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Sociology Unit 1 ­ Families and Households Revision Notes
The domestic division of labour
Parsons (1955): Instrumental and Expressive Roles
In the traditional nuclear family roles are segregated between the husband and the wife. In Talcott
Parsons view (Functionalism) he sees a clear division of labour between spouses:
Instrumental role ­ Performed by the husband, and geared towards achieving success so
he can financially support the family. He is the breadwinner.
Expressive role ­ Performed by the wife, geared towards primary socialisation or children
and meeting emotional needs of the family
Parsons suggests this division is based upon biological differenceswhere women are suited to
nurturing roles and men suited to providing. Conservatives and politicians in the New Right theory
support this view.
Criticisms of Parsons View
Young and Wilmott ­ Men are now taking a greater share of domestic tasks ad wives
becoming wage earners
Feminists­ Only benefits men
Joint and Segregated Conjugal Roles: Elizabeth Bott (1957)
Segregated conjugal roles ­ Separate roles such as Parsons view
Joint conjugal roles ­ Shared tasks
The Symmetrical Family
Young and Wilmott (1973) have a `march of progress' view of the family. See it as gradually
improving. The symmetrical family if where the roles between the husband and wife are now
much more similar:
Women now go out to work
Men help with housework
Couples spend leisure time together
This type of family is more common amongst younger couples they found. They also found it was
also common in the higher classes. They see this as a result of some major changes:
Changes in women's position
Geographical mobility
New technology

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Sociology Unit 1 ­ Families and Households Revision Notes
Higher standards of living
A Feminists view of housework
They believe that women working has a negative effect and some say women are taking on extra
work. Anne Oakley (1974) criticised Young and Wilmott's view saying the claims of a symmetrical
family are exaggerated. She says that industrialisation has created the housewife role. Other
theorists have supported her findings. Mary Boulton (1983) found that fewer than 20% of
husbands had a major role in childcare.…read more

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Sociology Unit 1 ­ Families and Households Revision Notes
Lesbian Couples and Gender Scripts
Gillian Dunne (1999) argues the division of labour continues because of deeply ingrained gender
scripts. These are expectations or norms that the different gender roles men and women in
heterosexual relationships are expected to play. Gender scripts do not operate to the same extent
in lesbian couples.…read more

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Sociology Unit 1 ­ Families and Households Revision Notes
Wilkinson: Domestic Violence, Inequality and Stress
Wilkinson (1996) suggests that domestic violence is the result of stress on family members caused
by social inequality. This view however, doesn't explain why it is mainly men against women.…read more


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