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Symmetrical Family

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1164
  • Category: Family

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Willmott and Young did a survey in 1973 to test this hypothesis out. Their conclusion was that the majority do help; I want to find out whether the results from their survey are can still be applied to today. My dad does 50% of the domestic labour and so it is a symmetrical relationship between my mum and dad but I want to know if the majority of relationships are also symmetrical. I want to do my research in my area of London, Maida Vale to see if my family are like the majority of my area.

Context and concepts

“The symmetrical family” is the concept in my research, used by Willmott and Young. They have suggested that the modern family is symmetrical; by this they mean that couples have a more balanced arrangement of tasks such as the domestic routine, and carry out similar tasks. This is taking in to mind that there is a difference between men and women and what or how much they are capable of, so they do the same due to their capability. Evidence for this is a survey they did in 1973 to see whether the husbands and wives in Bethnal Green share the domestic labour equally.

“Domestic labour” is the term to describe the chores of family life these are three main things cleaning, cooking and childcare. The survey looked at the type of jobs done by the husbands and then looked at the percentages of how much the men helped their wives per week. But it doesn’t define how much in that week it splits it up into three categories which are “none”, “washing up only”, “other tasks (e.g. cleaning, cooking, child care and washing up)”. The washing up doesn’t state whether it was just once a week or everyday of the week or was it only after dinner or every single washing up? And the last option is far too vast and would need more specification to be precise.

Out of “all men” 72% chose this last option, but these results aren’t satisfactory to most people (especially feminists), a husband that puts the quilt over his children every night could consider that as childcare every week. I intend my research to be on a similar study to that of Willmott and Young, but using a different method, to see how my results would compare to theirs.

Ann Oakley is the main feminist that felt this test was inadequate, because of the survey’s closed questions. Oakley used a different research method, instead of survey’s she did interviews with house-wives, which she felt would be more appropriate and personal then a survey. The results give a contrasting image, and they showed that the majority of men and women had the old fashioned segregated conjugal roles. Segregated conjugal roles are the “individual” roles between men and women are separate, men’s work is usually outside of the home and women’s are inside. The “symmetrical family” theory contradicts this. Although her research was only interviewing the women so it could be biased. But because there are two different results from these researches I want to find out which one is accurate by doing my own research.

Main Research Method and Reasons

For my method of research I will use unstructured interviews, so that I have a list of questions that would be asked to all participants, but then also if needed ask other questions or ask for an explanation so that I don’t misunderstand the person and I get a full picture and understand the complexities that a questionnaire/survey couldn’t get. I will interview both men and women in each couple so it’s not biased, but separately so that I their answers to get shaped by the other. This data would then therefore be qualitative not quantitative and will then be more precise than Willmott and Young’s percentages from their survey.

Unstrucured interview will give time for the interviewer to build a freinship with the participant,thus making the participant more comfortable hopefully providing us with more truthful information.

Unlike Closed questions in structured interviews ,which are usually leading questions,pushing the participant to a certain answer.Whereas, unstructured interviews allows the participant to express freely and lead the interview into concepts of domestic labour which is more important to them, such as emotional work,hence leading to new insights.

To get my sample I will use a systematic random sample of married/cohabiting couples from Maida Vale, London. I will use a systematic random sample so that it’s equal and I get couples from all the areas of Maida Vale rather than couples in the same neighbourhood for example. To get my sample I will get the voting register and get a list of the residents living in Maida Vale and then systematically I’d get my couples for example a couple after every five couples will get a letter asking if I could interview them. My sample size will be 100 couples. Then I will do a pilot sample just to check the questions are understandable, people don’t mind answering them etc…

The results will be restricted to the Maida Vale area because that’s where the information will originate from,they can not be generalised.for example for the rest of the UK.

Potential problems

Because it is interviews the participants may be embarrassed to tell the truth if it is negative things because they are face to face with the interviewer and so their results may not be accurate. Therefore there may be demand characteristics, because couples would know what the interview requires to want to know and to look like a “happy” couple they could say that there is complete equality even if perhaps there isn’t. Because these days’ people would expect it to be the norm so would claim to have equality because it’s more acceptable.

Further more, the information the participants will be willing to share,will inevitably be selective,because it will be relying on their memory,which may not be accuate.

Past studys also indicate that men tend to overestimate their time spent on domestic chores,in an interview situation we will just have to take their word for it and assume they are telling the truth,where as in reality they may actually do less domestic work then they say they do or in some cases none at all.Consequently this will not paint a reliable picture.

As the interview is an unstructured interview , results will be qualitative,therefore it will be harder to classify,because answers will be so varied.

This sample will not be able to be generalised to people of this generation because Maida Vale is predominantly middle class so it will not be representing everyone. (Because of them mainly being middle class the husbands jobs would vary to the working class and so could affect their help at home).

To be able to generalise the information, I would have to use participants from all over the UK ,social back grounf etc and a much bigger sample.

These interviews will be very time consuming and we are not sure we will have enough participants willing to tell us their personal information.

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