Families and Households

  • Created by: elbally
  • Created on: 26-04-15 19:28

The domestic division of labour (1)

Parsons; Instrumental and expressive roles

  • The husband has an instrumental role, geared towards achieving success at work so that he can provide for the family financially. He is the bread winner.
  • The wife has an expressive role, geared towards primary socialisation of the children and meeting the emotional needs of the family. She is the homemaker, a full time house wife rather than a wage earner.

Parsons argues that the divison in labour is decided by our biological differences.

Evalution point:

  • Young & Willmott argue men are now taking a greater share of domestic tasks and more women are becoming wage earners.
  • Femists disagree the division of labour is decided biologically. They believe that only benefits men.

The Symmetrical Family:

  • Young & Willmott take the 'march of progress' view, this is the belief that the family is gradually improving for its members, becoming more equal and democratic.
  • Long term trend towards joint conjugal roles
  • Symmetrical family = roles of husbands and wives, although not ideal, are now much more similar
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The domestic division of labour (2)

A feminist view of housework

  • Feminists reject the 'march of progress' view. They argue that little has changed.
  • Men and women remain unequal within the family; women still do most of the housework.
  • They see this inequlaity as stemming from the fact that the family and society are male dominated or patriarchal .


  • Ann Oakley criticises Young & Willmott's view that the family is symmetrical, she argues their claims are exaggerated.
  • Young & Willmott found most husbands helped their wives at least once a week, Oakley states this is hardly evidence odf symmetry.
  • Oakley's research:
    • only 15% of husbands had a high level of participation in housework
    • only 25% of husbands had a high level of particpation in childcare

Oakley:  the rise of the housewife role

  • The housewife role has become the dominant role for married women
  • Industrialisation and the rise of factory production in the 19th century led to the seperation of paid work from the home
  • Women were excluded from the work place
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