As Fair As It Can Be? Parental Divorce And Children´s Constructions of Fairness.
University of Vienna, Department of Sociology, Austria
Parental separation and its consequences have been well-researched over the past decades. However, scholarly knowledge based on children’s perspectives is still scarce. In particular, children’s constructions about post-divorce custody and care arrangements are an under-researched issue. We address this research gap and ask how children living in different family forms (nuclear families, stepfamilies, single-parent families) construct and negotiate concepts of post-divorce fairness.
Based on a participatory study with 60 8- to 10-year-old children in one rural and one urban Austrian region, we analyze children’s concepts about post-divorce regulations. The study comprises focus groups, individual interviews and a wide range of participatory child-friendly methods like drawings, games, handicrafts or story-telling.
Results show that fairness was the respondents’ main category of reference. Children prioritized fairness for parents – in terms of equal time shares or equal numbers of children to care for – over child wellbeing. This stands in sharp contrast to legal regulations that clearly consider the best interest of the child as the ultima ratio. Children’s conceptions were rich in detail and mainly aimed at improving parents’ interests and living conditions. The respondents developed sophisticated ideas about strategies to establish fair conditions on different levels: (a) in legal and economic terms (e.g. legal regulations, separation of property), (b) regarding living conditions and time resources (concrete custody and residential arrangements), and (c) in terms of emotional aspects (e.g. strategies to reduce sadness). The impact of these findings for research on parental divorce and its consequences for children will be discussed.
Growing Up In Multiple Families: Children’s Perceptions And Definitions Of Post-Divorce Families.
PXL University College, Belgium
Currently, children grow up in a variety of family constellations, especially after parental separation. So, old definitions of family like biological ties, location or time might not be sufficient to define those post-divorce families from children's point of view. Moreover, previous research has indicated that parental separation can lead to difficulties of defining family boundaries and feelings of boundary ambiguity with children.
As such, we would like to investigate how children define their family, given all family transitions they experienced starting from the parental separation. Therefore, we conducted qualitative in-depth interviews combined with creative methods (i.e. children's drawings) of 39 children (8-18 years old) of separated parents (16 girls, 23 boys). 21 children reside in joint physical custody, 15 children stay with a residential mother and 3 children stay with a residential father.
Results reveal the advantages (e.g. more stuff, new friends) and disadvantages (e.g. missing parent, moving stuff) of growing up in two households as well as ways to make this more convenient (i.e. flexibility, proximity & no conflict) according to children. Moreover, the drawings clearly indicate that children's views on their post-divorce family go beyond the classic idea of family as biological family. Next to drawing their biological parents and siblings, children also drew their stepparents, stepsiblings, halfsiblings, grandparents and even pets. Furthermore, almost all children drew all family members as one group instead different family groups in separate houses. This indicates that, although parents, researchers and social stakeholders may consider separated families as two different families, children still perceive this as one family: a family that goes beyond the borders of location, time and biological ties.
Men's Experiences of Gender (In)Equality as a Primary or Single Parent from the Perspective of Heterogenity of Masculinities
The Peace Institute, Institute for Contemporary Social and Political Studies, Slovenia
Based on the policy analysis and individual interviews with fathers, who are granted the full custody of the child, conducted in 2018 in Slovenia, this paper explores men's experiences of gender inequality when they pursue parenting rights. First we critically explore the anti-feminist discourse of men's groups in claiming fathers' rights in order to contrast it with feminist and gender equality framing of involved fatherhood. Within this theoretical framework we analyze fathers' narratives about their experiences with the different state's institutions (social work agencies, courts, kindergartens, schools etc.) and nongovernmental organizations in the process of gaining fathers' rights and in the situations of being a single or primary parent. In the analysis we take into consideration heterogeneity of fathers in terms of their socioeconomic situation and sexual orientation, and point to the specific situations of marginalized masculinity (unemployed and poor fathers) and subordinated masculinity (gay fathers) in comparison with hegemonic masculinity (heterosexual, well-off fathers).
The Role of Professionals in the Negotiation of Joint Custody Arrangements in the Czech Republic
Masaryk University, Czech Republic
In the 2017 Czech version of the European Values Survey, we asked about the attitudes of the general public toward the phenomenon of joint custody. We then set up an adjacent qualitative project focused on the attitudes of specific groups of professionals who enter the process of post-separation negotiation of child custody arrangements. From a sociological point of view, the aim of the analysis is to explore the interferences between the general social constructions of childhood, gender roles, intensive parenting, and no-fault divorce on the one hand and the specific framing of the action of given professionals on the other. We focus in detail on the role of the professionals’ attitudes in the negotiation of joint custody between parents. Two groups of respondents were interviewed, and their perspectives were compared: (1) professionals such as social workers, family counsellors, lawyers, judges, and psychologists and (2) parents with an experience of joint custody negotiation. We focus on the role of these professionals in the negotiation process according to their own narratives, definitions, and experiences, and we add and compare the perspectives of parents. Three topics are examined: (1) the mutual expectations of all actors and their coherence, clashes, and conflicts; (2) the construction of the best interests of the child and its variations among different actors; and (3) the hidden gender ideologies behind the construction of the image of equitable or child-centered post-divorce child-custody arrangement.