The male breadwinner model, which dominated both policy assumptions and social ideals in the post-war welfare state, is increasingly being supplanted by an adult worker family model. In this new model, both men and women are assumed to be primarily workers in the labour market, who as fathers and mothers pool their earned income in supporting children. In this article we assess this assumption. First, we examine the gendered moral rationalities of particular social groups of partnered mothers, defined in terms of class, conventionality, ethnicity and sexuality, about how mothering is combined with paid work, and how time and labour is allocated with their partners. Second, in the light of this empirical research, we examine three leading approaches to understanding change and decision making in families - new household economics, individualization in late modernity, and `post-modern moral negotiation'. We conclude that both the empirical and theoretical assumptions of the adult worker model are severely limited.
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