Are Roles Of Men And Women At Home Changing? Essay

Aim/Hypothesis

My aim is to explore the possible changing roles in the home for the domestic labours. Functionalists believe that women are naturally suited to the caring and emotional role so the sexual role of labour in the home is inevitable. Where as feminists believe that women are an exploited class, for instance the ‘house wife’ role is created patriarchy and is geared to the service of men and there interests. My aim is to find out whether the functionalist view is one that is still present in modern households. I will use non-participant observation and interviews to obtain this information.

Concepts/Contexts

Willmott and Young (1973) claim that the roles of men as bread winners and women as housewives/mothers was breaking down. The conjugal relationships (husband and wife), at least in middle class families were becoming more symmetrical/joint.

Many female’s attitudes have changed and they are now looking beyond the housewife/mother role as the women’s movement has raised female expectations. In a 1976 survey, Sue Sharpe discovered that girl’s priorities were love, marriage, husbands, children, jobs and careers, more or less in that order. When this research was repeated in 1994, she found that the priorities of females had changed to wanting to have a good job and career and wanting to be able to support themselves financially.

Traditionally the dominant ideas of the family ideology have included e.g., Marriage is a companionship, but men are head of household. Women are responsible for domesticity and childcare etc. Clearly, ideology is socially constructed and subject to continual evolution, rather than being ‘natural’, this is reflected in the changes to the ideology since the 19th century that include, for example, men are now encouraged to participate in domestic life. Workingwomen are now seen as quite normal.

In a survey carried for the insurance firm Legal ; General in April 2000, research found that the amount of time spent on housework and childcare by males has been steadily increasing over the past ten years. This information links in with Beck (1992) who noted that postmodern fathers could no longer rely on their jobs to provide a sense of fulfilment and identity. Men are now increasingly looking to their children for a sense of purpose. However it is important not to exaggerate the male role and input into childcare and domestic labours. It is still overwhelmingly the responsibility and ‘duty’ of mothers rather than labours being jointly shard with the fathers.

Stereotypes are often caused due to labelling. These labels include, men as breadwinners and women as housewives/mothers. These labels have been around so long that somewhat of a tradition as well as a stereotype. The problem with tradition is that people do not think why they are doing something, as it seems normal. A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when a person or group, i.e. women, accepts the label given to them and doesn’t fight it, they then begin to act towards the label i.e. women would happily accept their role as housewives/mothers.

My research aim will be to try and discover whether women are finding household labours and childcare easier due to the male in their life putting input into daily tasks, and whether these women expect this to be a natural thing or whether they are happy to fulfil the role of being a housewife and predominant mother figure.

Main Research Methods And Reasons

Our study is designed to research the role of men and women in the home. To do this I have decided to use the research methods of observation and then interviews. The observation part of my research will be ethnographic and will be participant observation. This method appeals most to interpritvists sociologists. It will provide an accurate first hand portrayal of the roles of men and women in the home.

For the observation study I would observe three family homes to see how they differ to each other on the basis of men having a role in the day to day household labours. I believe that although non-participant observation will give a clearer picture of the home as I will not be making any decisions or joining in with the household. Therefore the family will be less influenced by me than if I used participant observation. This method will also be less biased as I will not get drawn into the family group.

After the observation, I will interview all three of the families observed. In these interviews, I will ask both husband and wife about their views of housework and childcare and how they think such labours should be divided between them if at all. My interview technique will be unstructured because after observing their everyday life I will be able to ask them why they did certain things. With this type of interview a trust can be developed so they can feel as though they can talk to me. The interview will be flexible, as the conversation is not constrained by fixed questions. This will hopefully generate information, which is more valid. Also, the interview would be recorded so that I could later analyse the information in greater detail. This would provide more opportunity for the husband/wife to say what they want rather than what I expect to hear.

Interpritvists also like using unstructured interviews (guided conversation) because they believe they can interact better with the person who is answering the questions. Both of their methods should help me prove my hypothesis, as they will give two primary accounts of the attitudes of both husband and wife.

Interpritvists would be interested in my study, as it is very interpersonal. I would be able to see from their body language and their tone of voice if they are lying or giving me the answer that they think I want to hear.

Potential Problems

One problem that I may encounter is that I have decided to use non-participant observation. The observation may seem superficial, as the whole part of participant observation is to be part of the group and experience as a whole. Therefore, observing may leave me on the outside and may limit my understanding of the husband/wives attitudes. It is difficult also to generalise from my observation study as it is focused on a small sample – the families I choose may be different/exotic and unrepresentative of mainstream society.

Another problem, which I might face, is that families may act differently and alter their regular behaviour, as they know that they are being watched. Therefore their attitudes would alter making it harder to prove my hypothesis.

Unstructured interviews may also influence the replies that I receive. A social desirability effect may occur where, the husband or wife may want to ‘please me’, and try to give me the answer I want to hear, which they would believe to be the ‘right answer’. Also, they may try to ‘impress me’ which would portray a different attitude. Positivists see this method as unscientific as it is not standardised and does not produce quantifiable data. My facial expression or tone of voice may also lead to bias causing the interviewees responses to reflect my own opinion.

The aim of the research process is to conduct enough interviews so that I can make a generalisation. However as my interviews are unstructured and more like conversation, each interview will differ due to the interaction that takes place with each one, it will then be hard to make generalisations. Also as my interviews would be recorded and then written up, it would be very time consuming.

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