Key Sociologists in Family, AQA

These are not really mine a friend gave the matirial to me and his where in a very strange format so I have simply changed the colors and order of the work he did. 

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The Domestic Division of Labour

Talcott Parsons (1995)

  • In Parson's functionalist view of family, there is a clear division of labour between the sexes.
  • Husband has an instrumental role - he is breadwinner, providing for family financially.
  • Wife has an expressive role - she is the homemaker, full-time housewife meeting family's emotional needs + socialising children.
  • Parson's argues that such a division of labour is based on biological differences and that each sex is 'naturally suited' to their role.
  • Claims such roles are benificial to men, women, their children and wider society.
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The Domestic Division of Labour - Criticisms of Pa

Criticisms of Parson's view

  • Young and Willmott (1962) 
    • Men are now taking greater responsibility for domestic tasks.
    • More wives are becoming wage earners


  • Feminist Sociologists
    • Reject Parson's view that division is 'natural'.
    • Argue that such a division only benefits men.
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The Domestic Division of Labour

Joint and Segregated Conjugal Roles

Elizabeth Bott (1957)

  • Bott identified two types of conjugal roles (roles within marriage)
    • Segregated Conjugal Roles - couple have seperate roles, man is breadwinner + woman homemaker. Leisure activities also seperate
    • Joint Conjugal Roles - couples share housework + childcare and spend leisure time together.


Young and Wilmott found segregated conjugal roles in a study of traditional working class families in Bethnal Green in the 1950s. Men were the breadwinners and women the full-time housewives. Women were helped by female relatives and any leisure time was spent with their female kin.

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The Domestic Division of Labour

The Symmetrical Family

Young + Willmott (1973)

  • Take a 'march of progress' view on family life.
  • Argue there has been a gradual move away from segregated conjugal roles and towards joint conjugal roles - The Symmetrical Family.
  • They claim that in a symmetrical family, the roles of husbands and wives are similar, though not identical.
    • Women go out to work, whether full of part-time.
    • Men assist with housework and childcare.
    • Couples spend leisure time together - more home-centered.
  • Found symmetrical family more common in younger couples, the affluent and thesocially/geographically isolated.
  • See rise in symmetrical nuclear family as due to changes in the position of women, geographical mobility, higher standards of living + new technology making home nicer place.
  • Many such factors are interlinked, one leading onto another.
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The Domestic Division f Labour

A Feminist View of Housework

Ann Oakley (1974)

  • Criticises Young + Willmott's claims of a symmetrical family. She argues their claims are exaggerated - men 'helping' could be making breakfast once.
  • In her own research, Oakley found some evidence of husbands helping but no trend towards symmetry.
  • She found that although husbands occupied the kids in the evenings and at weeknds, it could be argued that mothers lost the rewards of childcare, instead being left with more time for housework.
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The Domestic Division f Labour

The Rise of the Housewife Role

Ann Oakley

  • Rather than taking a march of progress view, Oakley claims that the housewife role has become the dominant role for married women.
  • She sees industrialisation and the rise of factory production in the 19th century asseperating work and home life.
  • Women were gradually excluded from paid work, confining them to the home anddomestic duties such as housework and childcare.
  • She claims this enforced women's subordination and economic dependency on men.
  • Therefore, housewife role socially constructed and not women's natural or biological role, as Parsons claims.
  • She says that although more women are now in full-time work, the housewife role is still women's main role.
  • She also claims that many of the jobs accessable to women are low-paid 'caring' jobs which are an extension of the housewife role, e.g. nursing.
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The Domestic Division f Labour

A Feminist View of Housework

Mary Boulton (1983)

  • Found that less than 20% of husbands had a major role in childcare.
  • She also argued that Young + Willmott exaggerated men's contribution by focusing on tasks involved in childcare rather than the resonsibilities.
  • Almost always the mother responsible for child's safety and well-being.

Alan Warde + Kevin Hetherington (1993)

  • Conducted research and found that sex-typing of domestic tasks still exists.
  • Men would only do 'female' jobs when wife not around to do them.
  • However, they did find a slight change of attitude in younger men.
    • No longer assumed women should do all the housework.
    • More likely to think they were doing less than their fair share.
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The Domestic Division of Labour

The Trend Towards Equality

Jonathan Gershuny (1994)

  • Claims that more women working full-time has lead to more equal domestic division of labour.
  • Argues that social values are gradually adapting to the fact that women are working full-time.
  • Also found that although division of labour now more equal, men and women still take responsibility for different tasks.
  • Gershuny's view is optimistic and similar to Young + Willmott's march of progressview that conjugal roles are becoming more symmetrical.

Rosemary Crompton (1997)

  • Accepts Gershuny's evidence, but explains it in terms of economic factors.
  • She claims that as long as earnings remain unequal, so too will the division of labour.
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