potential influences of individuals prior to marriage and of family background are hard to fathom, these have been found to have independent and decisive effects.
2. The party who depends on and needs the marriage is more willing to forgo family powers. The theory of relative love and need has found strong support in the explanatory model (s), as parties who are economically dependent on their companions and get more from the marriage are more likely to submit to the other party in interactions with their companions, so as to please the other party or to be recompensed with the other party'-s affections. Because the party who is relied upon, needed, or loved generally possesses greater advantages in terms of latent resources or potential charm (such as better looks, talent, graciousness, potential for vocational development, or better qualifications for undertaking family roles), when they believe they are being & quot-shortchanged"- in the marriage interaction and feel less satisfied, they may make use of the resources they possess to seize a dominant position in the family power setup. Meanwhile, parties who would not be able to find someone better if they separated from their companion were instead more likely to forgo
Table 3. Results of Multiple Regressive Analyses of Factors that Affect the powers of Intimate Companions (B)
Variable Population (total) Males Females
(Constant) -. 110 -. 225 -1. 005***
Gender (1 = female) -542***
Number of children (1 ~ 5). 010. 093* -. 078
Relative personal resources
Difference between subject'-s and companion'-s years of education (-12 ~ 12). 001. 014 -. 017
Proportion of subject'-s annual income in total husband-and-wife income (0 ~ 100%). 056 -. 138. 162
Subject'-s personal and family income before marriage better than now (compound, 2 ~ 10) 074***. 080***. 071**
Family gets more support from subject'-s relatives (-2 ~ 2). 086***. 036. 108***
Subject has greater sense of family responsibility (2 -2) 157***. 161*** 148***
Subject is more capable of managing the family (-2 ~ 2). 165***. 188***. 136***
Dependence on and satisfaction with marriage
The other party is economically more dependent on me (-2 ~ 2) 123***. 110**. 073*
The other party gets more in the family (-2 ~ 2) 194*** 177*** 157***
I could certainly find a better companion if I separated from mine (1 ~ 5). 059**. 039. 068**
Regional (1 = Shanghai) -151*** - 372***. 093
Urban or rural (1 = urban area). 009 -. 190** 278***
Years of schooling (0 ~ 23). 000. 005 -. 026**
Attitude toward & quot-men are masters of the household, and fathers/ husbands make the main decisions in a household& quot- (1 ~ 5) -. 023 090*** -. 130***
process/method of Interaction (with reference to living together with companion'-s parents)
Subject'-s satisfaction with spousal interaction/communication (1 ~ 5). 047+. 016. 050
I yield more frequently during husband-and-wife conflicts (-2 ~ 2) -142*** -105*** -135***
influence of close relatives (with reference to living together with companion'-s parents)
Nuclear or bilineal. 120*. 117. 021
Living together with subject'-s parents. 233**. 226+. 058
N 1,931 972 958
r2. 314. 345. 317
F 46 14*** 27 93*** 24 19***
+p & lt-. 01, * p & lt-. 05, p & lt-. 001, p & lt-. 0001, same for table 4.
power and allow their companions to take control. This is also consistent with the extramarital resources exchange theory put forward by Heer (1963).
3. The decisive effects of gender attitudes and regional cultures were corroborated. Traditional gender attitudes have the effect of stereotyping gender divisions of family work and rationalizing the husband'-s authority. Interviewees who approved
of the gender concept that & quot-males are the masters of the family& quot- were more likely to endorse the implementation of the male power model in their families. Significantly more rural wives than urban wives obeyed and submitted to their husbands. More Lanzhou husbands maintained that they had the final say in their homes. More wives who were better educated stated that their husbands had the decision-making powers at home, which was indirect evidence that education is a cultural norm indicator rather than a resource variable. And education had no significant effect on the husband model, primarily because a fairly significant correlation exists between the education and regional variables, and interviewees in Lanzhou and the rural areas had significantly fewer years of schooling.
