Husband Wife Relationship

Traditional descriptions of the husband-wife or heterosexual partnered relationship viewed the female partner as the property of the male. Women's primary task was to raise children, manage the household, and serve their male partners. Warwick and Williamson (1977) found that marital communication about sexual behavior and family planning among Puerto Ricans was limited. They attributed the findings to cultural views on femininity, male fear of loss of dominance, and fear of wife's infidelity. The spousal/partner system of the low-income Puerto Rican family has frequently been described as strained because of the different expectations imposed by the culture on men and women. In patriarchal authoritarian families, few activities are shared between spouses.

The limited research available shows that Puerto Rican women are not passive chattel. Instead, while males clearly hold a more powerful social position in families and in relationships, many couples engage in more egalitarian roles and decision-making. Women's educational levels have risen, further prompting employment outside the home and migration away from childhood homes. Rising divorce rates and nonmarital fertility quickly vault mothers into the breadwinner role (Zsembik & Bonilla, 2000). As women have obtained education and economic independence, they have also obtained greater authority in the home. Conversely, males are also changing their attitudes about gender as Puerto Rican society becomes more open to issues of egalitarianism and equality between the sexes. Women have been found to have a range of expectations about their roles as wife (Muñoz-Vázquez, 1980). In addition, some scholars have found that a husband's authority varies by socioeconomic class and region of the country. In certain rural regions, husbands' authority may be very great while in the large urban capital of San Juan their authority may be greatly diminished (Vázquez-Nuttall & Romero-García, 1989).

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