Husband Wife Relationship

Few studies of husband-wife relationships have been conducted in Taiwan, although it is likely that these vary across class, ethnicity, region, and age. In general, however, young people seek romantic love and affection in marriage, while older people value deferential wives and responsible husbands able to ensure the viability of the family (R. S. Gallin, 2002). Within the household, the traditional gendered division of labor prevails, although exceptions have been found among some middle-class families. When both husband and wife hold egalitarian values and are highly educated, and when a wife contributes a high ratio of income to the household budget, a husband tends to share domestic work (M. L. Lee, Yang, & Yi, 2000). Nevertheless, given the obduracy of the wai-nei division, even women who contribute substantially to the domestic unit as workers in family businesses retain sole responsibility for housework and childcare (R. S. Gallin & Gardner, 1995; Lu, 2001).

In contrast to the older generation, most younger couples jointly participate in household decision making. However, Mainlander women usually have more power in decision-making than their Taiwanese counterparts (M. L. Lee et al., 2000). Nevertheless, regardless of ethnicity, many wives publicly defer to their husbands to give them "face," thereby demonstrating that their husbands hold absolute power in their relationship (Hsieh & Wang, 1995).

The divorce rate in Taiwan has been rising. Approximately one in four couples obtained a divorce in 1999 (Lei, 2000), although the rate is higher in urban than rural areas. According to civil law, both husbands and wives can initiate divorce. Until 1996, a divorced father had sole rights to children upon dissolution of a marriage. Currently, a couple seeking divorce jointly participate in making arrangements for child custody. If parents fail to reach an agreement, a judge makes the decision. This change has helped divorced women obtain custody of their children. Yet, because of women's disadvantaged position in the economy, divorced women suffer financial hardships, especially when they have child custody. Moreover, few divorced women request child support, further exacerbating their difficult financial situation (Lei, 2000).

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