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During this essay I will be assessing the view that over the recent years the roles of both men and women have changed affecting society and the majority of households. In 1957 Elizabeth Bott as one of the first sociologists to study how the change of leisure, employment and lifestyle affected the roles of husbands and wives. She called these conjugal roles and claimed that there were two main types, segregated and joint. Segregated roles consisted of the splitting of the domestic tasks, where the men took care of the DIY tasks they carried the instrumental role.
Women’s tasks consisted of the cleaning, the cooking etc. they carried the expressive role. Joint roles meant the domestic labour within a household as distributed evenly. Willmott and Young studied the symmetrical family offering an alternative perspective on conjugal roles, claiming they had become increasingly similar. It appeared that division of labour based on gender was breaking down. Although, many did support this idea their work was challenged by feminist sociologists such as Ann Oakley.
She provided some imperial research which dismissed the view of the sharing caring husband. Oakley based her research on interviews in which she had conducted on 40 married women with 1 or more dependant children. It showed that women saw housework and childcare as their prime responsibility and received little help from their husbands. Whereas Willmott and Young had claimed that 72% of men ‘help in the house’, this figure indicates that husbands only had to perform one household chore a week.
Oakley stated that this is hardly convincing evidence of male domestication and women carried a dual burden, they go to work come home a follow out the domestic labour. However this evidence is 30 years out of date, but it does show that the roles of men and women are gradually moving towards equality and the symmetrical family but are still a long way from it. Fiona Devine conducted a small scale study of car worker’s families in Luton indicating that men’s contribution to domestic labour increased when their wives re-entered paid employment.
But the man’s role is still secondary; all women remain responsible for childcare and housework where their husband’s merely help them. This evidence clearly shows a pure suggestion of division of labour in most household tasks, although the equality and change indicates the tasks are becoming joint due to women working. To help show this trend another piece of research came into focus by Jonathon Gershuny, in which he analysed data from 1974-1987.
It showed a gradual increase in the amount of domestic tasks preformed by men, and this increase is greatest when women are in full-time paid employment. Husbands whose wives worked spent double the amount of time cooking and cleaning. Gershuny concludes that women still bear the main burden of domestic labour, and there is a process of lagged adaptation. He thinks it may take up a generation or more until men catch up and make an equal contribution.
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