Roles and Power

Learning table 2

  • Created by: lucyball
  • Created on: 09-04-14 13:31

Domestic division of labour

Domestic divison of labour- gender roles that men and women play in relation to housework, childcare and paid work.

Functionalism (parsons) segergated conjugal roles in traditional nuclear families.

  • Instrumental role- men act as the finanical breadwinner
  • Expressive role- women act as homemakers and carers.

Reasons for segregated conjugal roles in nuclear families
Parsons claims that this division is based on biological differences. Women are naturally suited to a nurturing role and men as the provider.

AO2- :( outdated view- men are taking a greater share of domestic labour and women are financial providers

:( Division of labour is not natural- it is socially created and largely benefits men.

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Domestic division of labour

March of progress view- (Young & Wilmott) family becoming more equal over time and benefiting all members.

Moves towards a symmetrical family (jont conjugal roles)- roles of husbands and wives are shared/similar. Women work full/part time and men help with housework and childcare. The symmetrical family is also 'privatised' faily centered.

Reasons for the symmetrical family

  • New technology- labour saving devices
  • Greater affluence and higher standard of living- making the home more attractive to men
  • Geographical mobility- weaking extended family/community ties.
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Domestic division of labour

Early feminist views- reject march of progress view as they believe family relationships are unequal

Oakley- family is not symmetrical. Only a small % of husbands have a high level of participation in housework (15%) and childcare (25%) . Men may 'help' out but they seldom take 'responsibility' for domestic tasks. When women work it is mainly low paid and at extension of their 'housewife' role e.g. nursing/childcare

Recent feminist views- family remains patriarchal- women increasingly doing paid work and unpaid housework.

Triple shift- women increasingly doing paid work, domestic work and emotional work. Even where men are doing more domestic work, the tasks remain gendered.

Reasons for current gender inequality

  • Gender scripts- social expectations that set out gender roles. E.g. men doing DIY.
  • Patriarchy- leads women to earn less and so have less bargining power in the home
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Division of domestic labour

Recent empirical evidence

Sullivan- trends towards symmetry, increases in the number of couples with an equal division of labour. Men participating more in traditional 'womens tasks'.

Reasons for new symmetry

  • Increase in the number of women working- need to share more, more money can be spent in buying in help e.g. cleaning
  • Shifting social attitudes- more acceptable to men to do housework
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AO2- :( The above theories and evidence ignore important variations in the divsion of labour in terms of:

  • social class- better paid and eductaed women do less housework and childcare. Poorer social groups can not buy into the commercialisation of housework and day care for children.
  • Sexuality- Lesbian couples tend to have more symmetry in their relationships. Housework and childcare are often shared or open to discussion. This is because household tasks are not linked to gender roles or patricarchy.
  • Also there are time flaws as information becomes quickly out of date with a rapidly changing society.
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Barret and Mcintosh

  • Financial support men provide is worth less than the domestic labour women perform.
  • Financial support men provide is often unpredicatble and 'strings' attached.

Other feminist research

  • Women in low income families deny themselves food and their own needs in order to put other family members first.
  • Women who separate from their husbands and rely on benefits are often financiall better off.
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Decision making

Evidence suggests that increasingly fmailies are 'pooling' finance rather than operating as an allowance system that the man controls. However reasearch shows men mostly make the major financial and economic decisions.


  • Very important decisions- change of job, moving house, largely decided by men.
  • Important decisions- childrens educations or holidays are atken jointly
  • Less important decisions- childrens clothes, mainly decided by women

Reasons for inequality

  • Men earn more- creates female economic dependency so men have power and control over how money is spent
  • Patriarchy- couples are socialised to believe the husband is the head of the hosuehold
  • Enforced through actual/threat of domestic violence.
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Domestic violence

Domestic violence- physical, sexual and psychological abuse between those in a family-type relationship.

Statistical evidence

  • 6.6m domestic assults each year
  • 1 women dies every 2 weeks and 1 man dies every 3 weeks (as a result of DV)
  • 1 in 4 women have been assulted by a partner at some point

Problems with statistics

  • Victims are unwilling to report-  fear of repeat violence
  • Police are reluctant to get themselves involved with family life- assume women are 'free' to leave
  • Few male victims report- embarassed
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reasons for domestic violence

Radical feminism- Dobash and Dobash

Patriarchy- Product of male domination, power and control. Often triggered by mens perception that wife was testing his authority. Male domination in the police and judiciary ecplains why it is not effectively dealt with.

AO2- :( Overgenralises and only explains violence carried out agisnt women, growing numbers of men are victimes of domestic violence.

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reasons for domestic violence

Wilkinson Domestic violence is a product the stresses that go with social inequality. Families who have insecure jobs, live on low incomes and in crowded houses experience more stress which places a starin on family relationships which increases the chances of domestic violence.

AO2 :( - does not adequately expalin why women are at greater risk of domestic violence than men

Marxist feminists Ansley- Claims domestic violence can be seen as an outlet of mens frustration with the expolitation and alienation they experince in the workplace.

AO2 :(- Economically deterministic- too readily simplifies domestic violence to the economy.

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