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Families in society

Families in society: Boundaries and relationships

Linda McKie
Sarah Cunningham-Burley
Consultant Editor: Jo Campling
Copyright Date: 2005
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  • Book Info
    Families in society
    Book Description:

    Acknowledging the increasing diversity and complexity of families, this innovative book proposes a new conceptual framework for understanding families and other relationships that both challenges and attempts to reconcile traditional and contemporary approaches. Using the notion of 'boundaries', the book shifts thinking from 'families as entities' to 'families as relationship processes'. Emphasising the processes that underlie boundary construction and reconstruction suggests that the key to understanding family life is the process of relationship formation. The ideas of entity, boundary, margins and hybridity provide a framework for understanding the diverse, and often contradictory, ways in which families contribute to society. Families in society makes a significant contribution to the academic literature on families and is essential reading for social science students, social researchers, policy makers and practitioners interested in families and relationships.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-137-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Notes on contributors
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  6. Introduction

    • ONE Families and relationships: boundaries and bridges
      (pp. 3-18)
      Linda McKie, Sarah Cunningham-Burley and John H. McKendrick

      The family remains a complex and dynamic concept, variably defined and experienced. Families take many different forms and these, together with changing expectations and anticipations of family life, provide crucial frames through which we engage in society (Carling et al, 2002). Experiences of families and relationships are critical to the development of personal and group identities as well as providing material and emotional resources as we proceed through the lifecourse (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 1995; Cheal, 2002). The topic of families in society has spurred a range of research and policy projects, with ‘the family’ becoming one of the building blocks...

  7. Part One: Families in society

    • [Part One: Introduction]
      (pp. 19-22)

      The first part of this book is concerned with how families engage with organisations and services as they seek to combine caring, working, training and education. Issues relating to the broad themes of family life and working life have received much attention in recent decades. Governments, employers’ organisations, trades unions and professional associations, along with a range of voluntary sector agencies and groups, have considered a range of policy and practice ideas to support families with children and other caring responsibilities. The changing patterns of fertility, childbearing and childrearing, combined with presumptions about engagement in the labour market, regardless of...

    • TWO Balancing work and family life: mothers’ views
      (pp. 23-38)
      Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Kathryn Backett-Milburn and Debbie Kemmer

      This chapter explores the range of negotiations and tensions that mothers in paid work outside the home report as characterising their lives. Drawing on interview data with 30 lone and partnered mothers in non-professional, non-managerial occupations, the notion of boundary is explored as an analytical device to conceptualise the tensions, both ideological and practical, that these women report as experiencing. The chapter explores how the respondents seemed to construct boundaries between work and home, while recognising and dealing with their permeable and flexible features. The chapter examines how boundaries between family and work are constructed through the type of paid...

    • THREE Gender, care, poverty and transitions
      (pp. 39-56)
      Gill Scott and Sue Innes

      Encouraging and supporting mothers to cross the boundary between family and work to become workers is increasingly seen as a way to reduce poverty and address gender inequality (Folbre, 1994; Lister, 1999). In this chapter we explore the issues currently facing parents in low income households in the UK, where the state plays a significant role in the resources that parents have for managing the transitions between the worlds of work and family (Sainsbury, 1994; Gardiner, 1997; Bang et al, 2000; Scott and McKay, 2001; Williams, 2001; McKie et al, 2002). In doing so we draw upon data from a...

    • FOUR Families, education and the ‘participatory imperative’
      (pp. 57-72)
      Janet Shucksmith, Lorna McKee and Helen Willmot

      This chapter explores the interface between the family and one of our main public institutions. The introductory chapter pointed to the ways in which traditional notions of family life still tend to dominate public policy provision, being based, for example, on (gendered) understandings of the availability of family members to perform certain caring or socialisation functions. Families, as we have seen, are accepted as appropriate sites for the socialisation of children, but it is also clear that society, since the mid-19th century, has also taken the view that the family should not be left on its own to perform this...

    • Part Two: Children, families and relationships

      • [Part Two: Introduction]
        (pp. 73-76)

        Children – our future! The last decade has witnessed a growth in the amount of policy and service initiatives aimed at supporting the health and well-being of children and their families. Much of this work has been based on the assumption that offering a child as good an upbringing as possible has positive outcomes for the child, their family, their community and governments and society in general. The rights of the child have also received welcome attention with wider debates on balancing child and parental rights over a range of issues, not least of which has been disciplining potentially risky or...

