Outline and explain two ways in which changes to gender roles have affected diversity of family structures (10 marks)
Diversity of family structures refers to society having a wide range of family set ups such a nuclear families, single parent families, same sex couples and lone person households. Changes to traditional gender roles has had a significant impact on the variety of family structures within modern society. One example of this is the decrease in the numbers on women choosing to belong to a nuclear family. Parson’s functionalist model saw the nuclear family as the best possible option for the individual and society and had very specific expectations for both men and women.For Parsons’ women’s role in the family is an ‘expressive role’. What he meant by this is a woman’s familial role is to provide care, love, affection, security and all the necessary emotional support a family member might need.In contrast for Parsons’ men have an ‘instrumental role’ as the bread winner. Such a role is very arduous and is such a stressful challenge that it can cause men to breakdown. Therefore a woman’s function is to relieve this burden or tension from the men’s shoulders by providing love and understanding as well as continuing to be the primary carer. In modern society however many women have taken on the role of breadwinner themselves and so no longer fit into the gender role Parson’s laid out, leading in some cases to choosing to end relationships that no longer work for them as they can financially support themselves, this has led to a decrease in nuclear families as women no longer have to remain married to survive financially.
As well as an increase in financial independence women’s expectations about their emotional independence have also increased. Parson’s expressive role expects women to take care of all the emotional needs of the family with little consideration of their own, leading to what Dunscombe and Marsden term the ‘triple shift’ which means that women complete paid work, housework and emotion work. However for an increasing number of women this expectation that the should fulfil this role is unacceptable and they choose to live alone in single person households. In previous generations this decision would have seemed very shocking and potentially led to social isolation as it went against what society viewed as normal for women, however the traditional gender roles for women no longer have such influence and women are free to choose the family and household set up that suits them.