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Housewives' Self-Esteem and Their Husbands' Success: The Myth of Vicarious Involvement

Anne Statham Macke, George W. Bohrnstedt and Ilene N. Bernstein
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 41, No. 1 (Feb., 1979), pp. 51-57
DOI: 10.2307/351730
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/351730
Page Count: 7
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Housewives' Self-Esteem and Their Husbands' Success: The Myth of Vicarious Involvement
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Abstract

This study tests the common assertion that women, especially upper middle-class housewives, vicariously experience their husbands' success. Our findings for 121 mostly upper middle-class housewives disprove this assertion. Husbands' success does positively affect a housewife's self-esteem, but only indirectly, through its effect on perceived marital success. Only husband's income has a direct positive effect on self-esteem, while other successes of the husband actually lower her self-esteem. These findings, made more dramatic by a comparison with professional married women for whom none of the above effects appear, demonstrate the ambiguous impact traditional marriage has on women. Since marriage is traditionally a basis for a woman's identity, successful marriage increases her feelings of worth. However, the specific role arrangements may reduce her feelings of personal competence.

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