The changing roles of parents in a middle class community

Holly, Lesley Margaret (1989). The changing roles of parents in a middle class community. PhD thesis The Open University.



Our society has a rhetoric of equality which has spread through all areas highlighting or sometimes concealing manifest inequalities. In the context of marriage the language of equality suggests that marriage is becoming a more equal partnership and that bringing up children is becoming a similar experience for both parents.

In this study this suggestion of increasing equality, especially increasing paternal involvement with children was investigated in the small community known locally as the 'Denton Estate'. This is a middle class community and traditionally the middle class have considered themselves in the vanguard of changes regarding good childcare practice.

The context and history of present patterns of family life is the first part of the study considering how motherhood and fatherhood have changed over time to become the kinds of institutions they are today. The present social context has also been considered as the caring and nurturing of children demands both time and money and these are usually organised in ways which reflect the pre-existent patterns of society. Few families are isolated from society and its influence and this is certainly not the case on the 'Denton Estate'.

The study goes on to look at the organisation of motherhood and fatherhood. If there are 'new fathers' participating fully in the care of their children then there must also be new mothers with the time and energy to pursue careers out in the world. Is this the case in this community?

The study took place in the community as a whole and focused on interviews with 24 families both two parent and one parent families to understand the father's and mother's role. It became clear that the lives of men and women remain very different and part of the work investigates how mothers and fathers spend their time and set priorities. Another aspect of the study was to look at the way people described their lives to see how differences and inequalities are explained and justified.

Later chapter reflect on grandparents' lives to see how changes have been made by this generation of parents compared to the last generation. Also to see how the lives of people in this community relate to or have been influenced by their own treatment as children.

This study, then, is a reflection on the possible changes in parenthood in this community and a consideration of issues about equality and what equality in the family might mean.

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