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Social Justice Research, Vol. 11, No.

3, 1998

Justice in the FamilyMultiple Perspectives on the Division of Labor: Introduction

Gerold Mikula1

The present issue of Social Justice Research deals with justice in the division of family work between women and men. Division of family work has received increasing attention from the social sciences in recent years (for reviews, see Shelton and John, 1996; Spitze, 1988; Thompson and Walker, 1989). The interest in this topic was stimulated by the increased participation of women in the paid labor force, as well as by the observation that these changes did not lead to parallel changes in the division of family work. Women still do a much larger share of family work than men do, despite the fact that they are carrying greater responsibility for paid work than before. The majority of studies on family work addressed the causes of gender inequality, while reactions to and consequences of the unbalanced division of labor received less attention thus far. Accordingly, little attention also has been given to justice-related aspects of the division of family work. However, division of family work clearly is a subject matter of justice. Considerations of justice can affect how family work is divided. In addition, division of family work can become subject to justice judgments. Finally, possible perceptions of injustice, in turn, can mediate other consequences of the division of family work. This special issue informs the interested reader about recent research on justice and the division of family work. The papers present multiple perspectives on justice and fairness in relation to family work and address a large variety of questions. The studies also differ in their methodological approaches and use data from surveys, interviews, and experimental
1All correspondence

should be addressed to Gerold Mikula, Department of Psychology, University of Graz, A-8010 Graz, Austria (e-mail:
0885-7466/98/0900-0211$15.00/0 @ 1998 Plenum Publishing Corporation



vignette studies. Finally, the data come from a variety of national samples: United States, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, and Austria. The first paper by Mikula provides a review of studies which dealt with perceptions of justice and fairness in relation to the division of household labor. The review first discusses studies that considered justice evaluations as the dependent variable and explored factors that contribute to the perception of injustice. Then, the review focuses on studies that considered perceptions of fairness as the independent variable and explored associations between perceptions of injustice and other consequences of the division of housework. Finally, the available research is critically assessed and suggestions are made for future research. The following two papers, although differing in many respects, both deal with first-time mothers' and fathers' views about ideal and actually practiced divisions of family work. The study of Grote and Clark is based upon Clark and Mills' (1979) distinction between communal and exchange relationships and corresponding social norms. Participants were asked to assess how ideal they regard three different norms for marital relationships and to what extent they actually followed them, in general, and with respect to division of household tasks and child care, in particular. In addition, the authors analyze the associations between adherence to the three norms and perceived fairness of the division of family work. Reichle and Gefke studied justice evaluations and reports of actual adherence to a variety of distributive justice and procedural justice rules, partly reflecting traditional, gender segregated regulations and partly reflecting modern, egalitarian arrangements. This study considers a broad spectrum of issues of distribution including household labor, child care, leisure time, and breadwinning. The paper of Freudenthaler and Mikula deals with factors that contribute to employed women's perceptions of injustice regarding the division of household labor. The authors propose and empirically test a comprehensive theoretical model that integrates assumptions of various theoretical approaches to the experience of injustice: The distributive justice framework of Major (1993) and Thompson (1991), the two-factor model of relative deprivation (Crosby, 1982), and the attribution-of-blame model of judgments of injustice (Mikula, 1993). The next two papers deal with consequences of the division of family work. Blair analyzes effects of perceptions of fairness upon husbands' and wives' evaluations of marital quality. Using data from the 1993 National Survey of Families and Households, the study considers characteristics of spouses' employment, and their gender role ideologies, in addition to the division of household chores. Kluwer's research deals with marital interaction patterns (e.g., wife-demand/husband-withdraw interactions) during conflict about the division of family work. The paper reports on a study

Justice in the Family: Introduction


with first-time parents, using hypothetical vignettes. Participants indicated how they and their spouse would behave in the described situation and rated the likelihood of consequent changes in the division of family work. The final paper by Goodnow differs from the preceding contributions as it does not deal with the overall balance of work done by the members of a household. Rather its focus is on the distribution and redistribution of household tasks. Summarizing results of a series of studies, Goodnow analyzes the ideas, which are held by parents and children, about appropriate and legitimate ways of moving jobs from one family member to another. The discussion considers characteristics of tasks (e.g., the ownership of tasks) as well as procedures as factors that underlie perceptions of fairness. Hopefully, the present issue of Social Justice Research will increase mutual recognition between the fields of family research and of justice research and promote profitable further collaboration between the two disciplines. Justice research can provide family researchers a solid theoretical framework for the study of the division of family work and inform about relevant variables and processes. For justice researchers, the division of family work offers a good opportunity to study a number of important issues, such as factors and processes that contribute to the development of entitlement beliefs, the conditions that contribute to feelings of injustice, and variables that mediate and/or moderate emotional, cognitive and behavioral responses to perceived injustice. Beyond that, the study of division on family work extends the focus of justice research from the distribution of positively valued outcomes and conditions to the distribution of burdens and duties.

Clark, M. S., and Mills, J. (1979). Interpersonal attraction in exchange and communal relationships. J. Pen. Soc. PsychoL 37: 12-24. Crosby, F. (1982). Relative Deprivation and Working Women, Oxford University Press, New York. Major, B. (1993). Gender, entitlement, and the distribution of family labor. J. Soc. Issues 49: 141-159. Mikula, G. (1993). On the experience of injustice. European Review of Social Psychology, Vol. 4, Wiley, Chichester, U.K., pp. 223-244. Shelton, B. A., and John, D. (1996). The division of household labor. Ann. Rev. Social. 22: 299-322. Spitze, G. (1988). Women's employment and family relations: A review. J. Man. Fam. 50: 595-618. Thompson, L. (1991). Family work: Women's sense of fairness. J. Fam. Issues 12: 181-196. Thompson, L., and Walker, A, J. (1989). Gender in families: Women and men in marriage, work, and parenthood. J. Man. Fam. 51: 845-871.

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