The 'March of Progress' View - Willmott and Young

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  • Created by: amber
  • Created on: 02-01-13 15:15

Segregated to integrated conjugal roles

Due to industrialisation, roles of the man and woman in the family changed. In pre industrial society roles were cleary defined(segregated)however, nowadays there is a new symmetrical family where the roles are less defined (integrated)and there are few divison between what the husband and wife do.

The ideas of segregated and integrated roles came from Elizabeth Bott.

The 'March of Progress' is the asssumption that there has been a move from segrated to integrated conjugal roles. This idea is put forward by Willmott and Young in ' The Symmetrical Family' 

They noted a trend towards joint conjugal roles and the symmetrical family - where conjugal roles are shared equally.

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Reasons for the emergence of the Symmetrical Famil

Willmott and Young offer a number of reasons for the development of the stage 3 family.These include:

a) Geographical Mobility - Due to the decrease of extended kinship there are no longer separate male and femnale networks of friends and especially kin) for them to mix with. Increases dependence on each other. may mean they adopt new roles as they no longer are teased by friends who knew them before they got married. i.e. There is less pressure to retain traditional roles.

b) Affluence - Wives are starting to take up paid employment outside the home. Has her own money now so less dependent on male partner so has more power and authority so decision making is likely to be shared.

c) Values - stage 3 family is a home centered unit so money is spent on the home and consumer products for the home  New technology encourages couples to become more home centered building the realation ship and the home. due to improved living standards.

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Criticisms of the March of Progress

Ann Oakley - Feminist 

--> rejects Willmott and Youngs evidence for jointness in the symmetrical family. argues that they exagerate the mens role.--> 72% of married mnen claimed to "help their partners in the home in some way other than washing up at least once a week".--> Oakley points out that this could mean anything - tucking children into bed, ironing their own trousers(own benefit)

Oakley argues that the housewife role has become the primary role for women as a result of industrialisation. She goes on to say that industrialisation has had the following effects:

1. Separartion of men from domestic work - only for women to do.

2. Women and Children have financial dependence on men. 

3. Isolation of housework and childcare from other work (private sphere) 

She concludes by saying that the role of the housewife is socially constructed - not natural, we as a society have defined women and their role in the household that way.

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Other Feminist Criticisms of the March of Progress

Dual Burden

Feminists argue that when women in paid work they are still are expected to perform the majority of the domestic labour aswell. This has lead to a 'dual burden'.

Morris (1990) - Feminist

Even where the wife was working and the husband unemployed the wife still did the majoirty of the housework. Men suffered from a crisis of masculinity having lost their breadwinner role and so were reluctant to take on the feminine domestic role.

Triple Shift - Duncombe and Marsden (1995)

1. Domestic Labour 2. Paid Work 3. AND emotional work as an added extra(expressive role, caring for husband and childs needs


need to look at who is responsible,not just who performs them.Wife seen as responsible. 

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Criticisms of Oakley,Morris and Duncombe and Marsd

But is the trend changing?

Man-Yee-Kan (2001) - Found income,employment,age and education affected how much housework women did: Better paid,younger, better educated women did less housework.

Gershuny - found that wives who worked full time did less housework.

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Edgell and roles within the family.

Edgell(1990) - "decision making among professional workers and their wives is no egaltarian(shared) but husband dominated"

middle class couples on decision making and power in the household.

Husbands make the decisions on the most important things (e.g. moving house and finance) and vice versa.

The wife takes care of the frequent things where as the husband does the infrequent things. 

Why are men more likely to make the important decisions in the family?

  • Men seen as head of the house -->makes most money -->financial power
  • Men seen as more intelligent --> decision making seen as masculine duty so husbands responsibility.

Financial Decisions - Pahl (1989)
significant male purchases still require males (husbands) authorisation. This was more likely if the wife didnt work

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This just saved me! I have an essay due tomorrow and didn't have a clue what this was. Thank you so much




Jack Bailey


Thank you so much

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