      • FIVE Children’s boundaries: within and beyond families
        (pp. 77-94)
        Malcolm Hill

        In recent theorising about childhood both regulation and agency are said to be greater now than in the past. Some writers have emphasised how much of children’s lives is controlled, yet others – and sometimes the same people – also stress that children have choice and influence over their own environments and development. The apparent paradox derives in part from attention to different timescales and domains, as children are more constrained in some contexts than others. Taking a long-term perspective, childhood is now seen as more regulated than in the past, especially through the creation of schools and, more recently, preschool and...

      • SIX Family within and beyond the household boundary: children’s constructions of who they live with
        (pp. 95-110)
        Helen Sweeting and Peter Seaman

        This chapter presents data from two studies that illustrate the complexity of decisions in respect of whether or not certain individuals form part of ‘the family’. In this case, the individuals in question are non-resident birth fathers. Our perspective is primarily methodological and our focus is the problems faced by those researchers who seek to place ‘families’ in categories. However, these data illustrate several of this book’s key themes, including the difficulty of defining family and family boundaries, particularly as potentially represented by the material space of household.

        The notion of ‘family boundary’, derived from family systems theory, refers to...

      • SEVEN Children managing parental drug and alcohol misuse: challenging parent–child boundaries
        (pp. 111-126)
        Angus Bancroft, Sarah Wilson, Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Hugh Masters and Kathryn Backett-Milburn

        The parent–child boundary is created, sustained and enforced through norms, roles, individual practices and social institutions. It has symbolic resonance partly because the relationship between parent and child is often portrayed, not without reason, as one of the few remaining social bonds whose boundaries have a weight of obligation and permanence about them (Beck, 1994). Partners may become ex-partners, friends become lovers, lovers become friends, but children are always children and parents are always parents. However, empirical studies of family life show that these boundaries, although vested with so much emotional energy and material resources, are malleable and breakable....

    • Part Three: Health, illness and well-being

      • [Part Three: Introduction]
        (pp. 127-130)

        Issues relating to health, illness and well-being affect individuals, their families, wider relationships, communities and societies. The boundaries within families, for example, as expressed through gendered roles, or between families and the wider community may all be challenged and redrawn in response to threats to health and well-being. The maintenance of well-being itself may require boundary construction, to ensure time for self or leisure is maintained despite caring and work commitments.

        The three chapters comprising this part of the book focus on very different aspects of health, illness and well-being. The first chapter, by Backett-Milburn, Airey and McKie, provides a...

      • EIGHT Intersections of health and well-being in women’s lives and relationships at mid-life
        (pp. 131-148)
        Kathryn Backett-Milburn, Laura Airey and Linda McKie

        Luhmann (1982, p 232) has asserted that the “evolution or modernization of society has often been described as a process of increasing system differentiation and pluralization”. One dimension of these dynamic processes is the acquisition and constant renegotiation of ‘boundary roles’. Boundary roles are those that have potential to transform social relations and cultural practices through drawing ideas and experiences across arenas (Luhmann, 1982, p 236). For example, the woman who engages in paid employment while retaining the main responsibility for domestic and caring work may be in such a role. Thus she may identify herself as a worker and...

      • NINE Families, relationships and the impact of dementia – insights into the ‘ties that bind’
        (pp. 149-168)
        Dot Weaks, Heather Wilkinson and Shirley Davidson

        The impact of a diagnosis of dementia reaches far beyond the person to whom it is given. It permeates through the family system and to relationships outside the boundaries of the family. While illness brings a unique set of stressors to challenge relationship bonds, including chronicity, unpredictability and social stigma (Lyons et al, 1995), the very nature of dementia is such that a diagnosis results in major tensions and trials within family relationships. Smith et al (2001) reported that dementia pervaded every part of couples’ relationships, for both caregiver and the person with dementia, including spiritual, legal, financial, housing, medical...

