AQA Sociology AS: Couples

Covers AQA specification point:

• The nature and extent of changes within the family, with reference to gender roles, domestic labour and power relationships.

  • Created by: Chloe
  • Created on: 22-12-11 14:30

The Domestic Division of Labour

The role that men and women play in relation to housework, childcare and paid work.


  • A clear division of labour
  • Husband - Instrumental Role: providing the family financial support. He is the breadwinner.
  • Wife - Expressive Role: socialisation of children and helps with familys emotional needs. She is the homemaker.
  • He said that husband and wife are 'naturally suited' to these roles.
  • This is beneficial to men, women, children and society.
  • The New Right perspective agrees with this.


  • Young and Willmott (1962) - Domestic tasks are being shared more. Women are becoming wage earners.
  • Feminists - Not natural and only benefits men.
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The Domestic Division of Labour (2)

Elizabeth Bott (1957):

  • Segregated conjugal roles: Male is breadwinner, female is homemaker. Roles are seperate.
  • Joint conjugal roles: Roles are shared.
  • Young and WIllmott study in east London, 1950s - A  pattern of segregated conjugal roles in working-class extended families. Found that the symmetrical famliy more common in younger couples.

Young and Willmott (1973): MARCH OF PROGRESS VIEW

  • A 'march of progress view'. - Family is gradually improving.
  • Roles are becoming joint conjugal roles - husband and wife roles are much more similar.
  • CHANGE: Women go to work more, men help with housework and childcare, couples spend leisure time together.
  • BECAUSE: Changes of womans position (married women going to work), people are geographically mobile (living away from home communities), new technology (labour-saving devices) and higher standards of living.
  • CLAIMS: 75% of men helped more in the house.
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The Domestic Division of Labour (3)

Critique of 'March of Progress' view

  • Feminists say that little has changed - still inequality.
  • Society is patriarchal.
  • Women are dependent on men.
  • Ann Oakley (1974) - says that Y&W claims are exaggerated. Only 15% helped more with housework. Only 25% helped more with childcare. Men do more pleasurable tasks and women lost rewards of childcare. SUPPORTED EVIDENCE BY MARY BOULTON (1983).
  • Always the mother who was responsible for childs security and well-being.
  • HOWEVER: Changes in society over time shown. Future Foundations (2000) study - 

60% Men claimed they did more housework than their fathers

75% Women claimed they did less housework than their mothers

  • Office for National Statistics: Women spend over 2 1/2 hours on housework. Men spend just 1.
  • On the other hand: some studies have shown that this is changing.
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The Domestic Division of Labour (4)


  • Housewife role more dominant for married women.
  • Industrialisation in 19th Century - women gradually excluded from the workplace and confined to home.
  • Forced women to be economically dependent on men.
  • Housewife role was socially constructed rather than being 'natural' as parsons claimed.
  • Even though 20th Century saw increase in number of married women working, housewife role is still womans primary role.
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The Impact of Paid Work

Man-Yee Kan (2001) found every £10,000 increase in the womans annual income reduces her weekly housework time by 2 hours.

Gershuny (1994) Wives who work full time did less domestic work. Unemployed: 83% of the housework. Part-time: 82% of the housework. Full-time: 73% of the housework. Longer wife in paid work, more housework husband tended to do. OPTIMISTIC VIEW WHERE ROLES ARE BECOMING MORE CONJUGAL.

Commercialisation of housework

  • Goods and services mass produced and supplied to supermarkets.
  • Less time taken on housework.
  • 'Dead the of the housewife role'.
  • HOWEVER: for poor women, this is not an option. Does not prove that couples are sharing housework equally.

Dual & Triple Burden

  • Feminists argue there is little evidence of a 'new man' with equal shares of tasks.
  • Dual burden of paid work and unpaid work - Ferri and Smith (1996)
  • Triple burden of paid work, housework and emotional work - Duncombe and Marsden (1995)
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The Impact of Paid Work (2)

Lesbian Couples and Gender Scripts

  • Dunne (1999) - the division of labour is because of gender scripts - expectations of what you should do.
  • Study of 37 cohabiting lesbian couples with dependent children: Lesbians more likely to share roles – more symmetry in relationships. Roles shared equally, give equal importance to both partners careers & view childcare positively. SUPPORTS RADICAL FEMINIST VIEW.
  • Weeks (1999) - Same sex relationships offer better possibilities of equality. Division of labour not based on patriarchal tradition.
  • HOWEVER: Dunne's study also showed that one partner did more paid work and the other did more housework. Suggests paid work has big influence even on same-sex relationships.

Some evidence of paid work for women leads to more equality in the division of labour

Feminists argue that this effect is limited - dual/triple burden is present. Domestic tasks remain gendered.

Feminists say that problem is due to patriarchy.

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Resources and Decision-Making in Households


  • Pooling: both partners have access to income.
  • Allowance System: men give wives an allowance which they have to budget to meet families needs. Man keeps surplus income for himself.
  • Pooling is on increase - from 19% - 50%
  • Allowance System on decline - from 36% - 12%

Edgell (1980): DECISION MAKING

  • Study of couples. Very important decisions – MAN. Important decisions – JOINT. Less important decisions: WIFE.

Reason men take decisions is because they likely to earn more.

However, feminists argue that its not just due to earnings but also to cultural definition that men are decision-makers.

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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence: physical, psychological, sexual or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship.

British Crime Survey (2007): Domestic violence accounts for a 6th of all violent crime.

Kathryn Colemen el al (2007) - found that women were more likely than men to have experienced 'intimate violence'.

Mirrlees-Black (1999) study - found that most victims are women, 99% of all incidents against women are committed by men, nearly 1/4 women has been assaulted by a parter at sometime in her life and 1 in 8 repeatedly so.

Dobash & Dobash (1979) - Challenge to man’s authority led to domestic violence. Argue that marriage is key institution for domestic violence.

Stephanie Yearnshire (1997) - found that women suffer 35 assaults before reporting. 

David Cheal (1991) – Police & other state agencies think that: Family life is private so access to it by state should be limited. Family is a good thing (they neglect the ‘dark side’ of the family). Women can leave if they wish (however, women are financially dependent on husbands & unable to leave).

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Domestic Violence (2)

Radical Feminist Explanation:

  • Say that dobash and dobash's findings are evidence of patriarchy.
  • Kate Millett & Shulamith Firestone (1970)– all societies found on patriarchy. Men are the enemy & they oppress women. Marriage is main source of oppression. Domestic violence is inevitable feature of patriarchal society.
  • Most domestic violence is committed by men and this is due to society's patriarchy.


  • Elliot (1996) says that not all men are aggressive. 
  • Radical Feminists fail to explain female violence. Mirrlees-Black - 1 in 7 men had been assaulted. 1 in 20 repeatedly so.

Wilkinson (1996) Domestic violence is the result of stress on family members caused by social inequality. E.g. worried about money, housing etc may spill over into domestic conflict. (Recession?)

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these notes are so helpful thankyou soo much :D



youre notes are really good ur a g xo

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