Assessment Of The View That Conjugal Roles Have Become Equal

1301 words - 6 pages

Assessment of the View that Conjugal Roles Have Become Equal

Different sociologists have had different views to whether conjugal
roles have become equal. Researchers have measured different aspects
of equality/inequality in conjugal roles. Some have concentrated on
the division of labour in the home: they have examined the allocation
of responsibility for domestic work between husband and wife and the
amount of time spent by spouses on particular tasks. Others have tried
to measure the distribution of power within marriage. Willmott and
Young, and Gillian Dunne are amongst those who have argued that
conjugal roles are equal. However many sociologists such as Ann
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During the 1970’s she collected information on 40 married women who
had one child or more under the age of 5 and were themselves aged
between 20 and 30. Half of her sample was working class and half was
middle class. She found greater equality for domestic tasks in the
middle class than in the working class, however in both classes few
men had a high level of participation in housework and childcare. She
found that most wives saw these jobs as their own responsibility,
where only 15% of men in marriages participated in them at a high
level. Sociologists such as Ann Oakley have argued that women have
increasingly been taking on a dual burden: they have retained primary
responsibility for household tasks while also being expected to have
paid employment.

Jonathan Gershury agrees with Ann Oakley and disagrees with the
statement that conjugal roles have become equal. He points out that
dual burden could lead to increased inequality between husbands and
wives as a rising proportion of women suffer from it. He believes that
dual burden is a result of lagged adaptation where there is a time lag
between women taking up paid employment and men adapting to this by
increasing their contribution to domestic labour. In 1992 Gershury
studied the changes in hours worked by men and women over time,
analysing data from 1974/5 to 1987. It showed a gradual increase in
the amount of domestic labour performed by men. This increase was
greatest when wives were in full-time employment, husbands whose wives
worked full time doubled the amount of time they spent cooking and
cleaning. Gershury concluded that though women still bear the main
burden of domestic labour, there is a gradual trend towards greater
equality, however it is still a long way off from becoming equal.

Lagged adaptation can explain Stephen Edgell’s findings who did not
find equality in either household tasks or power and decision making.
In 1980 Edgell interviewed 38 middle class couples. He asked them who
made the decisions and how important those decisions were. He found
that men dominated what couples considered to be important decisions
involving finance, moving house and buying a car. Women dominated less
important decisions such as interior decoration, children’s clothes
and spending on food and household items. The chores that tended to be
allocated to men though were infrequent rather than the everyday,
frequent tasks which the women dominated. However in his study Edgell
did find a trend for childcare. Although no couples in his survey
equally shared housework, 44.6% took joint responsibility for
childcare. Ferri and Smith however found no equality in
decision-making regarding childcare. They studied as far as possible
the lives of everybody born in Great Britain in a specific week in
1958. The sample included 2800 fathers and 3192 mothers. The survey
found that it was still very rare for fathers to...

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