AS studies families and households

Parsons (functionalist) Division of Labour

Identifies 2 conjugal roles:

  • Expressive Role: Female Nurtuer
  • Instrumental Role: Male breadwinner

He believes that the division of labour is functional for the family and for wider society is biologically determined (women are naturally maternal)

1 of 43

Bott Division of Labour

Identifies 2 types of conjugal roles:

  • segregated: Sharp division of labour
  • joint: Sharing domestic tasks
2 of 43

Wilmott and Young - Division of Labour

Bethnal Green 1950's

Segregated conjugal roles in working class extended families

Men were not involved with homely tasks and spent the majority of their spare time with their work collegues

Women were full time housewives and childcarers

Critisism: Society has changed since the 50's

3 of 43

Wilmott and Young - Symmetrical Family

Long term trend in joint conjugal roles and the symmetrical family

Roles are more similar and equal

E.g. most women now work, men help more with housework/childcare, couples spend their leisure time together, men have become more home centred and the family more privitised

Reasons: Social changes in the 20th century E.G. higher living standards, smaller families, better housing and women working

4 of 43

Oakley (feminism) Division of Labour

Feminists reject the march of progress, they see the family as patriarchal not symmetrical

  • Oakly argues the hosuewife role is the primary role for women
  • Is the result of industrialisation where women were excluded from the work force
  • The housewife role is socially constructed not natural
  • Found now symmetry in domestic labour
  • Aruges that Young and Wilmott exaggerate male roles
5 of 43

Boulton (Feminism) Division of Labour

We need to look at who is responsible for tasks rather than who performs them

  • Wife is seen as responsible for childrens healthcare even when men "help"
6 of 43

Gershuny - Lagged adaptation

Men whos wives worked full time did more domestic work,

 a result of a change in values and role models

couples are gradually adapting to women working full time

domestic tasks are still sex typed

7 of 43

Ferri and Smith (Feminism) - Dual Burden

Women working has had little impact in the division of labour 

8 of 43

Morris - Dual Burden

  • Even where the wife was working and the husband was unemployed she still did most of the housework
  •  The men suffered a crisis of masculinity having lost their breadwinner role they resisted taking on the feminine domestic role
9 of 43

Duncombe and Marsden - Tripple Shift

  • Women were required not only to carry a dual burden but a tripple shift
  • Emotion work, Domestic labour, Paid employment
10 of 43

Dunne - Same Sex Couples and Gender Scripts

37 lesbian couples with children

More equal division of labour

Uses the idea of gender scripts, hetrosexuals are socialised into gender scripts that set out different masculine and feminine roles, lesbians did not link house tasks to gender scripts

Lesbian couples were more equal in the division of labour

11 of 43

Kempson - Decision Making

  • Women in low income families deny their own needs to make ends meet
  • Even in households with adequate incomes the resources are often shared unequally leaving women in poverty
12 of 43

Pahl and Vogler - Decision Making

  • Identified 2 types of control over family income
  • Allowence System - men work and give their non working wives and allowence
  • Pooling - Partners work and have joint responsibility for spending
  • Vogle found that men were still tending to make the major decisions thus reflecting their greater earnings
13 of 43

Edgell - Decision Making in Professional Couples

  • Even when both partners working found inequalities
  • Big Decisions mostly made by the husband
  • Smaller Decisions mostly made by the wife
  • Decisions often made together


14 of 43

Yearnshire - Domestic Violence

  • On average a women suffers 35 assults before reporting the abuse
15 of 43

Dobash + Dobash - Domestic Violence

Provides evidence for radical feminists

  • Violence triggered when husbands felt their authority was being challenged
  • They conclude that marriage legitimates violence by giving power to men
16 of 43

Wilkinson - Domestic Violence - Lack of Resources

  • Domestic violence patterns are a result of stress on the family
  • Caused by social inequality
  • Families that lack resources suffer more stress and therefore increases chances of domestic violence
17 of 43

Benedict - Childhood

  • Children in simpler non industrial societies are treated differently from their modern western counterparts
  • They have more responsibility at home and at work,
  • less value is placed on obedience to adult authority
  • Children sexual behaviour is often viewed differently
18 of 43

Pilcher - Childhood in the west

  • Childhood is a distinct life stage
  • Child is a seperate status from adult
  • The key feature of the modern idea of childhood is seperateness
19 of 43

Cunningham - Childhood in the west

  • Chidlren are seen as the opposites of adults with the right to happiness
20 of 43

Aries - Historical Childhood Differences

  • In medieval europe the idea of childhood did not exist
  • Children were not seen as having a different nature from adults
  • Work began from an early age
  • Children were mini adults with the same rights, duties and skills as adults
21 of 43

Shorter - Historical Differences

  • Parental attitudes towards children were different e.g. high IMR encouraged indifference and neglect
  • Especially towards infants
22 of 43

Firestone - Inequalities between Adults and Childr

  • Extensive care and protection are just new forms of oppression e.g. being banned from paid work is not a benefit to children but a form of inequality
  • subjecting them to even greater adult control
23 of 43

