Conference Agenda

RN13_01a: Family forms and their change in historical time or across the life-course I
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Detlev Lück, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Session Chair: Marion Fischer-Neumann, University of Hamburg
Location: UP.2.218
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Second Floor Oxford Road


Family Inclusiveness: Its Relation With Cumulative Advantages in the Life Course

Marlene Sapin1, Eric D Widmer2

1University of Geneva, Switzerland; 2University of Lausane, FORS & NCCR LIVES, Switzerland

This research hypothesizes that the extent to which family definitions are inclusive or exclusive depend on a variety of resources that individuals accumulate throughout the life course. The link existing between inclusiveness of family definitions and such resources is explored using a representative sample including respondents from age 18 to age 90 living in Switzerland. With such an age range, it was possible to investigate demographic reserves and economic resources as critically shaping family inclusiveness in relation with life stages. The results of the study, using Multidimensional Correspondence Analysis show that inclusiveness of lay definitions of family depends to a large extent on such resources, and that inclusiveness plays a critical role for cumulative advantages.

Feeling Trapped in Singlehood: Experiences and Challenges of Single People in Israel

Libby Bear, Shira Offer

Bar-Ilan University, Israel

The purpose of this study is to explore how singlehood is experienced among various groups in Israeli society and the extent to it is perceived to be the result of individual choice or life circumstances. To examine these questions, the study analyzes in-depth interviews conducted with 37 men and women between the ages of 21 and 42 who are neither married nor partnered. The findings show that the overwhelming majority of the participants viewed singlehood as the result of various life circumstances and thus needed to justify it. They expressed a strong wish to get married and did not consider singlehood a desired and legitimate family form. Moreover, it seems that early socialization had an effect on the lengthening of the singlehood period, especially among women who often related their singlehood to the quality of their parents' relationship and its influence on their orientation and the ability to maintain an intimate relationship of their own. In addition, women expressed the wish to change the gendered balance of power and sought a relationship that is more gender egalitarian. These expectations were seen as major barriers to finding a partner. Several participants also referred to the current social and economic conditions as a reason to their prolonged singlehood and mentioned the difficulty of achieving the preconditions considered necessary for establishing a long-term relationship, including having a stable job and financial backing. Altogether, these findings highlight the major role that the heteronormative model of the family continues to play in contemporary Israeli society.

Becoming a Family out of Wedlock: Finnish Mothers’ Perspective

Vaula Tuomaala

University of Eastern Finland, Finland

In the context of diverse family formation, social categories of close relationships are delineated anew. Single mothers of choice and biological/social mothers are examples of the novel ways of categorizing motherhood.

In this on-going study, I analyse social categories structuring the family formation and (reproductive) agency of unmarried Finnish mothers (n=30). How are the meanings of significant social bonds delineated during mothers’ life-course and on their paths to parenthood? What kind of implications does the use on distinct social categories suggest for mothers’ agency?

The qualitative study is based on an interview data of the mothers, who recently had given birth to a baby. The interviews had a specific focus on social bonds during mothers’ life-course and in the context of their family formation. The research participants’ step to parenthood was not preceded by marriage with a male partner. Instead, most of the mothers lived alone and had proceeded to motherhood volitionally, utilizing the means of ART, while a minority lived in cohabitation with female or male partner.

I apply the insights of membership categorization analysis, focusing on the routine methods the interviewees use to invoke and negotiate social categories. I am interested in the actions, cultural meanings and moral valuations connected with the social categories the mothers make use of during the interviews.

The analysis steps beyond the taken-for-granted knowledge of social categories of close relationships, offering new insights to the discussions of family formation and motherhood

Changing Conceptions: Understandings Of Belonging, Genetics, Family And Kin Relationships Over Time In Lesbian Parent Families

Kathryn Almack

University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

This paper presents data from a longitudinal English qualitative study which revisits a sample of lesbian couples (N=40 individuals). These couples were first interviewed in 1999/2000, having had their first and subsequent children in the context of their relationship. Their children (at the time of the original interviews, all were aged 6 or under) were conceived by two routes – either using donor clinics, at a time when donors had anonymity, or using known donors. They were in many ways pioneers, in particular presenting a challenge to the dominant heterosexual and biological imperatives of reproduction and family life. Their families have evolved during a period (2000-2018) that has seen significant socio-legal shifts (e.g. rights for same sex partnerships but also an increasing emphasis placed on genetic knowledge and connections. The follow up interviews reveal many aspects of changing family lives. Some couples have had other children; some have formed reconstituted families following separation; others have negotiated relationships with donors and in some cases other family members related to the donor. The meaning of genes is variously viewed as highly significant and/or not to matter at all. This paper utilises the concept of relationality to explore how ways of relating have developed and evolved, combining ties of blood and affinity. The findings discussed focus on the parents' narratives relating to the shifting and complex interplay of biological and social connections within the family and wider kin relationships. It contributes to sociological theoretical approaches on belonging, genetics, family and kin relationships and how these evolve over time.