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This chapter assesses the concept of generation, which brings into view the historical period in which a person grows up. The popularity of the concept waxes and wanes, often coming to the fore in lay, policy, and sociological discourse in periods of rapid social change. A generational unit is formed not only when peers are exposed to the same phenomenon but when they also respond in the same way as a collective. A generation is not therefore only a matter of belonging to a particular birth cohort but the cultures, subjectivities, and actions that it forges. Thus, the concept has strong elements of agency and generational identity as a potential basis for political engagement. The chapter then addresses the application of a generational lens to family lives, with reference to the study of fatherhood. Placing an intergenerational lens alerts social researchers to what is transmitted across generations, including a variety of phenomena from material assets and occupations to values, political beliefs, and social status. Also important are the transmission and reproduction of moral and emotional bonds.

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This concluding chapter explores how the specific and broader research context influences which conceptual and methodological developments come to the fore at particular times and become ‘acceptable’, and how they shape the creation of knowledge and understanding. It also looks at future directions for social research. A key concern at the time of this book's writing concerns belonging, as more people are forced to migrate and Britain moves towards exiting the EU. Within this theme, there remain important issues to be addressed, in particular that concern migrants with families in the UK who are left in legal limbo and without recourse to public funds because of harsh immigration and welfare policies. These groups have not received the attention they urgently deserve because of the segmentation of researchers into the separate fields of migration and social policy research. Another issue that requires the attention of those in family studies and with an interest in action research concerns the linkage between families and civil society and civic engagement. Housing, including public housing and especially that for young people, is another topic that is ripe for more research.

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This chapter looks at the household, focusing on women: how they were consigned to the home and how their status and power over household resources have been historically shaped by men. While women had achieved a degree of emancipation and the role of housewife a degree of status and importance previously lacking, the return of male servicemen to their homes and communities following the end of the Second World War raised policy issues on several fronts. A number of needs had to be met: servicemen had to be found work and the demographic decline needed reversing, requiring women to be child bearers and homemakers. Policymakers turned their attention to these, often competing, policy demands. But ultimately the sexual division of labour in the household was not questioned; so men remained the main breadwinners and the principle prevailed that first and foremost women should devote themselves to their families and be dependent on men's earnings. From the 1970s, there was a major conceptual shift in the social sciences as feminist researchers deconstructed the ‘family’ in order to counteract dominant discourses surrounding a single family form as both desirable and the norm. In this process, households in all their variety began to be identified in the context of rising rates of lone motherhood and step-families.

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This chapter discusses the growing interest in the use of auto/biographical approaches in the social sciences. Narrative research and narrative analysis are umbrella terms that refer to data available in a variety of forms and produced for a variety of purposes. Such data can be spoken, written or visual. Narrative approaches are not allied to any one set of methods of data collection or analysis. Meanwhile, life history methods are guided by the aim to elicit life course transitions, their ordering, and their relationship to historical processes, social structure, and social institutions. Biographic-narrative interpretative methods and similar methods need to be supplemented by more conventional forms of interviewing if they are to address a study's objectives and research questions. The chapter then describes the life histories of two men, which illustrate changes in fatherhood across family generations. Ultimately, the type of approach examined in this chapter suggests the complex interplay between the way people speak about their experiences and the structures against which such talk needs to be understood.

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This chapter reflects on the shifting public discourses in Britain concerning mothers and the labour market from the end of the Second World War and shows how the framing of research questions reflects these changing public discourses. At the end of the Second World War, women were ejected from many of the jobs in which they had worked in wartime to create work for returning servicemen. This ejection marked a watershed in women's lives and a backward step in female emancipation. The author began research on mothers in the labour market in the late 1970s. At that time, home was still promoted as the ‘best place’ to rear young children and mothers the best people to do so. This narrative shifted in the late 1980s, reflecting not only the rapid growth in the employment of mothers with young children but the increased emphasis placed by government on market forces and the notion of ‘individual choice’. Reflecting these changes, the social research agenda also shifted. In the 1960s and 1970s, motherhood was a small field of inquiry occupied mainly by those concerned with family life or child development. Gradually, much of the territory of ‘family studies’ was taken over by feminist sociologists whose work threw the spotlight on to patriarchy and women's oppression.

