Conjugal Roles/The Domestic Division of Labour

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  • Created by: missydee
  • Created on: 10-11-12 13:29

How can we measure equality/inequality in relationships?

  • Housework roles (ROLES)
  • Childcare responsibilites (ROLES)
  • Decision-making responsibilities (RELATIONSHIPS)
  • Domestic Violence (RELATIONSHIPS)

Housework roles

Parsons 1950

There is a natural division of labour in couple relationships. Conjugal (marital) roles are segregated.

Female performs the expressive role(caring, nurturing), male instrumental(breadwinner)

Ann Oakley (Feminist) 1974

There is nothing 'natural' about women taking responsibility for hoursework&childcare.

Cannalisation takes place (the channeling of young children into stereotypical gender identities which takes place during early socialisation).

This role is socially constructed:

  • All family members form part of the labour force 
  • Factory Acts remove children. Women are then expected to become primary carers
  • The housewife role is 'born'! Women are 'trapped' in the home.

Women face a dual burden-expectation that women balance employment&housework (Whereas for men, employment and relaxation!)

( Overlooks that there have been gender-role reversals-men staying at home alone   Little out of date                                                                                                     The commercialisation of housework makes this task easier (washing machines etc)

Jonathan Gershuny 1994

Claims that more women are now working full time, leading to a more equal division of labour within the home. Wives working full time did less domestic work, and that couples whose parents had a more equal relationship were likely to as well.

He believes this greater equality is explained by slowly, changing social values.

However he points out that despite more women going to work, men are slow to change-a process of lagged adaptation is occuring. (But positive steps are being made!)

( would argue that women are continuing to do the majority of the housework, men are SLOWY changing their ways.

Young&Willmott 1973 the symmetrical family

Has been a 'march of progress' towards equality in gender roles, especially among young couples who live away from their extended family (less people to depend upon!)

Oakley says that their research is flawed: they asked "does your husband help with household chores at least once a week"...72% said yes.                                             But does taking the bin out once a week count towards symmetry?


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