Conjugal roles are the positions that the husband and wife occupy in the home, the parts they play. In the past these parts were very different and in the first half of the century the roles of the husband and wife were found to be very much segregated. There was a clear-cut division of labour between them in the household and the husband was relatively uninvolved with domestic chores and raising the children, which was thought to be the wifeâ€™s job whereas his was to be the breadwinner. This was apparent in working class areas in the first half of the century. In the mid 50â€™s Willmott & Young conducted a study entitles â€˜Family and Kinship in East Londonâ€™; it was conducted in Bethnal Green, a long settled traditional working-class area. They found there was a close tie between female relatives with two out of three married people having parents living within two or three miles of them. In comparison to the strong tie between mother and her married daughter the conjugal bond between husband and wife was found to be relatively weak, Women created an â€˜informal trade unionâ€™ which largely excluded men. Willmott & Young claim that â€˜Husbands were often squeezed out of the warmth of the female circle and took to the pub as their defenceâ€™. Therefore with husbands spending little time at home the conjugal roles really were segregated with husbands having little to do with any household tasks or childcare.
However these segregated roles did begin to change over time, in the early 1970â€™s Willmott & Young conducted another survey this time a large-scale social survey in which 1,928 people were interviewed in Greater London and the Outer Metropolitan area. The results of this survey formed the basis of their book â€˜The Symmetrical Familyâ€™. Willmott & Young argue that the segregated roles of husbands and wives found in their last study are disappearing and that the nuclear family has become largely home centred particularly when the children are young.