The domestic division of labour

The domestic division of labour refers to the roles women and men play within relation to housework, childcare and paid work. Sociologist are interested in whether these tasks are shared equally between genders.

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  • Created on: 13-12-11 14:13

Parsons: instrumental and expressive roles

In traditional nuclear family the roles of husband and wife are segregrated. The husband is the instrumental leader and he provide financially for the family by working (the breadwinner). The wife is the expressive leader who is responsicle for the primary socialisation and meeting the familys emotional needs (homemaker, full time houswife). Parson argues its based on biological differences- women more naturally suited to nuturing role.


-Young and Willmott argue men now take a greater share of domestic tasks and more wives becomeing wage earners.

-Feminist argue the view that the division is natural and that it only benefits men.

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Joint and segregated conjugal roles

Elizabeth Bott distinguishes 2 type of conjugal roles within the marriage:

-Segregated conjugal roles- couple have seperate roles: a male breadwinner and a female homemaker. Their leisure activities also tend to be seperate.

-Joint conjugal roles- couple share tasks and spend their leisure time together.

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The symmetrical family

Young and Willmott take 'march of progress view'= family life is gradually improving for all its members, become more equal and democratic. The symmetrical family is more similar: Women now go out to work, could be part-time not full time,  Men now help with childcare and housework, Couples spend leisure time together instead of seperatley- more home centered (privatised). Studies of London found this family more common with younger couples, more geographically and socially isolated and better off. See rise as due to changes in the past century:

-Changes in womens position- including married women going out to work

-Geographical mobility- more couples living away from the communities where they grew up.

-New technology- and labour-saving devices.

-Higher standards of living

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A feminist view of housework

Feminist sociologist reject 'march of progress view' and argue little has changed- men and women still unequal within the family. This stems from the family and society being male dominated (patriarchal). Ann Oakley claims Young and Willmott's claims are exaggerated and only found some evidence that men are helping more with housework but no evidence towards symmetry. Husbands more likely to share in childcare but only in its more pleasurable aspects.

Oakley: the rise of the housewife role

Oakley describes how the housewife role has become the dominant role for women. Women used to be part of labour force but were gradually excluded from workplace and confined to home with sole responsibility for housework and childcare while men became the breadwinners. This enforced womens economic dependance on men- the housewife role socially constructed rather then natural. Even though increase of married women working during 20th century the housewife role still the primary role and women who do work it is often and extension of housewife role such as nursing, secretarial work or childcare.

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