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Gender Roles in Household Tasks.

 Gender Roles in Household Tasks.


Instrumental and expressive tasks are two categories of roles and responsibilities within a family household that were initially introduced by sociologists Talcott Parsons and Robert Bales in their structural-functional theory of family dynamics. These roles are often associated with gender and describe the division of labor and responsibilities within a family unit.

  1. Instrumental Tasks:
    • Definition: Instrumental tasks refer to a family’s practical, goal-oriented, and often externally focused responsibilities. These tasks are typically associated with providing financial support and ensuring the physical well-being of the family members.
    • Examples: My father takes on many instrumental tasks in my own family. He is the primary breadwinner, working full-time to earn an income to support the family. He is also responsible for car maintenance, home repairs, and paying the bills.
    • Gender Role: Historically, instrumental tasks have been associated with men. This association is rooted in traditional gender roles that emerged in the past when men were typically the sole providers for the family. However, gender roles have evolved, and women also take on instrumental tasks in many households today.
  1. Expressive Tasks:
    • Definition: Expressive tasks refer to a family’s emotional and interpersonal responsibilities. These tasks are centered around nurturing, caregiving, and maintaining social harmony within the family unit.
    • Examples: In my family, my mother primarily handles expressive tasks. She is responsible for preparing meals, taking care of the children, organizing family gatherings, and offering emotional support to family members.
    • Gender Role: Historically, expressive tasks have been associated with women. Society often expected women to be the emotional anchors of the family, responsible for creating a nurturing and supportive environment. However, like instrumental tasks, gender roles have evolved, and men are increasingly taking on expressive tasks.

Gender and History in Task Assignment:

  • Gender has historically played a significant role in determining who completes instrumental and expressive tasks. Society has assigned these roles based on traditional gender norms and expectations.
  • In the past, men were expected to fulfill instrumental roles, while women were expected to fulfill expressive roles. These roles were reinforced by societal norms and reinforced through generations.
  • However, contemporary families often challenge these traditional gender roles. More women are pursuing careers, and men are taking on caregiving and household responsibilities. Gender roles are becoming more fluid, with task assignments based on individual preferences and capabilities rather than rigid gender norms.

Functionalist Perspective: A functionalist perspective on the role of gender in assigning household tasks might emphasize the following points:

  • Stability and Balance: From a functionalist viewpoint, assigning gender-specific roles in the family can create stability and balance. This division of labor ensures that both instrumental and expressive tasks are adequately addressed, contributing to the overall functioning of the family unit.
  • Complementary Roles: Functionalists might argue that traditional gender roles are based on complementary roles, where each gender’s strengths and characteristics are suited to their respective tasks. For example, men are seen as more competitive and assertive, which aligns with instrumental tasks, while women are seen as more nurturing and empathetic, which aligns with expressive tasks.
  • Socialization: Functionalists might suggest that these roles play a role in socializing children. Children observe and learn from their parents, and by witnessing the division of tasks based on gender, they acquire a sense of societal norms and expectations. This socialization can be seen as functional for the stability of society.

In conclusion, while instrumental and expressive tasks have historically been associated with specific genders, these roles are evolving, and the assignment of household tasks is increasingly based on individual capabilities and preferences rather than rigid gender roles. The functionalist perspective sees these roles as contributing to family stability and socialization but may not fully account for the complexities of modern family dynamics and gender equality.

 Gender Roles in Household Tasks.






Give examples of each in your own family.  How do gender and history play a role in determining who completes these tasks?  How might a functionalist expain the role of gender in assigning household tasks?

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