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Assess the view that the modern family is symmetrical

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Introduction

Assess the view that the modern family is symmetrical The family has always received wide spread political and public attention, but with an increase in lone parenthood and a decline in marriage; family issues are receiving more attention than ever before. Using various examples from research studies and publications I will put forward facts and figures that will show that, although there has been a significant improvement over the past 30 years with regard to the inequalities faced by many women, this by no means has led to the modern family being symmetrical. It should also be remembered that because families are not static structures, but continually changing, it is very difficult to define and measure them accurately as units (Family Policy Studies, 1995) Peter Willmott and Michael Young identified the form of the symmetrical family in the early 1970's, they believed that men and women were making joint decisions and working together on all domestic chores and sharing the responsibility of the child rearing. However, research and publications have shown that although men help out more today than in Victorian times the sharing of domestic chores is by no way equal, even where the women works the same or similar hours in paid employment as the man. The number of women of working age in paid employment has increased significantly over the past 30 years. In 1973 only 48% of families with dependant children had both parents in paid employment, this is compared to 60% in 1993 (General Household Survey), and rising to 68% in 2003 (Office for National Statistics, 2003). ...read more.

Middle

The research by Oxford University and the results of the survey carried out by Top Sante (2001) contradicts the work of Young and Willmott (1975). Young and Willmott saw the family as a largely self contained and self reliant unit. The family would no longer receive the kind of help and support that was typical of the Bethnal Green studies of the 1950's. Young and Willmott stated that husbands and fathers were much less likely to spend time down at the pub with their friends and more likely to spend time with their wife and children. The roles of the husband and wife in the symmetrical family have become increasingly similar. In the home the housework is shared. The symmetry refers to an arrangement in which the parts are similar. In the symmetrical family, conjugal roles, though not the same have become increasingly similar (Haralambos, pg 199, 1986). Research carried out by Ann Oakley during the same period as Young and Willmott showed a very different picture of conjugal roles. She interviewed women in depth about their attitude to housework and how much help their husband gave in the home. Each of the women were asked which household chore and child related tasks their husbands regularly participated in. This ranged from shopping, household chores, including washing, cooking and cleaning and child rearing, including dressing and washing children, putting them to bed and supervising play. (Oakley,A, pg 337-340, 1977) Ann Oakley's findings were that men tended to participate in and share more of the childcare than the housework, and the jobs undertaken tended to involve playing with the children rather than practical tasks such as bathing them or changing nappies. ...read more.

Conclusion

We all have very different roles to play within society, and research shows us that there have been significant changes in the contours of family lives and personal relationships over the past 30 years, with increased cohabitation, separation, divorce, lone parenthood, more step families and more people living on their own. These changes have coincided with the increased employment of mothers and women and increasing inequalities. Pessimists within society see these changes in family life as bringing moral decline, a lack of social stability and solidarity, a parenting deficit and selfish individualism. However, the optimists see the new family units within modern day Britain as being more open and democratic and producing more rewarding relationships, with love acquiring a greater significance (Williams,F, pg 24, 2004) The symmetrical family does probably not exist as Young and Willmott believed it would be. Women are working more hours than ever before and a higher proportion than ever are bringing up their children alone. It could be argued that whilst women have continued to take on more and more responsibility, both within the home and the workplace, men's position within society has remained relatively unchanged. The burden of being the sole wage earner has been lifted from them with more and more women now working, and in some cases earning more than their husbands or partners. The responsibility of child care arrangements and child rearing activities still falls mainly on the shoulders of women. However, as this essay has demonstrated men still continue to do less than women with regard to household chores or the rearing of children. ...read more.

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