The domestic division of labour refers to the roles that men and women play in relation to housework, childcare and paid work; and in addition looks at the different powers both have within the household and the relationship. This essay will also focus on the factors which affect these divisions. Firstly, whether a family live in a symmetrical family or not will have an effect on the divisions of labour. March of Progress theorists such as Young and Willmott argue that family life is gradually improving for all its members, becoming more equal and democratic. For example, women now go out to work, just as men now help with housework and childcare.
However, some sociologists disagree with Murdock’s functions of the family and have criticised him. Some argue that these functions could be performed in other institutions equally as well as in the family, or by non-nuclear families. Marxists and Feminists reject his 'rose-tinted' harmonious consensus view that the family meets the needs of both wider society and all members of the family. They argue that functionalism neglects conflict and exploitation: Feminist see the family as serving the needs of men and oppressing women. Marxists argue that it meets the needs of Capitalism and not the needs of family members or society as a whole.
Reproducationally, they will make the next generation. Economically the ideal is that the man will go out to work and provide food and shelter whilst the women will look after the house, cook and clean whilst looking after the children. The last function Murdock believes that the family should fulfil is education of socialisation; the children will learn the culture norms and values of society. However, Parsons a functionalist also focused on American families but argues that the family has two key functions. Primary socialisation, the children
Parsons said that these roles made things ‘nice and functional’. He also said that men and women were biologically suited to these roles so it was only natural for men to be the breadwinners and women are the stay at home wives. This is a very traditional view. There are many factors affecting power relationships and the division of labour between couples. Firstly, whether a family live in a symmetrical family or not will have an effect on the divisions of labour.
The approach presents the family as a family isolated from wider kinships because of the mobility required by labour markets in industrial societies. The image that functionalists create of the family involves the support for the nuclear family from the wider welfare state. It also suggests that any childcare for the family would be provided by non-family agencies, for example; playgroups. The usefulness of this ‘privatised nuclear family’ is that it gives closure within the family, allowing stability and support. It’s beneficial as there are male and female role models available for the children, and it gives the parents more control of how their children are brought up.
Linda N. (undated) provides a definition as men holding the position of power and the head of the family unit. They hold the view that women are kept in their place which is being at home looking after their children and being a mother is their main priority in life. This shows inequality between men and women. According to this inequality, the women act in manner of being seen as a good wife, looking after the home and children. This results in the man having more power over the woman as he is the individual working and bringing an income, enabling him to make the decisions whereas the woman would have no power for this to happen.
Men were the main ones to provide for the family whereas the women would be housewives, looking after their men and their children. As Willis (1977) found that hard manual work was central to men’s sense of masculinity as being ‘real men’ and was their main source of
Michael Young and Peter Willmott (1962) argue that men are now taking a greater share of domestic tasks and more wives are becoming wage earners. Feminist’s sociologists reject Parsons’ view that the division of labour is natural. They argue it only benefits men. Elizabeth Bott (1957) distinguishes two roles, segregated conjugal roles and joint conjugal roles. Segregated conjugal roles where the couple have separate roles where a male is the breadwinner and a female is the homemaker/carer, as in Parsons’ instrumental and expressive roles.
However, Marxists would disagree and say that this policy as it supports the working class mostly therefore encourages people to work at the benefit of capitalism. This is also shown through child benefit, which on the one hand Functionalists say supports the family in raising the new generation and helps it to function properly. But on the other hand it encourages people to work as both parents should work in order to get benefits. Furthermore, Feminists claim that child benefit also reinforces strict gender roles because the benefit goes to the mother implying that the mother is the one who will perform the expressive role of raising the child. This shows that although some state policies and laws can have a good impact on family life, they can also be seen as having negative implications.
EXAMINE THE VIEW THAT DIVISION OF LABOUR BETWEEN COUPLES HAVE BEEN MORE OR LESS EQUAL. [24 MARKS] Domestic division of labour means the gender roles of men and women played in relation to housework, childcare and paid work. For example, men are expected to do more DIY work while women are expected to do the housework and take care of the child by providing emotional support to them. Some sociologists believe that families nowadays are moving towards equality and that the families are becoming symmetrical. A symmetrical family is a family where ale the chores are shared equally between couples.