In the 19th century, the Victorian family was very patriarchal - that is, the man was in every sense the head of the household.
- Upon marrying, a woman's property bacame her husband's
- A man could gain a divorce on the ground of his wife's adultery, but a woman had to prove her husband's cruelty.
In short, the family was incredibly unequal, especially for women.
The Domestic Division of Labour
...refers to the roles men and women play in relation to housework, childcare, and paid work.
Functionalism and Parsons - Instrumental and Expressive Roles
- In the traditional nuclear family, the roles of husbands and wives are segregated
- In Parson's view, there is a clear division of labour between spouses:
- The husband has an instrumental role - being the breadwinner who provides for the family
- The wife has an expressive role - being the homemaker who socialises children and meets emotional needs
- This idea is based on biological differencesb, with men/women being naturally suited to their roles.
However, Young and Willmott argue men now take a greater share of domestic tasks/more wives are wage earners.
Feminists also reject Parsons' view that the division of labour is natural as they argue that it only benefits men.
The Domestic Division of Labour (cont.)
Bott - Joint and Segregated Conjugal Roles
Bott distinguishes between two types of conjugal roles (roles within marriage):
- Segregated Conjugal Role - the couple have separate roles, a male breadwinner and a female homemaker
- Joint Conjugal Roles - the couple shares tasks such as housework and childcare and spend leisure time together.
Young and Willmott identified segregated conjugal roles in their study of working class families in Bethnal Green in the 1950s.
Young and Willmott - The Symmetrical Family
Young and Willmott take a 'march of progress view', seeing family life as improving for its members, becoming more equal and democratic. They argue that there has been a trend away from segregated conjugal roles towards joing conjugal roles and the 'symmetrical family' - where the roles of husbands and wives are more similar.
In a symmetrical family, women go out to work (although this may be part-time); men help with housework and childcare; and couples spend their leisure time together.
Young and Willmott found that the symmetrical family was more common among younger couples, those who are geographically/socially isolated, and the better off.
The causes of these changes are thought to be changes in women's positions, with married women going out to work; geographical mobility, with more couples living away from the communities they grew up in; new technology and labour-saving devices; and higher standards of living.
A Feminist View of Housework
Feminists reject this 'march of progress' view, arguing that men and women remain unequal within the family and that women still do most of the housework.
This stems from patriarchy in the family and in society - women occupy a subordinate role within both.
Oakley argues that Young and Willmott's claims are exaggerated - they found that most husbands helped wives at least once a week, yet this could include only basic tasks, e.g. taking the children for a walk.
Oakley found no evidence of symmetry. Only 15% of husbands had a high participation in housework, only 25% had a high participation in childcare. Most couples defined the father's role as one of 'taking an interest'.
Warde and Hetherington found sex-typing of domestic tasks remained, e.g. wives were 30x more likely to be the last person to have done the washing, and husbands were 4x more likely to be the last person to have washed the car. They also found that men would only carry out routine 'female' tasks when their partners were not around to do so.
Are Couples Becoming More Equal?
The Impact of Paid Work?
Most of the women in Oakleys study in the 70s were full-time housewives, but today, many more wives go out to work, either full-time or part-time. But this raises two questions:
1) Is this leading to a more equal division of domestic tasks, with a 'new man' taking responsibility and doing an equal share of the housework and childcare (March of Progress view)
2) Or does it simply mean that women now have to carry out a 'dual burden' of paid work as well as domestic work? (Feminist View)
The March of Progress View
In this view, more women in work is leading to a more equal division of domestic labour, with a 'new man' taking responsibility and doing an equal share of housework/childcare.
- Gershuny - used time studies to find that women in full-time work did less domestic work than other women
- Sullivan - analysed data collected in 1975-97 and found women doing less domestic work and men doing more
- The British Social Attitudes Survey (2013) - found a fall in the number of people who think it is the man's job to earn money and the woman's job to look after the home and the family. In 1984, 45% of men and 41% of women agreed with this view, but by 2012 only 13% of men and 12% of women did.
The Feminist View
Feminists see no sign of a 'new man', arguing instead that women now carry a 'dual burden' of having to work and having to take responsibility for domestic work.
The British Social Attitudes survey found that in 2012...
- men on average did around 8 hours of housework a week, while women did around 13 hours
- men spent 10 hours on care for family member, whereas women spent 23 hours
The survey also found that couples continue to divide household tasks along gender lines, e.g. women were much more likely to do the laundry, while men were more likely to do small repairs around the house.
The Feminist View (cont.)
Taking Responsibility of Children
- Boulton argues that although fathers may perform specific childcare tasks, usually the mother takes responsibility for the child's security and well-being.
- Ferri and Smith found fathers took responsibility for childcare in fewer than 4% of families
- Dex and Ward found that although fathers had high levels of involvement with their three-year olds, when it came to caring for a sick child, only 1% of fathers took the main responsibility.
- Braun, Vincent and Ball found in only 3/70 families studied was the father the main carer. Most were 'background fathers' and held a 'provider ideology' that their role was as breadwinners.
Emotion Work and the 'Triple Shift'
- Feminists identify another female responsibility - emotion work - where women manage the emotions/feelings of family members, while at the same time exercising control over their own emotions.
- This adds on to the 'dual burden' to form the 'triple shift' of housework, paid work, and emotion work.
The Feminist View (cont.)
Taking responsibility for quality time
- Another responsibility is coordinating the family's 'quality time' - Southerton argyes this usually falls in mothers' hands.
- Southerton argues that this has become more difficult as working mothers find themselves juggling the demands of work/career, personal leisure time and family, whilst coordinating their own and their family's social activities.
