Methods: Data are from the National Latino and Asian American Study, a publicly available nationally representative psychiatric epidemiological study. Analyses were limited to Asian American men (N= 707, 47%) and women (N= 763, 53%) in a married relationship (27.5% Chinese; 13.49% Vietnamese; 21.43% Filipinos; and 37.56% all other Asians). At the bivariate level ANOVAs were run to determine if men and women significantly differ on self-reported mental health, family cohesion and marital role-sharing (responsibility for financial decisions, other decisions, and chores). Multivariate regression models examined the association between mental health, family cohesion and marital role-sharing, controlling for gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, years in USA, income, size of household, and acculturative stress. All analyses were conducted with Stata 14.0, weighted, and adjusted for the multi-stage area probability sample design.
Results: Husbands reported more responsibility for making household and financial decisions, whereas wives reported more responsibility for household chores. For both husbands and wives, marital role-sharing was not significantly associated with family cohesion. Wives reported lower mental health and higher family cohesion compared to husbands. For all spouses, family cohesion was positively associated with mental health (husbands r= .09, p= 0.001; wives r= .10, p= 0.001). Controlling for other factors, mental health was significantly greater when household roles were shared, but this association was significant only for women (r= .09, p= 0.017).
Implications: Results from this nationally representative sample suggest that cultural norms regarding gender differences in household responsibilities are prevalent among Asian spouses in the U.S. When there is a departure from cultural norms, such as when marital roles are more egalitarian, Asian American wives experience positive mental health effects. Family cohesion does not appear to be influenced by marital role-sharing, but it is a positive and significant predictor of mental health for both genders. These findings may be helpful to social work practitioners serving Asian American families in social service or behavioral health settings. The importance of family cohesion for husband and wives, and the positive implications for wives’ mental health when household responsibilities are shared offer targets for strengths-based counseling and intervention.