A picture of a typical American family in the 1950s could be fittingly delineated as a patriarchal organization with a clear division of labor. Status inequality and the division into two functional roles, wherein the male takes the income provider role and the wife takes the homemaker role, carved the power structure of the traditional one-career family. The male was elevated to a higher statusbeing keeper of the finances rendered even greater influence over the family.
Fundamentally, the traditional one-career family was symbiotic by design. Both partners mutually reinforce each other's role thereby boosting the capability of each to succeed. While the women cared for the household, raised the children and handled day-to-day errands, the men were in charge of procuring employment and sourcing economic opportunities. He may occasionally assist with family affairs but his involvement was centered primarily on his career with family time as a secondary responsibility. The wife, on the other hand, may be involved with the husband's work-related activities and financial obligations but the family remained as her ultimate priority. In such a setup, a wife through marriage consequently became economically dependent on a husband, and in turn he became emotionally dependent on her.
In contrast, modern relationships that started to emerge during the 1970s are redefining who runs the errands and how much household responsibilities are managed by each partner. The modern family arguably journeys through a period of modifying role definition because ambiguity concerning responsibility ownership and task prioritization has become apparent. No longer is it the rule for the man to assume the exclusive duty for "bringing home the proverbial bacon" (Dreyfus 1) nor the woman to engage in caring for the home and children. As a matter of fact, in some families it is the woman who plays the role as breadwinner while the man takes on the role of homemaker and caregiver.
References: Dreyfus, Edward A. "Contracting for Intimacy." Divorce Magazine: 16 pars. 29 Jul. 2006 .
Spence, Damian A. "Understanding the needs of the dual career family form a human resource perspective." 29 Jul. 2006 .
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