Couples notes

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Topic One – Couples.

the domestic division of labour

Refers to, the roles that men and women play in relation to housework.

Instrumental and expressive roles

Functionalist sociologist Parsons (1995) believes that in the traditional Nuclear family, roles are segregated.


 Functionalists argue that women are naturally more caring and nurturing and are therefore suited these roles.

Michael Young & Peter Willmott (1962)

Argue that men are now taking a greater share of domestic tasks and more wives are becoming wage earners.

Feminist sociologists

Reject Parson’s view that the division of labour is natural. They argue that it only benefits men.


Joint and segregated conjugal roles


Elizabeth Bott (1957) distinguishes between two types of conjugal roles within a marriage.

·         Segregated conjugal roles (asymmetrical family) – The couple have separate roles as in parsons view.

·         Joint conjugal roles – the couple share tasks such as childcare and spend their leisure time together.


Symmetrical families


Young and Willmott (1973) take a ‘march of progress’ view of the history of the family. The believe family life is gradually improving for all its members, as it is seeming to become more equal and democratic. They argue there has been a long term trend away from segregated conjugal roles and towards joint conjugal roles and the ‘symmetrical family’.


The roles of husbands and wives are not identical, but they are now more similar.

·         Women now go out to work

·         Men now help with housework and childcare

·         Couples now spend their leisure time together.


Feminist View

·         Reject the ‘march of progress’ view/

·         Argue that little has changes and that women still do most of the work.

·         Ann Oakley (1974) found that only 15% of husbands had a high participation in housework.

·         Boulton (1983) found that fewer than 20%


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