Assess the view that conjugal roles, domestic labour and power relationships have changed significantly over the past 50 years (24 marks).”
Different sociologists have had different views to whether conjugal roles have become equal. Some researchers have concentrated on the division of labour in the home by examining the allocation of domestic work between husband and wife, and the amount of time spent on particular tasks. Others have tried to measure the distribution of power within marriage. Willmott and Young argued that conjugal roles are equal. However many sociologists such as Ann Oakley found little evidence that couples share equal division of domestic tasks.
Willmott and Young agree with the statement that conjugal roles have become equal. They introduced the idea of the symmetrical family which is a family in which the roles of husband and wife are similar. In the home the couple ‘shared their work and shared their time’. Husbands were seen to be increasingly helping with domestic chores, child rearing and decision making about family life. Women now go out to work (although it may be part-time) which means they have more responsibility for their own money. Couples also spend more leisure time together instead of separately. They are more home-centred or 'privatised'. Young and Willmott see the rise of the symmetrical nuclear family as the result of major social changes that have taken place over the last 50 years. They include; changes in women's position (including married women going out to work), geographical mobility (more couples living away from the communities in which they grew up), new technology (labour-saving devices) and higher standards of living.
Ann Oakley is one sociologist who criticises this view of Willmott and Young who had claimed that 72% of husbands ‘help in the house’. In 1974 Ann Oakley pointed out that included in this figure were husbands who did very little, only had to perform one household chore a week. She found......