Division of labor in your childhood homes

Sociologists broadly discuss three gender ideologies that drive contemporary divisions of labor in the home: traditionalism, neotraditionalism, and egalitarianism. 


  • Believe men should be responsible for earning income and women should be responsible for housework and childcare.
  • They advocate for specialization: splitting unpaid and paid work so that each partner does more of one than the other
  • These traditional breadwinner/homemaker marriages are seen mostly at the highest and lowest family income levels.


  • Believe that a woman should be able to work if she desires, but only if it doesn’t interfere with her “real” duty to take care of her husband and children.
  • These are breadwinner/superspouse marriages where breadwinners focus on work and their spouse both works and takes care of the home.
  • Superspouses do most of the second shift and the majority of invisible work: the intellectual, mental, and emotional work of parenting and household maintenance.


  • Most men and women today are neither traditionalists nor neo-traditionalists; they’re egalitarians.
  • They prefer relationships in which both partners do their fair share of breadwinning, housekeeping, and childrearing.

Think back to your own childhood experience, keeping these ideologies in mind.  For your journal this week, tell me:

  1. What gender ideologies do you think your parents/guardians believed in? Did they agree? Did their ideologies change over time? Why?
  2. If you were raised by two parents, were they equally happy with the arrangements? How did they negotiate with each other? Did one parent get his or her way more often? If your parents divorced, did they remarry someone with the same ideology as their previous spouse? Different?
  3. Were they able to organize their lives in accordance with their ideologies? That is, was their actual division of labor in line with what you think they wanted? Why or why not?
  4. Which of these ideologies do you desire in your own current or future relationships and why? What kind of ideology do you think others your age desire and what might be important factors to think about?

*Assignment based on information from: Wade, L.  & Ferree, M. M.  2019.  Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. New York: WW Norton.

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