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To what extent has the concept of the 'symmetrical family' become a reality? [30 marks]


Families and Households

 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Free Essay Outline

Briefly define the 'symmetrical family' as put forward by Young and Willmott.
Explain the concept of the 'dual burden' faced by women in contemporary society.
Arguments for the symmetrical family
Use evidence from surveys to suggest that men are taking on more domestic roles in the home.
Discuss the changing roles of women in the workplace and how this has impacted family dynamics.
Analyze the changing attitudes towards gender roles and how this has contributed to a more symmetrical family structure.
Arguments against the symmetrical family
Utilize studies that highlight the persistent gendered division of labor in the home.
Explain the concept of the 'second shift' and how women continue to disproportionately bear the burden of domestic work.
Explore the influence of factors such as social class and cultural background on the division of labor in the family.
Summarize the key arguments for and against the symmetrical family.
Conclude with a personal opinion on the extent to which the symmetrical family has become a reality.
Use relevant sociological theories and concepts to support your arguments throughout the essay.

Free Essay 

The Symmetrical Family: A Reality or a Distant Ideal?

The concept of the "symmetrical family," coined by sociologist John Gottman in 1986, describes a family structure where both partners contribute equally to household tasks, childcare, and financial decisions. This ideal challenges the traditional division of labor, where women primarily shoulder domestic responsibilities while men focus on paid work. While significant progress has been made towards achieving gender equality in the home, the symmetrical family remains a nuanced reality, with certain societal factors influencing its actualization.

⭐⭐Progress towards Symmetry:⭐⭐

⭐Increased Female Labor Force Participation:⭐⭐ The significant rise of women in the workforce has challenged traditional gender roles and fostered a need for shared responsibilities. This has led to a greater need for men to contribute to domestic tasks and childcare.
⭐Shifting Attitudes:⭐⭐ Social attitudes towards gender roles have evolved, with greater acceptance of men participating in domestic work and women pursuing careers. This shift has paved the way for more equitable partnerships.
⭐Technological Advancements:⭐⭐ Technological innovations have made household management easier, reducing the time spent on traditional domestic tasks and allowing for more shared responsibilities.
⭐Legal and Policy Changes:⭐⭐ Policies like paid parental leave and equal pay initiatives have created a more supportive environment for men to participate in family responsibilities.

⭐⭐Obstacles to Symmetry:⭐⭐

⭐Gendered Norms and Expectations:⭐⭐ Deeply ingrained societal norms and expectations still dictate traditional gender roles, creating pressure on women to prioritize domestic duties even with a full-time job.
⭐The "Second Shift":⭐⭐ Despite the rise of dual-income families, women often bear a disproportionate burden of the "second shift," encompassing housework, childcare, and emotional labor. This imbalance persists due to expectations, unequal division of labor, and the gendered nature of these tasks.
⭐Lack of Flexibility in the Workplace:⭐⭐ Rigid workplace policies and a lack of flexible work arrangements can hinder men's involvement in family responsibilities. This makes it difficult for them to share the burden of childcare and housework.
⭐Unequal Distribution of Resources:⭐⭐ Wage gaps and gendered patterns in financial control can create power imbalances within families, making it harder to achieve true equality in financial decision-making.

⭐⭐Evidence and Studies:⭐⭐

⭐ Studies have shown that while couples are increasingly sharing domestic tasks, women still shoulder a larger burden. This disparity is particularly pronounced in families with young children.
⭐ Research also highlights the "work-family conflict," where women often face greater pressure to balance work and family responsibilities, leading to burnout and limited career advancement.
⭐ Studies examining the "second shift" reveal that women still spend significantly more time on household tasks and childcare, even when both partners work full-time.


The symmetrical family is a compelling vision, but its realization remains a work-in-progress. While progress has been made, achieving true equality within families requires addressing the persistent inequalities in gender roles, workloads, and resource distribution. Societal shifts in attitudes, policies promoting gender equality, and workplace flexibility are crucial for fostering a more equitable family structure and creating a true "symmetrical family" reality.

⭐⭐Further Developments:⭐⭐

⭐ The rise of remote work and flexible work arrangements may offer greater opportunities for men to participate in family responsibilities.
⭐ Increased awareness of the "second shift" and the importance of emotional labor could help couples create more equitable partnerships.
⭐ Continued efforts to close the gender pay gap and promote equitable access to resources will be instrumental in achieving true financial parity within families.

⭐⭐In conclusion,⭐⭐ while the symmetrical family remains a distant ideal for many, its pursuit remains a vital objective for fostering gender equality and creating more balanced and fulfilling family relationships. The journey towards achieving this vision necessitates a continued commitment to dismantling traditional gender roles, promoting shared responsibility, and creating a more equitable and supportive social environment.

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