The Contemporary Family As More Democratic And Equal

1727 words - 7 pages

The Contemporary Family as More Democratic and Equal

In the course of this essay I shall be looking at the role of the
family. In doing so I shall be examining various studies carried out,
showing what the role of the family should be. This will include
views by Willmott and Young, and contrasting ones of such authors as
Ann Oakley, a feminist. The family is often looked upon as a social
institution, a bond that joins individuals into families. This bond
is reinforced by marriage, economic co-operation and sexual activity
leading to the eventual conception of new life. This is typical of
the viewpoint taken by functionalists such as Murdock, who saw that
each member of the family had a role to play in order for it to be a
success. This was a positive outlook for the family, however
feminists such as Oakley believed this was not the case.

From the late nineteenth century until the 1950’s traditional
relationships between a man and his wife could best be described as
male dominated. This “Patriarchy” was based around the view of this
era that the father was the undoubted head of the household. Whatever
his viewpoints, values and needs were these would always be listened
to and met. The views of women on the other hand were very much
repressed. Fletcher, pointed out that both women and children were
frequently exploited both inside and outside the family and conditions
within the home were deplorably inadequate. (“The family and marriage
of Britain”)

Women therefore were regarded as inferior to men and their main roles
were as housewives looking after the home, mothers looking after the
children, and as wives looking after their husbands. In several
classic studies from the period 1950’s to 1970s Michael Young and
Peter Willmott mapped out the changing forms of family in Modern
Britain. They noted that there was a movement away from the kinship
of an extended, three generations family; consisting of grandparents,
parents and children to a more nuclear type of family. They claimed
that the relationship in this new type of family was becoming more
‘symmetrical’ with both partners spending more time together in the
family environment.

Young and Willmott’s argument for their symmetrical family stated that
a new family form was emerging – one in which both men and women have
two roles, in paid work and in the domestic sphere. Feminist Ann
Oakley on the other hand argues that Young and Willmotts claims of
increasing symmetry were based on inadequate methodology and states
that their conclusions based on one interview was worded in a way that
could grossly exaggerate the amount of housework done by men further
research by Edgell (1980) supported Oakley and found little sharing of
household tasks.

Another feminist who carried out studies on the family and...

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