The Changing Roles Of Women Of Sweden Essay

This essay has a total of 3320 words and 13 pages.

The Changing Roles Of Women Of Sweden

Sweden has developed a modern industrial culture based on natural resources, technical
skills, and a sense of quality. Simplicity and even severity resulting from geographic and
economic conditions characterize Swedish society and life.

The title suggests that there have been changes in the roles of the Swedish woman. There
is no doubt that this is the case. The degree to which and the speed with which changes
have occurred, however, are somewhat more difficult to evaluate. At the same time, if
women's roles change, men's roles should change too, especially if women's new roles begin
to invade areas previously held by the men. We can, therefore conclude that changes in one
role bring about changes in other roles. Not only are changes in women and men's roles of
importance but also changes in girls' and boys' roles. Through observation and experience,
attempts to change adult roles have often been premised on changes in the roles of
children and adolescents.

In this paper, some data related to gender roles in the family, both children's gender
roles and the gender roles of the adult members of a family will be presented. Some
examples of child rearing, division of labor between the spouses, and of gender roles in
relation to cohabitation and marriage will also be included. This data will allude to
evidence of changes in female employment rates, fertility rates as well as some important
information on governmental policies in Sweden.

Sweden is a worldly society with open-minded norms concerning the way men and women choose
to live together. The choice between a formal marriage and informal cohabitation has long
since been an essentially private matter. There is no set way to any particular family
form, and not even Swedish family law (last revised in 1987) is confined to married
couples. The law treats unmarried and married couples equally in most aspects. For
instance, no distinction is made between married and unmarried couples with respect to tax
assessment or when housing allowances or child benefits are granted (Hoem, 39). This
liberal view may help explain why non-marital cohabitation was so rapidly accepted in
Sweden compared to many other countries, being soon regarded as a social institution
rather than as deviant behavior.

Non-marital cohabitation is not a new practice in Sweden, in particular in the capital and
in the northern parts of the country. According to Swedish history, there were two
different types of cohabitation at the beginning of the century. One very visible type was
called samvets- aktenskap (marriage of conscience) and was practiced by a group of
intellectuals as a protest agains the fact that only religious marriage existed in Sweden
at the time. Their protest was successful in that civil marriage was introduced in 1909.
The other form of consensual union was called Stockholms- aktenskap (Stockholm marriage)
and was endemic among poor people who could not afford to marry (Hoem 41). As time went
on, this practice of cohabitation appears to have almost disappeared, however.
Cohabitation was not very common during the decades before 1960. When informal
cohabitation then suddenly started to grow in popularity, it received almost no public
attention initially. When marriage rates fell dramatically, it became clear that the
number of marriages was no longer a reliable measure of family formation, and consensual
unions were recognized as a recordable living arrangement in the 1975 census.
Nevertheless, it came as a real surprise when the 1981 Swedish Fertility Survey revealed
that as many as every third woman born in the period 1936-1940 had started her first union
without marriage (Hoem 44). The survey also showed that these cohabitants, which most
often came from the working class, married soon afterwards, and that durable consensual
unions were relatively rare. In subsequent groups, non-marital unions progressively became
even more common and such unions stayed consensual for increasingly longer periods of

A modern consensual union does not have all the characteristics of a formally approved
marriage. The behavior of cohabitants is sufficiently different from that of married
people to merit regarding consensual union as a separate civil status, in particular
because people live in such unions for relatively long periods of their lives.
Childbearing behavior in consensual unions most resembles that in marital unions in the
working class, while young women from the upper class (bourgeoisie) rapidly adopted
cohabitation as a practical living arrangement but were much less willing to have children
before converting the union into a marriage. According to Hoem (1994), students adopted
this new behavior more quickly than most other groups, but it would be wrong to say that
students initiated modern cohabitation in Swedent. This group simply adopted this practice
with enthusiasm because it gave them a type of union that suited their needs. Rates of
consensual union formation among femal students more than doubled between the groups born
between 1936-1940 and 1946-1950. Like other groups for whom marriage was not a realistic
option, students were quick to take the opportunity to live together, possibly as an
alternative to ‘going steady,' and many young people took this step after having known
each other for quite a short while. Undoubtedly, starting a consensual union is not seen
as much of a definitive move, while marrying is.

Factors Influencing the Disposition to Marry Among Cohabiting Women
Modern cohabitation is one of the more important social innovations of recent decades. It
has changed the pattern of family formation radically. Since the mid-1970's, almost all
Swedish women who have married had been cohabitants first, nevertheless, little is known
about why some people subsequently marry and others do not. One factor that might
contribute to marriage is pregnancy. A pregnancy clearly increases the marriage rate among
childless women who cohabit in their first union. For both pregnant and non-pregnant
cohabiting women alike, however, the incidence of marriage has diminished strongly. Even
though a declining fraction married during the first few years of cohabitation, they
remained highly influenced by the imminent arrival of a child. This in turn implies that
marital fertility has remained relatively constant. It has also remained relatively
independent of cohabitational duration before marriage (Hoem 49).

The interaction between the pregnancy factor and the woman's current employment status is
significant at the one- percent level. A possible pregnancy influenced the tendency to
marry most strongly among students. According to Hoem (1994), in this group, pregnant
women who were studying had a seven times greater ‘risk' of marrying than their
non-pregnant counterparts, almost as if pregnancy were a ‘precondition' of marriage for
a female student. It is clear that it is now preferred by the overwhelming majority of
couples to cohabit. Nevertheless, pregnancy clearly increases the incidence of marriage
among childless women cohabiting with a male partner, until recently when a new provision
that included a widow's pension, which triggered a strong increase in the marriage rate
among cohabitants. This strongly indicates that it is not so hard to persuade many Swedish
cohabitants to change their legal marital status. It may be concluded that for most people
- in Sweden at least - the reasons for not marrying are weak and not very ideologically

The Deferment of First Birth
The implications for a woman living with a man changed after the mid-1960s. Judging from
the behavior of women born in the late 1930s, most of them must have entered a union to
start a family and have children quickly, and almost 30 percent of them were pregnant at
the time they started marriage or cohabitation. Many of these children were unplanned;
two-thirds of women who became pregnant before the first union formation reported that
their pregnancy came too early or was not wanted (Trost 237). By contrast, less then 5
percent of women born in the late 1950s were pregnant when they entered their first union,
even though more than twice as many had started a union as teenagers (almost 50 percent
compared to less than 20 percent among women born twenty years earlier).

The real postponement of the start of childbearing since the late 1960s manifested itself
as a decrease over the groups in age-specific first-birth rates at young ages. Among women
born in the early 1940s, only about one-fourth had not entered motherhood by the age of
twenty-eight. The corresponding number was as much as 45 percent for women born in the
early 1960s. One popular explanation for the postponement of first birth is the improved
education for women. Any educational impact on the age at entry into motherhood can hardly
have been direct, however, for it is highly questionable whether time spent in school at
the relevant ages has been sufficiently extensive to merit any prime role in the story of
childbearing in Sweden (Hoem 51). In this country, most women complete their schooling as
early as at eighteen or nineteen years of age, and there has been almost no change in the
educational pattern at higher ages during the last fifteen years, which is the period of
first-birth postponement (Hoem 45). To the extent that there has been an effect of
improved education, it must have been indirect, for example via women'' improved chances
in the labor market.

In line with this, it is often argued that it has become successively more important for
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