Assessment of the Claim that the Family Has Become Increasingly Symmetrical
Many sociologists have different perspectives on whether or not the
family has become increasingly symmetrical. Some sociologists such as
Willmott and Young believe that the family does not consist of
conjugal roles where the couple have separate roles, such as the women
carrying out the expressive role and the male carrying out the
Whereas there are other assumptions that have been made by other
sociologists, such as Ann Oakley, a feminist, who believes that
household roles are not joint, the cohabiting couple do not share
household tasks like childcare ...view middle of the document...
In light of Willmott
and Young’s inaccuracy she conducted her own research on 40 housewives
between the ages of 20 and 30, and found some evidence of husbands
helping around the home, but no evidence of a symmetry trend, being
that only 15% of husbands had a high level of participation in
housework and only 25% participated in a high level of childcare. Also
from her research she found that industrialisation lead to the
segregation of family roles around the home.
Mary Boulton also suggests that many surveys done exaggerate how much
childcare is actually done by husbands. Her argument is that while men
may ‘help’ with childcare, it is the wives who take main
responsibility for looking after the children, often resulting in them
having to restrict their own lives. A patriarchal ideology still sees
women’s work to be looking after the children and doing housework.
This argument backs up the evidence that Oakley has towards a non
Duncombe and Marsden are two sociologists that interviewed 40 couples
that have been married for 15years. They identified another area of
work that is usually carried out by the women called ‘emotion work’
which is defined as being the management of ones own and other people
emotional welfare. They see this as being work; therefore, women have
to do a ‘triple shift’. This proves the theory that the family is not
symmetrical as the women are still doing the work, with now more
evidence of that, which is the ‘triple shift’ theory.
Another feminist that would back up Oakley’s theory of the non
symmetrical family is Pahl (1993) who interviewed 102 couples with
children, she saw together and alone. She focused on how each
partner’s contribution to family income effects the decision making
within the family. The results of her research showed that the husband
controlled pooling was the most common, this means that the money is
shared but the husband has the most control and the wife had a lower
income. She also found that the situation where the wife had control
was the least common. Therefore in over a quarter of couples there is
some equality but in most cases had more power.
This proves the theory that industrialisation plays a major part in
the segregation, as the husbands are the main breadwinners therefore
giving them more power in financial issues, thus enforces women’s
economic dependence on men. In Oakley’s view, even though the 20th
century saw an increase in the increase in the number of married women
working, being a housewife is still seen as a women’s primary role.
Like Pahl another sociologist Stephan Edgell (1980) conducted research
on middle class and professional couples, he found that the...