      • TEN Violence and families: boundaries, memories and identities
        (pp. 169-184)
        Linda McKie and Nancy Lombard

        Recent conflicts in Rwanda, Bosnia and Northern Ireland have brought attention to the role of families in inter-communal violence. Acts of inter-communal violence, and the consequences of these, have become more commonly known as ethnic cleansing. Inter-communal violence is characterised by the eruption of violent acts between those who were former neighbours, friends, even relatives and leads to death and injury, with resultant movement of populations. Violence is rationalised on the basis of religious or ethnic differences and the supposed need to exclude those deemed not to belong to a particular group or community. Familial networks, and the interweaving of...

    • Part Four: Relationships and friendships

      • [Part Four: Introduction]
        (pp. 185-188)

        The challenges thrown up in previous chapters about families in society and the boundaries that may be constructed and confronted are taken even further in this final part. As the title of this book suggests, families should not necessarily be seen as the only or central arena for personal or intimate relationships. The boundaries between familial and friendship relationships may be changing. Some of the preceding chapters presaged such change, such as the importance of friendships to women in the fifties or to those affected by dementia. These themes are developed further in the next four chapters which give a...

      • ELEVEN Boundaries of intimacy
        (pp. 189-206)
        Lynn Jamieson

        This chapter reviews how the concepts of boundaries and boundary work are deployed in theorising intimacy, in order to assess how these concepts further our understanding of intimacy and social change. In everyday current usage, intimacy is often presumed to involve practices of close association, familiarity and privileged knowledge, strong positive emotional attachments, such as love, and a very particular form of ‘closeness’ and being ‘special’ to another person, associated with high levels of trust. Recent discussions of intimacy emphasise one particular practice of generating ‘closeness’ above all others, self-disclosure. Intimacy of the inner self, ‘disclosing intimacy’ or ‘self expressing...

      • TWELVE Solo living, individual and family boundaries: findings from secondary analysis
        (pp. 207-226)
        Fran Wasoff, Lynn Jamieson and Adam Smith

        There is a growing proportion of adults living alone, at ages that have conventionally been associated with coupledom, marriage and childrearing, as well as among older people and, given differential mortality, particularly older women. To what extent does the increase in people living alone mean a redrawing of boundaries around ‘family’ and ‘household’? Those who live in one person households are not in ‘family households’ but to what extent have they stepped outside of families? If people now move in and out of situations in which they live alone across their adult life, has this reshaped the boundaries between youth...

      • THIRTEEN Boundaries of friendship
        (pp. 227-240)
        Graham Allan

        As other chapters in this book have shown, patterns of partnership, family and household constitution have altered quite dramatically over the last generation. In particular, partnership behaviour has changed with lower levels of marriage, higher rates of divorce and a far greater incidence of cohabitation (Allan and Crow, 2001). One consequence of this is the decreasing overlap between sex, marriage and birth, a trinity that had previously been strongly linked (Lewis and Kiernan, 1996). Importantly too, there are now more individuals living alone out of choice (see Wasoff, Jamieson and Smith in this volume) or who are sharing households with...

      • FOURTEEN Living and loving beyond the boundaries of the heteronorm: personal relationships in the 21st century
        (pp. 241-258)
        Sasha Roseneil

        In the west, at the start of the 21st century, more and more people are spending longer periods of their lives outside the conventional family unit.¹ Processes of individualisation are challenging the romantic, heterosexual couple and the modern family formation it has supported. The normative grip of the sexual and gender order that has underpinned the modern family is weakening. In this context, much that matters to people in their personal lives increasingly takes place beyond the boundaries of ‘the family’, between partners who are not living together ‘as family’, and within networks of friends.

        This chapter pushes at the...

    • Conclusion

      • FIFTEEN Perspectives on social policies and families
        (pp. 261-270)
        Fran Wasoff and Sarah Cunningham-Burley

        The Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) is committed to building links between academic research, policy and practice. The ideas behind this book emerged from ongoing discussions about furthering links across organisations and agencies concerned with policy and practice, research, and the exploration of families more generally. Given the range of research on families and relationships that we at CRFR and other colleagues are engaged in we were keen to disseminate work as widely as possible. The theme of boundaries offers one way to capture the fluidity of ‘families and relationships’ and the concept of boundary work to...

    • Index
      (pp. 271-282)