Has the increase of women in the work force had an adverse effect on children at home?
The position of women has changed markedly in the last twenty years. Many of the problems young people now experience, such as juvenile delinquency, arise from the fact that many married women now work and are not at home to care for children.
Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
The late twentieth century saw major changes in political, social and communicative forces: the post-Reagan/Thatcher capitalism of the West; the rising economies of Asia; the expansion and shifting nature of the internet; an increase in freedom of movement and globalisation; a wider and more varied education. Since, and sometimes because of, these changes the role of women has also altered. This has presented some negative issues, but generally it has resulted in a positive result, albeit one that is still not perfect.
More women are working now than any time since the war. Politically this is generally declared a triumph, although it can be suggested that one consequence is more families having both parents at work, leaving children isolated and leading to a rise in juvenile delinquency (a catalyst for alcoholism, drug use, violence, and lowered expectations). Certainly having parental guidance is a vital matter in childhood development, and although there are more stay-at-home fathers than the 1990s the number remains comparatively small. The working world, however, is changing to meet this need: in the UK alone there are 4m parents who conduct work from home. Flexi-time is a modern trend that is allowing workers of both sexes to leave the office to take care of family matters. Over the next generation I expect the working world (fuelled by the internet) to come more in line with family needs.
There has also been some concern as to a confusion of gender roles, an issue raised in more liberal newspapers and effecting both sexes. The traditional roles for girls and boys are now over-lapping, and the idea of a Jane Austen heroine seeking a man to marry is far less appealing (at the same time boys – previously often taught to be the bread-winner – are now having to appreciate their role is less defined). The fact that this matter is being raised suggests there is an issue, but it is one that time shall iron out to suit social needs.
These are the main negative points, but there are undoubtedly positives that I believe dwarf such concerns. The first comes with the rising expectation girls feel due to role models. Women have not replaced men in positions of power (indeed, they are still under-represented) but modern youth can now aspire to far more variation than those of the 20th century. Schooling has reflected this: classes are generally no longer gender-exclusive, and although girls still generally opt away from some classes (such as physics and maths) and boys do not often look to home economics or nursing, the tide is turning towards a version of equality.
On top of this there are greater social and political concerns that force couples to pull resources. Housing prices and the inequality of wages are, in my opinion, far greater influences on the upbringing of a child and how they will perform. Young people on lower incomes who enter marriage have to worry more about their livelihoods than the role a mother or father takes. A broader education and greater potential for women to pick up salaries increases the financial stability of a family and this, I firmly believe, is a benefit. More problems arise from poverty and inequality than gender roles within a family.
Thus, in conclusion, I would disagree with the idea that the changing role of women has had an overall negative effect on the lives of young people. Within a particular family there may be specific issues, but to take society as a whole I think the greater role of women opens up a wider scope for youthful aspirations and parental survival. One must remember, of course, that this is a modern trend (and not a global one – many countries still have very defined roles for the genders, often at the expense of women) and there are teething problems. But society evolves and I expect gender roles to improve. The greater problems lie instead in areas such as political and financial systems that keep a swathe of people, boys and girls, from reaching their potential.