AppleMrs. LowryEnglish II31 Jan 2018 Things have drastically changed over the past six centuries. One thing is how one plays their part in marriage, a family, or even if they live alone. In England, there has been an increase in the number of single-person households, which grew from 18% to 29% of all households between 1971 and 2002, but what was it like before? Marriage and family roles are by no means the same as they were back in the 16th and 18th centuries in comparison to life today.Marriage and family roles in the 16th century for England were very different than they are today.
“The Elizabethan family life for men was one of power and control” (“Elizabethan Family Life”). The men practically made all the decisions and the women were required, and expected, to respect them and fulfill their orders. At this time, every man either wanted to marry, or at least acknowledged that he had to. Not everyone married, but being married meant that you owned and were in charge of your own home.
Additionally, marriages often offered inherited benefits from both families, in that sense, when it came to marriage, one did not often marry for love because it was considered foolish and didn’t help their family very much, but if love occurred within an arranged marriage, it was acceptable. On the other hand, “Elizabethan women were seen as inferior to men” (“Elizabethan Family Life”). Women had little to no power in their family. All through a woman’s life, of this time period, their parents and friends were seen as better equipped than she was to look out for her best interests, and make the choices in big decisions of her life, especially when it came to marriage and choosing a partner.
“Although some women were more independent, and feared marriage she was still expected to marry and depend on her male relatives throughout her life” (“Love and Marriage”). Just as women were subservient to the men in the family, children were raised and expected to be absolutely and unreservedly obedient to the adults in the family. Failing to do so resulted in punishment, but at this time, the infant mortality rate had been steep, so families adored and treasured their children. Moving through the 17th century and onto the 18th, most of the roles of the English men, women, and children within a family did not differ very much from back in the 1500s. Men, at this time, were still very much the dominant household figures and had power over nearly everything. “He owned all the family’s property and money” (“Family Life”). The husbands would still decide whether their wife could work outside the house and they would hardly ever question their decisions.
If they were not given consent to work outside of the house and the property, the women would usually stay at home where they cleaned the house, made clothing for their family by hand, cooked, and primarily aspired to please their husbands. Women were further counted on to produce many children, for the reason that the infant mortality rate was still rather excessive. Children were treated kindly and not overworked. This was partly because the belief in God was very important, so, as to not anger God, “they were gracious and affectionate towards their children, and taught them to believe in and worship Him” (Family Life). Now, from the back in the England of the 18th century to modern-day in the 21st century, marriage and family roles have changed considerably. “Although, men are likely to work to provide for their family, women, if they so choose to, can work outside of the house more freely to provide for the family as well” (“What is Family Life Like?”). While women today still do most of the housework, from time to time the men assist their wives in taking care if the children or cleaning the house when time allows, after they have gone to and come back from work.
People are generally getting married at a later age as well, and many women do not want to have children immediately. Nowadays, they prefer to focus on their careers and put off having a baby until their late thirties