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Outline and evaluate the view that roles of men and women in the family are becoming more equal.
Functionalists like PARSONS saw segregated conjugal roles as normal and functional for
society, with males performing the instrumental role outside the home and women performing
the expressive role inside it. Feminists, on the other hand, have been critical of unequal
conjugal roles. According to ANN OAKLEY the creation of the mother housewife role during the
Industrial Revolution helped make conjugal roles very unequal because women became
financially dependent on their partner.
The view that the roles of men and women have become more equal in the family was
suggested by WILLMOTT & YOUNG who argued that conjugal roles were becoming more
symmetrical. This symmetrical family had similar roles, not identical roles. They thought this
new family type developed among middle class families and is now gradually spreading through
to working class families. They call this is the `principle of stratified diffusion'. The research found
that more wives have paid work, and husbands were spending more time at home, helping with
housework and childcare; decision were also likely to be shared.
However, this was challenged by ANN OAKLEY who felt that Young and Willmott exaggerated
the amount of `symmetry' in conjugal roles. Her research shows that conjugal roles still
remained VERY UNEQUAL. The mothers she interviewed still felt the housework and children
were their responsibility and were grateful for any `help' their partner's gave.
In the continuing debate about conjugal roles, researchers have focused on the division of
labour in the family by studying Employment, Domestic labour, Childcare. They have also
looked at power in the family by studying Decision making, money management and
1. In terms of Employment, the increased employment of married and cohabiting women was
an importance change family roles. CHESTER saw this as the main change affecting the
`neo-conventional' family. This is supported by Kiernan (Br Soc Att Survey) who saw this as
the main factor causing conjugal roles to become more equal.
Women have now become less dependent on their partner and men are now more likely to
help with household tasks. Laws such as the 1975 EQUAL PAY ACT AND SEX DISCRIMINATION
ACT gave women the right to receive the same pay rate as the opposite sex and
protected them from discrimination on the grounds of sex or marriage. As a result, women had
more control, choice and independence.
Research by SKIPTON BUILDING SOCIETY found that 1 in 5 women in the UK now earn more
than their male partners. THIS SHOWS THAT THE ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN ARE BECOMING
MORE EQUAL However, ONS found that on average, men still earned 10.2% more than women
in hourly full-time pay in 2010. The biggest gap in pay was is in metal manufacturing, where men
earn nearly 50% more than women.
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According to SUE SHARPE, women who work part time fall under the `part-time trap' where the
women is still expected to do the domestic task because she is `only working part-time'. THIS
SHOWS THAT THE ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN ARE NOT BECOMING MORE EQUAL.
2. In terms of Domestic Labour, there have been significant studies to suggest that THE ROLES
OF MEN AND WOMEN ARE UNEQUAL.…read more
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PURDY (1997) in `Babystrike' argued that motherhood disadvantages women: caring for
children is expensive, time consuming and exhausting. She said the only way for men to realise
how demanding childrearing is for women is for women to stop having children: have a
`babystrike' so men take women's' demand for equality seriously.
4. In terms of decision making, EDGELL: (1980) found that MEN made the decisions, couples
FELT were IMPORTANT (eg moving home).…read more