4. The effects of companions'- interactive processes on power results were partially supported. The contention that effective exchanges and communication between companions are conducive to the realization of personal powers was true only in the all-inclusive samples, and their significance was limited. This is due primarily to the fact that the said variable lacks direct targeting, since interaction/communication between two companions covers extensive areas and is not designed exclusively for power implementation. Moreover, the analysis that the companion who backs down during conflicts is always the one who has less power can hardly determine which things constitute causes and which constitute consequences. Conversely, it was proved by the all-inclusive samples that the companion who lived together with his or her own parents was more emboldened to assume control in the family, and that such situations were less prevalent among companions who lived alone. This, to a greater or lesser extent, shows that parents exert a real or potential influence over the forming of the power setup between young couples.
The Influence of Intimate companions'- powers: on the Sense of Gender Equality
The results of multiple regression analyses where both parties'- satisfaction with sense of gender equality is the dependent variable basically corroborated the original hypotheses, and the R2 of the all-inclusive sample and the male and female samples were all at around 39% (see table 4):
1. Personal autonomous powers rather than relative powers are more predictive of feelings of satisfaction with gender equality. Since an increase in the wife'-s family powers implies a corresponding decline in the husband'-s powers, relative power indicators are not necessarily effective predictive indicators of satisfaction with gender equality. The results in table 4 also show that interviewees who had autonomous powers to decide their personal affairs were more likely to agree that their companion respected them and that the two of them coexisted equally. That is, the female'-s family status is decided not by the wife'-s relative powers, but primarily by the individual'-s autonomous powers in the family, and is not obtained at the expense of reducing the male'-s relative powers.
2. Sense of fairness in the allocation of household work rather than a lighter share of household work is positively correlated with satisfaction with gender equality. The study results did not support [the contention that] interviewees who under-
Table 4. Results of Multiple Regressive Analyses of Factors that Affect Satisfaction with Gender Equality in the Family (B)
Variable Population (total) Males Females
(Constant) 1. 251*** 1. 480*** 1. 036***
Gender -. 034
Number of children (1~5). 000. 000. 006
personal resources (manifest/potential, pre-marital/post-marital)
Difference between subject'-s and companion'-s years of education (-12 ~ 12). 001. 001. 009
Proportion of subject'-s annual income in total husband-and-wife income (0 ~ 100%) -. 019 -. 054. 030
Subject'-s personal and family income before marriage better than now (compound, 2 ~ 10). 003 -. 005. 011
Family gets more support from subject'-s relatives (-2 ~ 2) -. 024+ -. 009 -. 039+
Subject has greater sense of family responsibility (-2 ~ 2). 018. 020. 054+
Subject is more capable of managing the family (-2 ~ 2). 024 -. 008. 057*
Dependence on and satisfaction with marriage
The other party is economically more dependent on me (-2 ~ 2) -. 006 -. 016 -. 001
The other party gets more in the family (-2 ~ 2) -. 016. 017. 025
I could certainly find a better companion if I separated from mine (1 ~ 5) -. 022+ -. 030+. 017
Regional (1 = Shanghai) -. 089** -. 101** -. 076
Urban or rural (1 = urban area) -. 022 -. 075+. 034
Years of schooling (0 ~ 23). 005 -. 003. 015+
Attitude toward & quot-men are masters of the household, and fathers/ husbands make the main decisions in a household& quot- (1 ~ 5). 004 -. 006 -. 014
process/method of interaction
Subject'-s satisfaction with spousal interaction/communication (1 ~ 5). 402***. 350*** 424***
I yield more frequently during husband-and-wife conflicts (-2 ~ 2) -. 042** -. 038* -. 035
influence of close relatives (with reference to living together with companion'-s parents)
Nuclear or bilineal -. 037. 057 -. 097+
Living together with subject'-s parents. 009. 036. 051
Proportion of household chores the subject undertakes out of the total for husband and wife (0 ~ 100%). 000. 000. 000
Relative powers and personal independent and autonomous powers 131***. 156*** 124***
Satisfaction with the fairness and reasonableness of the household matters i undertake
I have more power of decision in the family (-2 ~ 2). 019. 021. 005
My satisfaction with autonomous power to independently decide personal affairs (1 ~ 5). 182***. 180*** 181***
N 1,930 972 957
R2. 387. 391. 398
F 52. 40*** 27 77*** 28. 08***
take more household affairs believe their companion disrespects them or feel they are treated unequally in the family. Instead, interviewees who felt that household work was unfairly allocated were more likely to be dissatisfied with gender equality in their relations with their companion.
