Conjugal roles Learning Outcomes To illustrate the roles of family members

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The Domestic Division of Labour

The roles of family members – instrumental and expressive

Conjugal roles

Learning Outcomes

  • To illustrate the roles of family members:

    • Expressive
    • Instrumental
  • To understand conjugal roles within the family unit

    • Segregated
    • Conjugal

Old Fasioned Family Values

Domestic Division of Labour

  • Think about what this means

  • Is the workload at home split between every member of the family?

  • Write down a list of the things each parent does around the house/brothers/sisters/yourself

  • Is there a clear division of labour? – does everybody do equal amounts?

Talcott Parsons (1955)

  • Functionalist – what is this?

  • Claims that the husband has a role as well as the wife

  • Why do you think Parsons believes this?

    • What differences are there between men and women?
  • Instrumental and expressive

Intrumental and Expressive Roles

    • What are these?
    • List some instrumental and expressive jobs or roles
    • Is this outdated?


  • Young and Willmott (1962)

    • Men are now taking a greater domestic share of tasks and more wives are becoming wage earners!
  • Feminists

    • Argue that Parsons view that it benefits all is wrong and that it really only benefits men!

Conjugal Roles

  • What are the roles (conjugal) of the man and woman within a marriage?

  • Elizabeth Bott (1957)

    • Two types of conjugal roles:
    • Segregated
    • Joint


  • Separate roles

  • Male breadwinner

  • Female homemaker

  • Leisure activities are also separate


  • Couple share tasks

  • Housework/childcare

  • Leisure time is spent together

Young and Willmott (1950s)

  • Studied traditional working class extended families in Bethnal Green

  • Identified a pattern

    • Men were breadwinners, often working in the docks
    • Women were homemakers – sole responsibilities being housework and childcare helped by female relatives
    • Men friends with men, women with women
  • Do you think family life has changed much since this study was conducted 60 years ago?


  • Parsons indicated that individuals within the household have different roles – this is based on ‘natural’ differences

    • This has been criticised by Young and Willmott for being outdated
  • Elizabethe Bott distinguished between roles within marriage (conjugal)

  • Young and Willmott found from their study that the roles of men and women demonstrated conjugal roles within marriage.

Next Lesson

  • The symmetrical family

  • Feminism and housework


  • Haralambos

  • Page 78

  • Activity 33

  • Following this

  • Haralambos

  • Page 80

  • Activity 34

Domestic division of labour

The symmetrical family

The feminist view of housework

Learning Objectives

  • To understand what Young and Willmott mean by the ‘symmetrical family’

    • The reasons for the rise in the ‘symmetrical family’
  • To criticise this view through the feminist view of housework

The Symmetrical Family

  • Young and Willmott (1973) see family life as improving

  • There has been a long term trend away from segregated conjugal roles and toward joint conjugal roles

  • This leads to a symmetrical family

Why is this seen?

  • What reasons can you think of as to why Young and Willmott believe this?

  • Women now go out to work

  • Men now help with housework and childcare

  • Couples spend more time together – more home-centred or ‘privatised’

And the reasons?

  • Changes in the position of women

  • Geographical mobility

  • New technology

  • Higher standards of living

    • How do you think these have had an affect on the family?

Feminist View

  • Feminists reject this ‘March of Progress’ view and argue that little has really changed

  • Ann Oakley (1974)

    • Found some evidence of husbands helping around the home but no evidence of a trend towards symmetry
    • 15% of husbands had a high level of participation of housework
    • 25% a high level of childcare

Time spent on housework

Feminist view of housework

  • Mary Boulton (1983)

    • Fewer than 20% of husbands had a major role in childcare
  • In general, research has found that there has been a slight change of attitude among younger men

    • They no longer assume that women should do all the housework
    • Future Foundation (2000)
    • 1000 adults – 60% of men claim to do more housework than their father
    • 75% of women claimed to do less housework than their mother



  • Women within the contemporary family have a ‘dual burden’

    • What does this mean and do you agree with this – relate sociological arguments to this question
    • For next week

Domestic Labour

The Impact of Paid Work


The Dual Burden

Learning Objectives

  • To interpret Gershuny’s research on the impact of paid work

  • To understand how housework can be viewed to have become commercialised

  • To gain knowledge of the term ‘dual burden’ with regard to work outside and inside the home

  • To look at what Hochschild and Morgan mean by ‘emotion work’

Jonathan Gershuny (1994)

  • What do you think was found regarding the amount of time spent on housework if the wife worked full-time?

