The Changing Roles of Women of Sweden

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Sweden has developed a modern industrial culture based on natural resources, technical skills, and a sense of quality. Simplicity and even severity resulting from geographic and economic conditions characterize Swedish society and life. The title suggests that there have been changes in the roles of the Swedish woman. There is no doubt that this is the case. The degree to which and the speed with which changes have occurred, however, are somewhat more difficult to evaluate. At the same time, if women's roles change, men's roles should change too, especially if women's new roles begin to invade areas previously held by the men. We can, therefore conclude that changes in one role bring about changes in other roles. Not only are changes in women and men's roles of importance but also changes in girls' and boys' roles. Through observation and experience, attempts to change adult roles have often been premised on changes in the roles of children and adolescents. In this paper, some data related to gender roles in the family, both children's gender roles and the gender roles of the adult members of a family will be presented. Some examples of child rearing, division of labor between the spouses, and of gender roles in relation to cohabitation and marriage will also be included. This data will allude to evidence of changes in female employment rates, fertility rates as well as some important information on governmental policies in Sweden.

Sweden is a worldly society with open-minded norms concerning the way men and women choose to live together. The choice between a formal marriage and informal cohabitation has long since been an essentially private matter. There is no set way to any particular family form, and not even Swedish family law (last revised in 1987) is confined to married couples. The law treats unmarried and married couples equally in most aspects. For instance, no distinction is made between married and unmarried couples with respect to tax assessment or when housing allowances or child benefits are granted (Hoem, 39). This liberal view may help explain why non-marital cohabitation was so rapidly accepted in Sweden compared to many other countries, being soon regarded as a social institution rather than as deviant behavior.

Non-marital cohabitation is not a new practice in Sweden, in particular in the capital and in the northern parts of the country. According to Swedish history, there were two different types of cohabitation at the beginning of the century. One very visible type was called samvets- äktenskap (marriage of conscience) and was practiced by a group of intellectuals as a protest against the fact that only religious marriage existed in Sweden at the time. Their protest was successful in that civil marriage was introduced in 1909. The other form of consensual union was called Stockholms- äktenskap (Stockholm marriage) and was endemic among poor people who could not afford to marry (Hoem 41). As time went on, this practice of cohabitation appears to have almost disappeared, however. Cohabitation was not very common during the decades before 1960. When informal cohabitation then suddenly started to grow in popularity, it received almost no public attention initially. When marriage rates fell dramatically, it became clear that the number of marriages was no longer a reliable measure of family formation, and consensual unions were recognized as a recordable living arrangement in the 1975 census. Nevertheless, it came as a real surprise when the 1981 Swedish Fertility Survey revealed that as many as every third woman born in the period 1936-1940 had started her first union without marriage (Hoem 44). The survey also showed that these cohabitants, which most often came from the working class, married soon afterwards, and that durable consensual unions were relatively rare. In subsequent groups, non-marital unions progressively became even more...
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