Social Policy and Society



Themed Section on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare

The Social Patterning of Values and Rationalities: Mothers' Choices in Combining Caring and Employment


Simon Duncan a1 and Sarah Irwin a2
a1 ESRC Research Group on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare (CAVA), Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Bradford E-mail: s.s.duncan@bradford.ac.uk
a2 ESRC Research Group on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare (CAVA), School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds E-mail: s.irwin@leeds.ac.uk

Article author query
duncan s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
irwin s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 

Abstract

The assumption of individualised rationality runs through the two dominant theorisations of family behaviour – new household economics and individualisation. We demonstrate the inaccuracy of this assumption, using the results of two CAVA projects into mothers' perceptions and choices in combining mothering with paid work, in allocating tasks with partners, and in choosing childcare. Rather, mothers make such decisions within socially negotiated accounts of what is morally adequate, and we go on to show how these decisions and the values informing them are socially patterned by class and ethnicity. Finally, we consider how both theory and policy can make a ‘rationality mistake’ in neglecting the importance of social ties and moral responsibilities in family life.