Conjugal Roles



  • There are two types of dependency, social and economic
  • Women tend to be economically dependent on men as men are statistically higher earners
  • This may be because women leave the labour market to have children allowing their counterpart to progress in their career
  • Janet Finch- Mens jobs are seen as more important and so families are more likely to move for the husbands job, because of this the woman is also socially dependant on men as she is often introduced to the husbands friends rather than making her own


  • Women are now more economically successful than before and are therefore more independant
  • Women spending their own money makes them more socially independant as well 
  • It is hard to measure dependancy objectively, it could be that men are subconsciously dependant on women as they are often responsible for housework and care giving
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Domestic Divisions of labour

  • Stereotypically women are seen as the expressive and men instrumental
  • Feminists argues that roles are divided by gender
  • Functionalists believe that segregated conjugal roles are biologically determined and inevitable
  • Ferri and Smith= Found that males look after the children as the primary caregiver in less than 4% of families
  • Duncan and Marsden= Women are expected to look after children, go to work and then provide emotional support to the family, this is known as the triple shift
  • Dex and Ward= Found high levels of involvement from the father when the child is well but when ill only 1% took responsibility


  • Ginn= machines have been introduced to do the jobs otherwise done by females e.g washing machines
  • Culturally have young male attitudes changed so they no longer expect a woman to look after them
  • Do some women enjoy the work they do or do they do it because they have been socialised to believe so
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Decision Making

  • Barett and Mackintosh= Men are higher earners and so are given much more when it comes to a relationship
  • Financial support given to women from the man is often unpredictable and comes with strings attached
  • Paul= Men tend to make the decisions in a relationship
  • Edgell= Men tend to make the big money related decisions e.g whether to buy a house or car and women tend to make more superficial decisions e.g the colour of the wall or curtains


  • Women are better of materially and so have more control over decisions
  • It is difficult to measure decision making objectively e.g women may not openly question decisions but may subtley guide their partner into a decision
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Domestic Abuse

  • On average it takes a woman 37 times for women to report domestic abuse
  • Why isnt it reported?-stigma, fear, dependancy, male victims might be embarrased
  • Is domestic abuse down to patriarchy, do men expect for them to make the decisions and for women to agree
  • 1 in 4 violent incidents are domestic
  • 4 in every 1000 women will be a victim of domestic abuse
  • The family is an institution that sets up a higherarchy in which the men are at the top
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