Roles and relationships between partners

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  • Roles and relationships within families changing
    • Roles & relationships between partners
      • Significant changes in conjugal roles, the roles of men and women within marriage over the last 50 years.
        • Shift to joint conjugal roles, where husbands and wives both perform paid work, share the unpaid work in the home and have shared leisure and social activities.
      • Many feminists pointed to the extent to which heterosexual relationships are still patriarchal, with men continuing to play a more dominant role.
    • Perspectives on gender roles in families
      • Functionalism
        • Parsons & Bales (1955), a division of roles between men and women in families is a functional necessity that ensures that each partner specialises in a role they are suited to
          • The expressive role usually performed by mothers is primarily about ensuring the emotional needs of the husband & children are provided for.
          • The instrumental roles is more suited to men and involves providing an income for the family.
          • Parsons suggests that to some extent these roles are based in biology.
            • As women bear children, it is natural that they should also play a bigger role in their socialisation.
      • Symmetry and the democratisation of gender roles
        • Young & Willmott (1973)
          • Symmetrical family
            • Conjugal roles are joint. The roles of husband and wife are more symmetrical, both paid work and unpaid domestic work are shared.
            • The family is nuclear. The focus of the family is on the relationship between husband, wife and children, and extended ties have weakened.
            • The family is privatised. Husbands and wives spend more time in the privacy of their home together.
      • Feminism
        • Ann Oakley (1974)
          • The housewife role remained the role for married women.
        • Radical feminism -  the way gender roles are organised in families, reflects the patriarchal nature of traditional families and the fact that men still exercise more power than women.
        • The dark side of the family is ignored by functionalists. The dark side can be seen at its most extreme in the form of domestic violence and child abuse, which can be commonly committed by men.
      • Marxism
        • Fulfilling personal relationships are impossible in a capitalist society because of materialism.
          • Unpaid labour such as housework and childcare performed by family members, especially women, benefits the capitalist class.
      • Postmodernism
        • Conventional sociological research has focused on roles and relationships in traditional nuclear families and point out that these cannot be generalised to other types of families.
      • Domestic division of labour
        • Women increasingly participate in paid employment but often earn less than men and may work part-time in order to allow them time for family responsibilities.
        • Women are now faced with a dual burden where in many cases they are working full-time like men but also undertaking a second burden where they undertake the majority of housework and childcare.


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