Gittins - Age Patriarchy

  • There is an age patriarchy of adult domination that keeps children subordinate
  • For example: Adults exercise control of childrens time, space and bodies
  • Adults make children economically dependent by preventing them from working e.g. through child labour laws
  • Adult control can lead to physical, emotional and sexual abuse
24 of 43

Hockey and James - Age Patriarchy

  • Children may resist the restricted status of "child" by acting older e.g. smoking and drinking alcohol
  • This shows modern childhood is a status most children want to escape
25 of 43

Postman - The future of childhood

  • Childhood as we know it is disappearing
  • Children are becoming more like adults
  • This is the result of television culture replacing print culture
  • Television culture gives children access to "adult" subjects where as adults used to be able to hide this from them
26 of 43


  • Childhood is not disappearing eg a seperate childrens culture continues to exist in the form of games, jokes, songs etc
27 of 43

Palmer - Toxic childhood

  • Rapid technological and cultural changes are damaging childrens development
  • E.g. junk food, computer games, intensive marketing to children
  • As a result children are deprived of a proper child hood
28 of 43

Lee - Change or Continuity

  • Concludes that childhood has not dissapeared
  • But it has become more complex and contradictory e.g. children are important as comnsumers but dependent on parents for their purchasing power
29 of 43

Murdock - Functions of the Family

The nuclear family performs four essential functions for society and its members

  • Stable satisfaction of the sex drive with the same marital partner - this prevents social distraction that would be caused by a sexual "free for all"
  • Reproduction of the next generation - without which society would cease to exist
  • Socialisation of the young - into societies norms and values enables new members to intergrate into society
  • Satisfaction of members economic needs - eg providing food and shelter in pre industrial societies a family is a unit of production but in modern societies it has become a unit of consumption
  • Practicallity and universality - by performing these functions the nuclear family helps to maintain social stability
30 of 43

Parsons - Functional Fit

The kinds and range of functions that the family performs depend on the type of society in which it is found this also determineds what kind of structure the family will have parsons identifies two types of family structure

  • The three generational extended family
  • The two generational nuclear family

Warm Bath Theory:

  • The family is a stress release
  • If someone has ahd a hard day the family support and destress them by talking to them
31 of 43

Engles - Marxist

As private property became more important men who controlled it needed to ensure the could pass on their wealth to their own

This lead to monogomous marriage

32 of 43

Zaretsky - Ideological Functions

  • Argues that there is a cult of private life
  • The belief that we can only gain fulfilment from family life
  • This distracts tension from exploitation
33 of 43

Mckeown - Reasons for the fall in DR

  • Better diet accounted for half the reduction in the death rate by increasing peoples resistence to infection
34 of 43

Hirsch - Policy Implications

  • We will need new policies to finance a longer old age
  • This could be done either by paying more in taxes or by raising the retirement age
35 of 43

Fletcher - Higher Expectations

  • Higher expectations of marriage today are leading to higher divorce rates
  • This is linked to the ideology of romantic love: Marriage is now based purely on love not duty or economic factors like in the past
  • If love dies there is no longer any reason to stay together
  • In the past individuals had little choice about marriage, family was the unit of production
  • People had lower expectations and were not disatisfied by the absence of love
  • So divorce was less common
36 of 43

Weeks - Civil Partnerships and Same Sex Relationsh

  • Acceptance is leading to more stable relationships among gays
37 of 43

Chester - Neo conventional Family

  • Although some increased diversity the nuclear family remains dominant
  • The only important change has been from the conventional family with a male breadwinner
  • To the neo conventional family where both spouses work
  • The nuclear family remains the norm that most people aspire to
38 of 43

Rapoports and Rapoports - Diversity

  • Disagree with Chester, they see diversity as centeral to the family today
  • Unlike the new right they see diversity as meeting peoples needs not causing family decline
  • Identified 5 types of diversity
  • Organisational: Conjugal roles
  • Cultural: Ethinic groups with different family structures
  • Class: Differences in child rearing practices
  • Life cycle: Pensioner couples, parent with young children
  • Generational Differences: Attitudes towards cohabitation
39 of 43

Giddens - Family Diversity

  • Contraception and womens independents have brought greater choice and equality to relationships
  • Rather than a relationship being defined by law or tradition or solely for the production of children couples define it to meet their own needs
  • This means it only lasts as long as it continues to meet their needs
40 of 43

Beck - Risk Society

  • People have more choices, so they are more aware of risks
  • making choices involves calculating the risks of different courses of action
41 of 43

Murray - The New Right

  • Sees benefits as perverse incentives rewarding irresponisble behaviour eg if the state provides benefits to lone mothers some fathers will abandon their families
42 of 43

Land (Feminism) - Social Policy and the family

  • Policies often assume the patriarchle family to the norm as a result policies act as a self fulfilling prophecy
  • Actually helping to reproduce this family type for example: Maternity leave is much longer than Paternity leave reinforcing womens responsibility for childcare
43 of 43


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Families and households resources »