CRFT #4 The Symmetrical Family (1973)

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  • The Symmetrical Family (1973)
    • Young and Willmotts four stages of family life:
      • STAGE THREE - The Symmetrical Family
        • Nuclear family is emphasised at the expense of extended family
        • Home centred and privatised
        • Symmetrical roles of husband and wife, less segregated, more equal
        • Emerged in middle class but spread into working class
      • STAGE TWO - The Early Industrial Family
        • This caused the family to be 'torn apart'
        • Men 'drawn' into industrial work while women did the domestic duties
        • Women formed kinship networks to provide them with mutual support
        • The family's economic function was taken over by large scale industry
      • STAGE FOUR - The Asymmet-rical Family
        • Husbands will be involved in work and domestic duties will be devolved onto wives
        • Study of sample of managing directors' families. These in theory should diffuse downwards. Managing directors are work-centred rather than home-centred
        • Couples will spend less time together compared to a privatised family
        • Upper class will be setting the trends for family life
      • STAGE ONE - Pre-industrial Family
        • Family members worked together in agriculture and cottage industries
        • An organised unit of production
        • Home and work were not separated
      • Reasons for rise in symmetrical family
        • Geographical mobility has increased - Study of Bethnal Green
        • Decrease in male mortality and unemployment rate
        • Less children - enables wives to get jobs. Economical equality between spouses
        • Money - increase in male wages and employment in women
        • Better living standards - Men were attracted to their homes + more home entertainment
      • Stratified diffusion
        • Stage 3 family has been derived through the process of stratified diffusion
          • Working class - shorter working hours, higher standards of living, family life becomes more nuclear and privatised
          • Less need for extended family for mutual aid
          • Higher classes initiate ideas on family - Pass down to lower classes
          • Devote time and money to home and children
    • Criticisms of Young and Willmott's 4 stages of family life
      • Goldthorpe and Lockwood's study rejected the view that there was convergence between middle and working class value systems
      • Sociologists unhappy about stratified diffusion
      • Feminist Family isn't symmetrical
      • Conflict theorist - they believe that family life will get better. They don't address negative aspects of changes in the modern family
      • Women still do the housework
    • Young and Wilmot in "the symmetrical Family" disagreed with parsons view of a biological division of labour.
    • they argues that there has been a movement towards symmetry or joint conjugal roles with regards to housework, childcare, decision making and the control and ownership of money - hence a greater power sharing and equality.
    • In stage 2 of Young and Willmotts stages of family life; the pre-industrial family, conjugal roles still largely segregated
    • the husband was not really involved in housework and raising children. This was also seen in leisure and past times where women would socialise with female neighbours and family with male work mates
    • They found that 72% of husbands did housework other than washing up during the week although females do still have primary responsibility for housework and childcare
    • However husbands and wives are now more jointly responsible for decisions that affect the family, such as finance and children's education, where the husband would of made the majority of the decisions in the past
    • However
      • Feminist Oakley 1974 - argues that their claim of increasing symmetry within the marriage is based in inadequate methodology. Oakley notes that men who make only a very small contribution to housework would be included in the 72%- she says:
        • "A man who helps with the childcare one a week, would be included in the percentage, so would (presumably) a man who ironed his own trousers on a Saturday afternoon" she is suggesting that really men don't do much
      • Oakley collected information on 40 married women who has one child or more under the are of 5 who were British or Irish born and aged 20-30
      • Half of her sample were working class, and the other half were middle class, and they all lived in the London area
      • She found greater equality in terms of the allocation of domestic tasks between spouses in the middle class than the working class
      • However in both classes few men had a high level of participation in housework and childcare; few marriages could be defined as egalitarian.
      • In only 15% of marriages did men have a high level of participation in house work, and in childcare only 30%
      • But Oakley's study was limited to 40 mothers in London; the study is nearly 30 years out-of-date and cannot be reflective of housework now
      • On the other hand, similar research by Warde and Hetherington 199 - shows sex stereotyping of domestic tasks is still strong and women still do more domestic labour than men. This study is more contemporary an d even in 1993 divisions were still apparent
    • Willmott and Young believe that the reasons for more equality in conjugal roles in the symmetrical family is because females have less contact (and help) with female kin (loss of the extended family), and men are isolated more from work and more involved in the family as a unit - the family is changing
    • Additional evidence
      • Since the early research on Young and Willmott and Oakley other methods of looking at conjugal roles have been devised
      • The British Attitudes Survey 1997
        • Washing and ironing were less female dominated in the UK than in other European countries and in Sweden both males and females are as likely to look after sick relatives
        • This shows movement towards domestic equality (or conjugal equality) but not on all tasks and only by 5%
        • found that a small reduction (84% in 1991 to 79% in 1997) in the number of women doing tasks such as washing and ironing and a small tasks such as repairs
        • Included tasks from other European countries, but only on limited number of household tasks
      • Devine 1992
        • Bit the wife's role is secondary - "above all women remain responsibile for childcare and housework and their husbands help them" Devine 1992
        • Did a small scale study of car worker families in Luton which indicated that men's contribution to domestic labour increased when
        • Therefore against showing only a small movement towards domestic equality or conjugal equality
      • Boulton 1983
        • They found that if a 3 year old was ill, 69.9% of mothers did the care compared to 1.1% of their partners.
