The Domestic Division of Labour

  • Created by: ammarahh
  • Created on: 09-05-19 18:36

Parson's Instrumental and Expressive Roles

  • Instrumental role: This is the role which does payed work and brings money to support the family, ideally played by the man in a functionalist perspective.
  • Expressive role: Engaged in primary socialisation of the children and meets the family's emotional needs and a full time house-worker. This role should be played by the woman in a functionalist perspective.
  • However, it could be argued that the family is becoming more symmetrical so instrumental and expressive roles are now shared, rather than assigned to particular genders. Feminists say that the expressive role oppresses women because it means that they aren't earning and cannot leave a violent relationship. Parson's view of instrumental and expressive roles ignores other family types- instrumental and expressive roles only fit the nuclear family. Parson's research was only done on white, middle-class Americans. He didn’t consider any other cultures.
1 of 4

Young and Wilmott's Symmetrical Family

  • Young and Wilmott take a 'march of progress' view. This means that family life is becoming more equal and that man and wife share conjugal roles (roles in marriage). There has been a rise in the symmetrical family.
  • Young and Wilmott state:
    • Women now do payed work
    • Men now do house work
    • Couples spend more time together
  • Young and Wilmott studied young families in London and found that those who were geographically mobile (moved away from hometown) were more likely to be equal. This is because they are socially isolated and don't know many people from the area, so are 'forced' to spend more time together.
  • However, this goes against Parson's view of the nuclear family.
2 of 4

What has caused the rise in the symmetrical family

  • The change in position of women: Married women now work so it's a possibility that they are on equal wages and can afford the same things.
  • Geographical mobility: Couples spend more time together.
  • Technology: Labour saving devices (e.g microwaves, readymeals) are now available so it's not as much as a 'chore' for a man to be a houseworker.
  • High living standards: Because couples can afford new decoration items for their home, they make it look attractive so want to spend time there, together, rather than down at the pub with their mates.
3 of 4

Ann Oakley: The Feminist View of Housework

  • Feminists reject the 'march of progress' view. Ann Oakley says that little has changed and that men still do little housework.
  • Ann Oakley criticises Young and Wilmott stating:
    • They exaggerated their claims.
    • Although men said they helped their wives, what actually defines 'help'? This could simply mean making them breakfast on the odd occasion. 
  • Oakley's own research found:
    • 15% of husbands had a high level of participation in house work.
    • 25% of husbands had a high level of participation in child care.
    • A good husband is seen as one who takes the child 'off their wife's hands.’ (This assumes that women are the natural carers)
4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

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