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How Have Conjugal Roles Changed Within the Family.

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A central concern in the sociology of Families and Households is a consideration of contemporary conjugal roles. A balanced understanding of the current situation requires some consideration of the following problem areas:

§ The is vs. ought distinction: Values clearly affect research we need to be aware of the distinction between what actually 'is' observable and what some researchers think 'ought' to be the case.

§ Nature vs. nurture: We need to be aware that behavior is complex and that it results from both biological and cultural influence. We need to avoid both biological and cultural determinism

§ Ideological vs. pragmatic: Change or continuity in behavior within conjugal roles might be the result of either pragmatic or ideological adjustment.

Snapshot vs. process: We need to be wary of snapshots of family life and consider the outcomes that result from viewing changes in families over time, and in response to changing circumstances.

§ Quantitative vs. qualitative: Different research methods yield very different types of data.

Examples of changes of the Conjugal Roles changing have been documented throughout history. Although there may not be an obvious change in them the change may perhaps be subtler because it's true that not everything happens in a bang, even sociologists agree that things must be done in "baby steps" for example

Coltrane and Ishii-Kuntz in 1992. Found that when couples waited to conceive and have their first-born child those husbands did more housework than in the couples where they had their first-born sooner.

Another researcher into this is Elizabeth Bott her work which extends to "Family and Social Networks". Bott distinguishes between two types of conjugal roles, segregated and joint. She studied 128 working class and middle class couples and found that they both had segregated conjugal roles. In the segregated case, men and women have a clear differentiation of tasks, and a huge number of separate interests and activities. In the joint relationship many tasks are carried out together with little task difference and separation of interests. Bott found that in all families there was basic division of labour in which the man was mainly responsible for supporting the family financially, and the woman was mainly responsible for housework and childcare. In my study I am going to try and find out if today, nearly 50 years later, conjugal roles have changed from segregated to joint.

Ann Oakley (1974) was the first feminist sociologist to seriously examine housework. She used a sample of 40 housewives living in London. She found they were as alienated by housework as factory workers were about their jobs. They adopted similar coping strategies as factory workers. But rather then encouraging a sense of togetherness, they competed with each other to be better then the rest . Women were the first to judge other women's household management.

However the more commonly known researchers are Willmott and Young (1973) who discovered a new trend that leans towards the "symmetrical family". Symmetry meaning an equal in the sense that men and women are beginning to become more equal.

Mobility will also have an impact on the conjugal roles, for instance a disabled person may have trouble with childcare, or having a job and it might be easier for them to do the opposite thus effecting what they can do and they may rely on their partner to do what they can't.

In modern families women are beginning to work whilst the men stay at home and look after the children and do housework, however the way people have been bought up leads them to believe that by default assumption that men are supposed to work and women are supposed to be



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