The results of this study of four communities in China'-s seaboard and inland regions and in urban and rural areas show fairly large regional differences in the models of family powers, and although equal rights have become the mainstream in Shanghai'-s urban districts where the gender culture is relatively modern, significantly more males than females hold dominant positions in urban and rural sample families of Shanghai'-s suburban counties and in China'-s interior. Since the targets and specific values of social exchanges in intimate relationships are less well-defined or equivalent than those of economic exchanges, such nonmaterial, intangible, and latent resources as love, household management abilities, assumption of responsibilities, services to the family, role competence, persuasiveness, and advice all possess exchange value. That, plus the fact that basically all wives on the Chinese mainland continue to seek (outside) employment after getting married, and that education and income disparities between them and their husbands are fairly small, especially in the cities, makes the inclusion of household management abilities and service contributions as important family role resources quite necessary when localizing Western theories. This design is also consistent with China'-s circumstances. It may be that in families where both husband and wife are employed and within a social structure where disparities in terms of obvious and material resources are inconsiderable, such intangible and latent resources as household management abilities, service contributions, and support from relatives prove to be more explanatory. Furthermore, as stated earlier, the judiciousness, knowledge, and abilities needed for family decision making are not necessarily derived from education and professional training but depend more on the accumulation of practice and experience in life.
Community cultures and subcultures are still quite explanatory with regard to spousal power models. Three out of four families in Lanzhou'-s suburban counties still adhere to the interaction model of male power, and this is clearly related to the fact that 70% of interviewees there believed that husbands and fathers should make the main decisions in the family. Although the gender equality marriage system has been promoted in China for half a century, the centuries-old traditional gender norms of & quot-male domination and female subordination& quot- and & quot-the male decides and the female obeys& quot- still lurk in the mental recesses of society, and continue to influence and constrain the establishment and exercise of gender authority in family relationships.
This study also maintains that gender equality in the family is not determined by companions undertaking household chores fifty-fifty and having the same powers, nor is the female'-s family status determined by the relative amount of household work undertaken and the relative powers wielded by the wife. The study results also disprove the contention that relatively light household chore burdens equal
higher family status, which more family power equals higher satisfaction with gender equality, and that sense of fairness in the sharing of household chores and the individual'-s absolute autonomous powers in the family are better indicators for measuring gender equality in the family. The new line of thinking in this measurement system rests on the contention that improvements in the female'-s family status are not achieved at the cost of lowering the male'-s family powers. It endeavors instead to have husband and wife set up equal and harmonious companionship relations, strive for benign marital interactions, and together improve the autonomous powers and satisfaction of both parties in family life, in the interests of achieving the goal of gender freedom, harmony, and all-around development. This study abandons the method of explaining the powers of intimate companions by means of a single theory and, on the basis of carrying forward the academic achievements of our predecessors, makes some improvements on the research structure in an effort to set up a comprehensive multivariate and systematic model. The success of this model'-s design is shown by the analyses results, and the variables selected are quite explanatory of the powers of intimate companions and their sense of gender equality. However, because marital powers are a multitier phenomenon as well as a dynamic and complex process of interaction, and due to the vague, indirect, and latent nature of family powers, ordinary quantitative analyses are unable to answer questions such as: which actions or decisions have power significance, in what circumstances/incidents and by means of what tactics/devices family powers are established and built up, what both parties think and why they act in certain ways, what kind of capital or value symbols and benefits or satisfactions are held in store by power and status, and so forth. Hence, one must use methods that combine quantitative and qualitative research, and conduct multidimensional, dynamic, and meticulous observations and probes as well as analyses that proceed from the surface to the essence when studying the formation and the operational processes of manifest and hidden family influence/authority, if one is to enrich and deepen the results of research that measures and explains gender equality in the family. Hence, the efforts made by the present study are merely an initial endeavor, in which some of the designs are still fairly simplistic or insufficiently targeted, and certain limitations exist in measurements using a single & quot-actual family power& quot- indicator as the dependent variable. Deeper research will need to put more efforts into the sense of stratification and process analyses.
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Date accepted 18. 10. 2015.