Explaining the Gender Division of Labour
The division of labour is determined by patriarchal norms/values shaping gender roles in our culture. Men and women do what society has socialised them to do. Evidence includes:
- Gershuny - couples whose parents' relationship was more equal are more likely to share housework equally themselves
- The Future Foundation - most men claimed to do more housework than their father/most women claimed to do less than their mother. This suggests a general shift in behaviour.
- British Social Attitudes Survey - less than 10% of under 35s agreed with a traditional division of labour, as against 30% over 65s. This indicates a long-term change in norms, values and attitudes.
Explaining the Gender Division of Labour
From this perspective, if women join the labour force and earn as much as their partners, we should expect to see men and women doing more equal amounts of domestic work. There is evidence to support this:
- Kan - for every £10,000 a year more a woman earns, she does two hours less housework per week
- Arber and Ginn - better paid, middle-class women were able to buy more labour-saving devices, and ready meals, domestic help and childcare, rather than having to spend time carrying out domestic tasks themselves
- Ramos - where the woman is the full-time breadwinner and the man is unemployed, he does as much domestic labour as she does
However, women continue to earn less than men; in 7/8 households, men earn more.
Crompton thus concludes that there is no immediate prospect of an equal division of labour if this depends on economic equality between the sexes.
Resources and Decision-Making in Households
There is also inequality in who gets what in the family, e.g. who controls the family's income and who has the power to make decisions about how it is spent.
Feminists Pahl and Vogler identify two types of control over family income:
1) The allowance system - men give their wives an allowance to budget to meet the family's needs, with the man retaining any surplus income for himself
2) Pooling - both partners have access to income and joint responsibility for expenditure, e.g. joint bank account. Pooling is now the most common money management system.
Resources and Decision-Making in Households
Pooling doesn't necessarily mean more equality in decision-making/control over resources - Pahl and Volger found even where there was pooling, the men usually made the major financial decisions.
Hardill's study of 30 dual-career professional couples found important decisions were usually taken either by the man alone or jointly, and his career normally took priority when deciding whether to move house for a new job.
Edgell's study of professional couples found very important decisions e.g. involving finance and money were taken by the husband alone or jointly, with the husband having the final say.
Edgell argues that because women earn less, they become dependent on husbands economically, giving them less say in decision-making.
Cultural Vs Material Explanations
Laurie and Gershuny found by 1995, 70% of couples said they had an equal say in decisions, though women who were in high earning jobs were more likely to have an equal say - this provides supports for the material explanation of gender inequality.
Feminists believe in the cultural explanation and argue that inequalities in decision-making stem from patriarchal society and the cultural definition, instilled through gender role socialisation, of men as decision-makers.
The Meaning of Money
Nyman (2003) notes money has no fixed meaning and couple can define it in different ways. These meanings can reflect the nature of the relationship.
What counts as equality in decision-making and control of resources is debatable, e.g. if a man earns 2x as much as his wife, but both put the same amount into the joint account, does this really count as equality?
A Personal Life Perspective on Money
The personal life perspective argues we must start from the personal meanings of the actors involved in the situation, i.e. on the meanings couples give to who controls the money.
There is evidence that same-sex couples often give a different meaning to the control of money in a relationship. E.g. Smart found that often gay couples attached no importance to who controlled the money and were happy to leave this to their partners. They did not see it as meaning either equality or inequality in the relationship.
Weeks et al found the typical pattern was pooling some money for household spending, together with separate accounts for personal spending. This system reflects a value of co-independence - where there is sharing, but each partner retains independence.
Domestic violence - any incident/pattern of controlling/coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16+ who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless or gender or sexuality.
Sociologists challenge the view that domestic violence in the behaviour of a few disturbed individuals:
- it is too widespread, and accounts for 1/4 of all recorded violent crimes.
- it does not occur randomly, but follows particular social patterns with particular social causes, the most striking being that domestic violence is mainly violence by men against women.
Gender Gap in Domestic Violence
Dobash and Dobash found violent incidents are set off by husbands seeing challenges to their authority, arguing that marriage legitimises violence by conferring power/authority on husbands and dependency on wives.
However, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (2013) found a narrow gender gap: 7.3% of women and 5% of men reported experiencing domestic abuse in the previous year.
Yet, Walby and Allen found that women were much more likely to be victims of multiple incidents of abuse/sexual violence
- ...understate the extent of the problem, as victims may not be willing to report it.
- Yearnshire found that women suffer around 35 assaults before making a report
- Police may be reluctant to record/investigate cases reported to them; Cheal argues this is due to the police not being prepared to become involved in 'family matters'
Explanations of Domestic Violence
Radical Feminist Explanation
- Emphasises the role of patriarchal ideas, cultural values and institutions
- They see the family/marriage as key institutions in patriarchal society and within the family; men dominate women through domestic violence
- Widespread domestic violence is an inevitable feature of patriarchal society, serving to preserve the power that men have over all women - this explains why most cases of domestic violence are from men against women
- Male domination of state institutions explains the reluctance of police to deal with domestic violence
BUT, they ignore that not all men are aggressive/most are opposed to domestic violence,
They fail to explain female violence towards men and children,
They wrongly assume that all women are equally at risk of patriarchal violence, when the ONS suggests that young women, working-class women, women on low-incomes, those in shared accomodation etc. are the most at risk.
Explanations of Domestic Violence
The Materialist Explanation
- focusses on economic factors, e.g. Wilkinson and Pickett see domestic violence as the result of stress on family members caused by social inequality.
- Inequality means some families have fewer resources and are likely to experience higher levels of stress. This reduces their chances of stable, caring relationships and increases the risk of violence.
- Worries about money, jobs and housing may spill over into domestic conflict; a lack of money and time restricts people's social circle and reduces social support for those under stress
BUT, Wilkinson and Pickett do not explain why women rather than men are the main victims of domestic violence.