Leisure in the lifestyles of dual-earner families in the United Kingdom
This thesis examines the work, family and leisure lives of heterosexual dual-earner couples with dependent children in the United Kingdom. The primary aim is to explore, analyse and assess the role played by leisure in the lifestyles of dual-earner couples. The thesis looks at how paid and unpaid work, family and leisure interact across the lifecourse and within dual-earner couples. Part I begins by locating dual-earner families within a social-historical, political and policy context. Firstly, the social history of the family as a productive unit is used to deconstruct the concept of dual-earning and its varying meanings over time. Secondly, large-scale statistical data are drawn on to track the growth of dual-earning since the 1970s in the context of widespread socio-demographic changes in Britain. In addition, the extent to which dual-earner families are the object of political and policy concern is examined in a review of family-related policy-making and political rhetoric in Britain and the European Union. A theoretical framework for the thesis is established from a review of the social science and leisure studies literature on dual-earner families. A 'gender constructivist' approach, developed from a body of largely second wave feminist work since the 1970s in the social sciences, is adopted as an analytic tool to study dual-earner families. The fieldwork for the thesis included in-depth interviews and life histories with both partners in 14 dual-earner couples with dependent children. The analyses in Part II of the thesis focus on the work and family histories of partners, the relationships between work, family and leisure for individuals at different stages in the lifecourse and the contextual meanings of leisure, which are shown to be dynamic and mutually dependent both for individuals and between partners. The results from the empirical work reveal the complex patterns of daily life in dual-earner families. Work, family and leisure was also shown to be highly gendered. Women and men had different lifestyle priorities after the birth of children. The primary difference was women's greater tendency to relinquish leisure in the light of other demands and men's ability to retain relatively autonomous leisure throughout the lifecourse. The findings also uncovered some of the complicated processes of negotiation within the couple unit that acted to construct and reconstruct gendered lifestyles. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the value of considering leisure as a central component in investigations of lifestyle across the lifecourse and highlights the crucial role it plays in the formation and maintenance of gender relations within the home.