41 Journal of Marriage and Family 51 (1979)
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 arrangement may reduce her feelings of personal competence.
Bernstein, Ilene Nagel; Macke, Anne Statham; and Bohrnstedt, George W., "Housewives' Self-Esteem and their Husbands' Success: The Myth of Vicarious Involvement" (1979). Articles by Maurer Faculty. Paper 2082.