Assess the view that the symmetrical family exists in modern day society

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Emily Duffy

Assess the view that the symmetrical family exists in modern day society.

        The symmetrical family is Young & Willmott's view that in modern day society privatised nuclear families are more equal in the roles that the husbands and wives participate in. The husband does domestic labour and childcare as well as keeping the role as the breadwinner and the wives go to work and have careers as well as caring for the children and participating in domestic labour. The symmetrical nuclear family is becoming more common in modern day society according to Young & Willmott, because of the changes in society such as women’s positions, geographical mobility and new technology that makes house work easier. The symmetrical family can be viewed by the 'march of progress' and from a feminist view, both of which disagree with each other.

        The march of progress view is that of which sociologists Young and Willmott agree with. Young and Willmott see the symmetrical family improving and becoming more common in modern day society. The symmetrical family is when the husband and wives do not completely have the same roles but are much more equal in modern day society. Men and women both go out to work, perhaps just a part time job, and bring in an income. This results in a more equal share in domestic labour and childcare at home. Commercialization of house work has made it much easier and quicker; therefore families spend more leisure time together. New technology and services, such as cleaners, dish washers, microwaves and child minders, have made domestic labour and childcare less of a burden so men and women have far less house work to do at home, making the symmetry between husbands and wives in families in modern day society much more prominent. Young and Willmott’s study in 1973 found that in London the symmetrical family was more common amongst young couples who were earning a reasonably high income and were geographically mobile. Couples who earn more money are more likely to afford new technology and services to do the domestic labour for them and even child caring, resulting in a much more equal share in roles between the couple. Also, as the study showed, young couples are much more geographically mobile, meaning they are more able to move to new places where they do not know anyone. This causes the couple to spend more time with each other and more likely to help and support each other whilst moving in and settling so they are more symmetrical in the roles they have between each other.

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        Feminists, however, completely disagree with the 'march of progress' view that the symmetrical family exists in modern day society. Feminist sociologists argue that husbands and wives roles within families have not changed and are still unequal, therefore women still do the majority of house work. They blame the inequality on men still dominating society and families. Sociologist Ann Oakley rejected Young and Willmott's 'march of progress' view that families in modern day society are symmetrical. Oakley's study in 1974 showed evidence that husbands helped with house work very little and there was no symmetry within the families. Oakley's study also ...

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