    • Decreased

March of Progress

  • What can you remember about the March of Progress view?

    • What topics does this view relate to?
    • What can we say about housework with relation to this view?
    • Do you agree that conjugal roles are becoming more similar? – who talks about these conjugal roles?


  • Are these changes in housework due to changing values/role models or because of economic reasons?

  • What economic changes have we seen?

  • Are earnings completely equal?

    • Rosemary Crompton (1997) argues that as long as earnings remain equal so too will the division of labour at home

Commercialisation of Housework

  • Again to do with economics

  • When you think of housework what sort of ‘products’ come to mind?

    • This arguably shows that housework can become commercialised  goods and services are now mass-produced  reduce the domestic labour that needs to be done
    • Women working means they can afford these

The Dual Burden

  • What are feminists view of housework?

  • What is a ‘burden’

  • What do you think this ‘dual burden’ means?

  • Ferri and Smith (1996) – sample of 1589 33-year old fathers and mothers – father took most responsibility for childcare in fewer than 4% of families

Emotion Work

  • Relates to instrumental and expressive roles

  • David Morgan (1997) writes:

Physical care and monitoring, handling the fears and frustrations experienced by the sick child, handling the adjustments required on behalf of other members of the family who may be resentful of the attention being accorded to the sick child, and drawing upon one’s own emotional resources and exercising emotional control while doing all of this


  • The domestic division of labour is a result of social construction

  • Write a side to two sides looking at this statement and arguing your point of view on this

  • Complete for homework

The Sociology of Domestic Violence

Lesson Objectives

  • To view statistics on domestic violence

  • To understand Dobash and Dobash’s (1979) view on domestic violence

  • To interpret feminist understandings of this topic


  • BCS (2007)

    • Accounts for almost a 6th of all violent crime
  • Black’s (1999) survey of 16,000 people

    • estimates there are 6.6 million domestic assaults a year, about half involving physical injury
  • Mirrlees-Black

    • Most victims are women
    • 99% of all incidents against women are committed by men
    • Nearly one in four women has been assaulted by a partner at some time in her life, and one in eight repeatedly so

Dobash and Dobash (1979)

  • Research based in Scotland

  • Based on police and court records as well as interviews with women in women’s refuges

  • Examples of wives being slapped, pushed about, beaten, raped or killed by their husbands

  • Violent incidents could be set off by what a husband saw as a challenge to authority e.g. wife asking why the husband was late home.

  • Argued that marriage legitimates violence by conferring power and authority on husbands and dependency on wives

Problems in identifying domestic violence

  • Why do you think there may be problems in interpreting the statistics on this topic?

  • Stephanie Yearnshire (1997) found that on average a women will suffer abuse 35 times before making a report

    • It is the violent crime least likely to be reported
  • Police and prosecutors may be unlikely to want to record, investigate or prosecute these cases – they do not want to get involved with the family

Radical Feminism

  • What do you remember about radical feminism?

  • What do you think radical feminists would argue about domestic violence?

  • What would radical feminists argue about Dobash and Dobash’s study with regard to the type of society feminists believe we live in?

    • Write a couple of paragraphs answering these questions

Radical Feminism

  • Kate Millett (1970) & Shulasmith Firestone (1970) argue that all societies have been founded on patriarchy!

  • Men are the enemy – they are the oppressors and exploiters of women

  • Sociologically, they argue that domestic violence keeps women under male control

  • Are all men violent though?! – most are also opposed to domestic violence – what about female violence against men, or child abuse by women!?

Questions – as a small group

  • Jealousy, money, children, drunkeness, arguments over food are all identified by Dobash and Dobash as common ‘triggers’ for domestic violence – why would these be seen as triggers, link your answers to ideas about gender roles

  • Why do you think many battered wives remain with their violent husbands

  • In what other ways may men be able to dominate their wives?

  • In what other ways are other institutions of society, e.g. the media, education and the law seen as patriarchal?


  • Use the remaining time to create a poster about domestic violence

    • Theorists
    • Statistics
    • Views
    • Could you relate this to conjugal roles/instrumental and expressive roles/the dual burden/feminism etc?

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