Families and Households - The Whole Unit

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Division of Labour:

Functionalist -

Parsons (1955) 2 conjugal roles. Instrumental role = breadwinner and the expressive role = nurturer.

Functionalists believe in a gender based division of labour because it’s supposedly functional for the family & society and is biologically based.

New Right -

Agree that segregated conjugal roles based on gender are the best way to organise family life.

March of Progress -

There’s a march of progress where family life is gradually becoming more equal over time.
Bott (1957) there are segregated conjugal roles = separate division of labour and there a joint conjugal roles = shared tasks and spending leisure time together. 
Young and Willmott (1962) they found segregated roles in working-class extended families in Bethnal Green in 1950s where men were the breadwinners and women were the housewives and child carers. The men spent their leisure time with other male workmates while the women spend time with female relatives. 
Young and Willmott (1973) said there was a long-term trend towards joint roles and the symmetrical family. Women going to work created the New Man who does do housework and child caring. This was due to social change that created higher living standards e.g. labour saving devices.

Feminism -

Oakley (1974) argue that the housewife role became primary for women after the industrial revolution. Women were excluded from the workforce and give the socially constructed role of the housewife. 
She also criticised Young & Willmott’s study for exaggerating men’s role in the housework and child caring. They ‘helped’ but not often and the extent to this help could be minor e.g. occasionally washing up. 
Boulton (1983) said we should look at who’s responsible or tasks not who doe them every now and then. In most cases this is the wife. 1/5 men took a major part in childcare which tells us that women were expected to be the main child-carer, even if men sometimes helped.

Impact of Women Working

Gershuny (1994) theory of lagged adaptation which describes how couples are gradually adapting to women working. Men with full-time working wives did more domestic work - but this was still only 27% of the work. Gershuny said this was the result of changed values and role models. However, domestic tasks are still sex-typed e.g. women washing clothes and cooking while men do DIY.

Crompton disagrees with Gershuny that role models & changed values caused the adaptation and argues that it was due to economic factors - women’s increasing earning equated to less work at home. The DOL is still unequal as men earn more than women due to the wage gap.

Commercialisation of housework - families can now buy goods & services instead of women producing them e.g. ready meals.  This cuts their amount of labour. 
Schor (1993) said that this commercialisation led to the 'death of the housewife role’ - for the better. 
However, commercialisation of housework also means that class and income difference impact on the DOL.

The Dual Burden - Feminists argue that…




Very detailed. Thank you!



This is going to be very helpful, thanks!

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