The good-provider role: its rise and fall.
The general structure of the "traditional" American family, in which the husband-father is the provider and the wife-mother the housewife, began to take shape early in the 19th century. This structure lasted about 150 years, from 1830-1980, when the US Census no longer automatically denominated the male as head of the household. As "providing" became increasingly mediated by cash derived from participation in the labor force or from commercial enterprises, the powers and prerogatives of the provider role augmented, and those of the housewife, who lacked a cash income, declined. Gender identity became associated with work site as well as with work. As affluence spread, the provider role became more and more competitive and escalated into the good-provider role. There were always defectors from the good-provider role, and in recent years expressed dissatisfaction with it increased. As more and more married women entered the labor force and thus assumed a share of the provider role, the powers and prerogatives of the good-provider role became diluted. At the present time a process that Ralph Smith calls "the subtle revolution" is realigning family roles. A host of social-psychological obstacles related to gender identity have to be overcome before a new social-psychological structure can be achieved. The good-provider role may be on its way out, but its legitimate successor has not yet appeared on the scene.