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  • Created by: Chaz Beau
  • Created on: 07-05-12 10:07

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Topic 1: Couples
Domestic division of labour
Parsons: instrumental and expressive roles
Traditional nuclear family, roles segregated.
Talcott Parsons (1955) functionalist model of family clear division of labour between spouses.
Husband instrumental role, achieving success at work and breadwinner
Wife expressive role, primary socialization of children and carer
Argues division of labour based on biological differences, women `naturally' suited to nurturing role
and men provider.
Division of labour beneficial to men and women, their children and wider society. Conservative and
New Right thinkers also hold this view.
Other sociologists criticized Parsons:
Young and Willmott (1962) argue men greater share of tasks and wives wage earners
Feminists reject division of labour natural and only benefits men
Joint and segregated conjugal roles
Elizabeth Bott (1957) distinguishes two types of conjugal roles within marriage:
1. Segregated conjugal roles where couple separate roles
2. Joint conjugal role where couple share tasks
Young and Willmott identify segregated conjugal roles in study of traditional working-class
extended families in Bethnel Green, East London. Men working on docks- breadwinner, women- sole
responsibility for children and housework.
The symmetrical family
Young and Willmott (1973) take `march of progress' view of history of family, gradually improving
for all members- becoming more equal and democratic.
Argue long-term trend away from segregated conjugal roles and towards joint- `the symmetrical
Symmetrical family means roles of husbands and wives although not identical area more similar:
Women go out to work
Men now help with housework
Couples spend leisure time together
Found symmetrical more common in young couples- geographically and socially isolated and the
more better off.
See rise in symmetrical nuclear family result of major social changes during past century:
Changes in women's position
Geographical mobility
New technology
Higher standards of living

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A feminist view of housework
Reject `march of progress' argue little's changed, men and women still unequal.
Society still patriarchal and women occupy subordinate and dependent role within family and wider
Ann Oakley (1974) criticizes Young and Willmott argues claims exaggerated, although found
husbands interviewed helped at least once a week- could include simply taking children for a
walk/making breakfast.
Oakley says hardly convincing evidence.
In own research found evidence of husbands helping but no evidence of trend towards symmetry.…read more

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Evidence women being in paid work leads to more equality in division of labour
Feminists argue in reality effect of this limited, still continue to shoulder dual or triple burden
even if men doing more in home, domestic tasks remain gendered
Feminists argue root of problem patriarchy, gender scripts (expectations/norms set out
different gender roles men and women in heterosexual couples expected to play)
Patriarchy also ensures women earn less at work and so less bargaining power in home, until
patriarchy challenged in home…read more

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Domestic violence not occur randomly but follows particular social patterns that have
causes, most striking of these patterns that it's mainly violence by men against women
Mirrlees-Black found:
Most victims women
99% all incidents against women committed by men
Nearly 1 in 4 woman been assaulted by partner at some time in life, and 1 in 8
Confirmed Dobash's (1970) research based on police and court records and interviews with women
in refuges.…read more

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Living in rented accommodation
Low incomes/financial difficulties
High levels of alcohol consumption/use of illegal drugs
Wilkinson: domestic violence inequality and stress
Richard Wilkinson (1996) offers explanation of patterns, sees domestic violence as result of stress
family members caused by social inequality.
Means some families fewer resources than others, such as income and housing. Low
incomes/overcrowded accommodation likely to experience higher levels of stress- reduces change
of stable relationships and increase conflict and violence.…read more


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