Generalised explanations of the division of household labour

Sociological approaches to the household division of labour can be grouped into two broad classes (for a more detailed discussion see [Lew06]. One class of explanations is framed in terms of micro-relations and includes several variants of exchange theory that view the actual practices followed by spouses as representing a negotiated agreement, which may or may not be based on power relations between the spouses (see [Bec81] [Mcd81], respectively). A number of approaches that fit this broad perspective have received detailed exposition and evaluation [Bia00] [Blo60] [Bri94]. Prominent among them is the resource-dependence approach, which focuses on asymmetric power relations that typically places female spouses at a disadvantage.

A second class of explanations is framed in more abstract terms and is represented by the proposition that gender categories are constituted through the actions of individuals and their social relations. Hence, the household division of labour is not merely an agreement struck between two social actors. Rather, the household is the locus of structuration, reflecting gender ideology, socialisation, differential power, while at the same time institutionalising gender distinctions [Ber85] [Hoc89] [Wes87].

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