Introduction: The Unravelling of the ‘Male Breadwinner’ Model — and Some of its Consequences
The trends underlying the issues that are the major focus of this book are well known. These include rising employment amongst women, particularly mothers, and thus an increase in dual-earner households, increasing instability in interpersonal relationships, and declining fertility together with a growing recognition of the problems of work-life ‘balance’. They have been gathering pace since the second half of the twentieth century, and indeed a further increase in the level of women’s employment is now enshrined as a European policy objective. The most usual template against which these changes are evaluated is the male breadwinner/female caregiver model of the articulation of employment and family life. This work-family arrangement reached its peak in the mid twentieth century, and indeed, an earlier generation of sociologists assumed this model not only to be ‘natural’, but also to represent a positive functional adaptation to the requirements of ‘industrial society’ (Parsons, 1949) However, it may be argued that it has not been fully appreciated, either in the recent past or in the present, that this ‘golden age’ of the (nuclear) family covered in fact only a very short period in human history (Seccombe, 1993).
KeywordsDomestic Work Gender Role Attitude Family Policy Gender Ideology Labour Market Regulation
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