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June 26, 2013 / C H Thompson

The Symmetrical Family – Young and Willmott – part 2

Young and Willmott give four reasons for this shift from the Stage 2 to Stage 3 family structure:

  1. financial
  • the expansion of welfare state support through family allowances; unemployment benefit; old-age pensions reduced the need for kinship networks
  • increase in real-terms of male breadwinner’s wages
  • reduced unemployment rates

2. mobility

  • increased geographical mobility, as younger couples with children moved further afield to new council housing estates

3. smaller families

  • 1970s saw a reduction in number of children in families from an average of 6 per family to just 2.
  • smaller number of dependent children gave wives a greater opportunity to work
  • this increased the symmetry within the family as two wage earners could contribute to family finances

4. improved living standards

  • as homes improved, husbands were felt ‘happier’ to stay at home
  • improved home based leisure activities
  • improved home comforts which husband could improve on – DIY

Young and Willmott found their home-centred symmetrical family was far more evident in working-class than the middle-class. This is because working-class work tends to be tedious therefore more time and attention is given to the family.

To summarise

Return to symmetrical family


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