        • Overall 28,000 parents were questioned when their baby was 9.-10 months and every 23,000  when they were 3
        • In 28.6% the responsibility was shared
        • The Millennium Cohort Study Dex and Ward 2007 was a longitudinal study based on quantitate data about babies born between 2000 and 2001
        • However fathers did help with routing tasks, for example 5% of fathers read daily to their children, 78% played with them
        • the extent of mens involvement in childcare is exaggerated, men might help with particular tasks, but it is their wives who retain primary responsibility for children
        • But fathers were less involved in putting them to bed, 24%, this would indicate that in relation to childcare men are less involved than we would expect, therefore widening the domestic equality (or conjugal equality) status of men and women
      • Ferri and Smith 1990's
        • Even when the women had paid employment outside the home and the man did not, it was still more common for the women that the man to take main responsibility for routine childcare or childcare in the event of illness
        • This suggests that increasing employment of married women outside the home has made comparatively little impact on the contribution of their male partners to childcare
        • looked at everybody born in Great Britain in 1998 and found it was still very rare for father to take primary responsibility.
        • This study also found little evidence of the development of egalitarian roles in relation to other types of housework
      • Dryden's 1999
        • qualitative study of 17 married couples found that women still had major responsibility for housework and childcare, again showing minimal evidence for conjugal equality
      • Social Attitudes Survey 2008 - Crompton and Lyonette suggests that there are two main explanations for why women might do more housework than men
        • Normative or gender construction theory
          • Suggests that the division of household labour is not rational at all but is shaped by dominant ideas about the gender roles. So women will tend to do more housework because this is what society expects, even when they do as much paid work as men
        • Economistic and material theories
          • involves a rational idea that because men spend more time in paid employment  makes sense for women to do more housework
        • Crompton and Lyonette concluded that "in aggregate, women remain normatively associated with domestic work and caring and  continuing to restrict the choices that women are  making about how much work they should do
        • In 1989 32% of men and 26% of women agreed but by 2006 this had fallen to 17% by men and 15% by women
        • Crompton and Lyonette found a change in attitudes, when asked to agree or not to the following statement "A man's job is to earn money and a women's job is to look after the home and family".
        • Overall  they concluded that there was a big shift in the 1960's and 1990's to greater equality but very little movement since
        • Furthermore, because women continue to earn less than men on average (only 12% of the couples sampled the women earned more), it will continue to make economic sense in most household for the man to do more work than the women (harry 2013)
        • According to the responses of women from the surveys in 2002 and 2006 the most gendered task was laundry, with 80% reporting women did it followed by 68% cleaning, 61% preparing meals, 54% caring for sick family and 49% grocery shopping
      • Braun Et Al 2006/2011
        • There other were classified as "background fathers" who did not spend much time with their children and saw the mother as the primary responsibility
        • Of these 16 were classified as "active fathers" and were highly involved, 4 of these still needed wife instruction.
        • Throughout the sample there was a strong provider ideology which linked to being a breadwinner with masculine identities
        • In depth study of 16 working class fathers from London using interview with 70 families with preschool children, including 16 interviews with men
        • Braun At Al argues that the ideas surrounding the roles of mothers and fathers are reinforced by the notion of intensive mothering
    • So Oakley - The Rise of the Housewife Role
      • Although women had initially been part of the industrial labour force, they were gradually excluded from the workforce and confined to the home with the sole responsibility for housework and childcare, whilst men became the sole bread-winner
      • In Oakley's view even though the 20th century saw an increase in the number of married women working, the housewife role is still women's primary role
      • Also, women who work concentrated in low-paid jobs that are often an extension of the housewife role, such as nursing, secretarial work of childcare
      • So conjugal equality according to Oakley has not been achieved for the housewife
      • Oakley describes how the housewife role has become dominant for married women
      • In this way, the housewife role was socially constricted, rather than being a women's "natural" role as parsons claims
      • industrialisation and the rise of factory production in the 19th century led to the separation of paid work from the home.
      • This enforced a subordination and economic dependence on men.
      • Rather than seeing the "march of progress" towards symmetry since the 19th century as Young and Willmott did

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