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Symmetrical Familu

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To what extent is the modern family symmetrical? A symmetrical family is one in which both the partners perform equal roles, both within the marriage and the domestic roles. There has been an ongoing debate between sociologists as to whether patriarchy is still present in the contemporary families or has it disappeared, turning the family into a symmetrical family, especially recently with the emerge of the new man- men who contribute towards the domestic work, decision making etc. just as much as their partners. Sociologists Willmott and Young conducted a study on the working class families, which they published in their book- "The Symmetrical Family" in 1975. In this study they found that a working class family goes through four stages: pre-industrial nuclear family, post-industrial extended family, symmetrical family and the final stage of asymmetrical family. They stated that the pre-industrial nuclear family is a unit of production, based mainly on the cottage industry and family business. In today's society only a small minority of people still continue this trend, i.e.: through the business being passed on down from generations e.g.: family shops and business', but it has mainly been replaced. ...read more.


Willmott and Young concluded that the development of technology would help reduce routine work therefore resulting in a more work centred and better paid life for the working class men. On the other hand, many critics believe that Willmott and Young's theory about the working class family turning asymmetrical is in fact false, and the opposite of that is true, i.e.: the middle class may be becoming symmetrical rather than working class becoming asymmetrical. Whereas feminists such as Oakley disagree with Willmott and Young's claims of a symmetrical nuclear family and pursue the theory that isolated nuclear families are still patriarchal. In her book "The sociology of housework" (1974) she says that Willmott and Young's claims on the symmetrical conjugal roles were based on inadequate research, for instance she says Willmott and Young only asked one questions "do husbands help at least once a week with housework apart from washing up?" to their sample with 72% responding positively. Oakley states that men performing one domestic task a week does not show equality as women perform many tasks including caring for the children whilst still conducting other domestic chores. Edgell (1980) ...read more.


Gershuny (1992) conducted a study on the time spent on domestic labour and leisure time by couples in his book "Change in the Domestic Division of labour in the U.K 1975- 1987". He established that husbands spent on average 20minutes more on cleaning and cooking each day in 1987 than in 1975, if their wives were in full time employment. His study also proved that total time spent on domestic labour and employment was approximately the same for both men and women, although men spent more time in employment with women spending more time in domestic labour chores. Sullivan (1996) studied the overall time spent on leisure activities by husband and wives. He found that on adding the time spent on domestic work and employment for each gender, the time spent on leisure activities was the same. Duncombe and Marsden (1995) researched 40couples that had been married for 15years and found that many women were dissatisfied with their partner's emotional input, i.e.: not expressing their feelings and as a result often felt lonely. Devault published "feeding the family" (1991), she conducted interviews with thirty women and three men from a range of ethnic and class backgrounds. She examined that feeding the family required more than shopping, cooking and washing up. ...read more.

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