For Husbands, Does More Housework Mean Less Sex?
The nationally representative data, collected between 1992 and 1994, is considered the most recent large-scale information measuring sexual frequency in married couples. The average age of survey participants was 46 for the husbands and 44 for the wives, and the marriages were all heterosexual.
Together, the couples spent about 34 hours a week on traditionally female chores, plus an additional 17 hours a week on tasks typically considered men's work. Husbands did about one-fifth of so-called traditional female chores and a little more than half of the male tasks, suggesting that wives helped out with the men's chores more often than husbands took on the wives'.
The researchers accounted for differences in self-reported happiness in the marriage, how recently the couples were married, family structure, each spouse's time spent in paid work, the wife's share of income, education and self-rated health, among other factors.
Men and women reported having sex an average of about five times a month. For those couples in which the wife does all the traditionally female housework, husbands and wives reported having sex 1.6 times more a month than those where the husband does a larger share of those chores.
Does the data still apply now, 20 years after the survey was done? Brines said that although a lot has changed in marriage since the 1960s -- especially with women increasingly taking on jobs outside the home and men having a greater role in child rearing -- research shows relatively little change in household assignment of tasks since the 1990s.
"I'm skeptical that the relationship between housework and sex changed a lot because housework responsibilities haven't changed much," she said.
For her part, Markie Blumer, an assistant professor in the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the age of the data is a big weakness in the study. "The economic crash definitely changed a lot of the household dynamics," she said, adding that many of those who became unemployed were men who started doing most of the housework.
Lead study author Sabino Kornrich said it's possible that when both spouses work outside the home, sheer fatigue could reduce the frequency of sex.