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This chapter focuses on the author's experiences of the conditions under which externally funded research is done by looking at a particular research workplace, the work practices that predominated, and the significance of research teams and mentors. There appear to be few references in the literature to the significance of the research workplace and its environs, even in texts devoted to the topic of researcher careers. Yet the research workplace — the organisational structures and cultures (which includes formal employment conditions) in which the researcher and the research project are embedded — is critical to the conduct of research, its quality, and its ethical practice. Most externally funded research is team based. Research teams are organised in different ways even within a research unit or department, with some more hierarchical in structure and culture than others. The chapter then explains that team leaders are crucial in determining whether team members are able to make an input into the study's ideas, methodological practices, written outputs, and the oral communication of the research findings.

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A life in family sociology
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From the vantage point of forty years in social research and the study of families, Julia Brannen offers an invaluable account of how research is conducted and ‘matters’ at particular times. This fascinating work covers key developments in the field that remain of vital concern to society and demonstrates how social research is an art as well as a science – a process that involves craft and creativity.

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Care is at the centre of what we have described in the past three chapters: it is what parents expect nannies and au pairs to do when they hire them, and it is what nannies and au pairs see as the core part of their responsibility in the family. It is also what children expect of nannies and au pairs – that they should take care of them. However, at the same time, care is far from simple to put down in words; as DeVault (1991: 4) says, it is an activity that we ‘know from experience but cannot easily label’, an ‘activity without a name, activity traditionally assigned to women, often carried out in family groups’, although, in this case, the women are not ‘really’ part of the family group, nor are they completely outside.

Despite the intangible character of care, this chapter sets out to zoom in on it specifically. Drawing on and bringing together the narratives from the previous chapters, in the following, we will identify some key features in the care situation that children, nannies and au pairs find themselves in when doing care. We will also discuss how this situation corresponds with and diverges from the expectations of this care situation, formulated in ideals of the practice as an ‘easy job’. This, then, finally, brings us to a discussion of invisibility: of what is obscured in the gap that emerges between the experience of an actual practice and the expectations of this practice. While all care doings can be argued to entail invisible doings, the care doings of nannies and au pairs are invisible in specific ways, and on many levels, simultaneously.

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Eleven-year-old Ludwig has just experienced the leaving of his first au pair. For almost a year, Linda, an au pair from the Philippines, had been working in the family, taking care of Ludwig and his siblings. Ludwig’s memory of Linda is very bright, he really enjoyed her presence in his life and in the house, and especially her company in the afternoons: knowing that she would be there waiting for him when he got home from school made him feel safe and happy. In his draw-your-day painting, he chooses to draw that particular moment: himself and the au pair in the kitchen in the afternoon, when she is preparing his afternoon snack. Having Linda there was so “clever”, he says, “You had someone there who helped you. You were not alone when you got home. It was so good that someone was there”. If something was bothering him, for example, if he was upset about something when he got home from school, Ludwig felt that he could talk to her.

Ludwig also talks about all the other things Linda did in the house for him and his family: she cleaned the house; she cooked all the food; she took his smaller siblings to activities; she sometimes tucked his baby sister in, in the evening; and she also – though not very often – played with him and his siblings. He talks about one time in particular when Linda helped them build a den by the family pool. She helped them drag out mattresses, sheets and pillows, and then they all hid in there, playing a trick on his mum when she got back home from work.

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By doing the work of ‘wife’ and ‘mother’, women quite literally produce family life from day to day, through their joint activities with others. By ‘doing family’ in traditional ways, household members sustain and reproduce the ‘naturalness’ of prevailing arrangements. (DeVault, 1991: 13)

‘I feel like … I’m really into this everyday life, thinking and sometimes feeling like a mother.’ (Ellie, au pair)

The everyday care that nannies and au pairs – and other domestic workers – do in families has been left off the radar of most family sociology. This is remarkable given the actual predominance of the practice in many Western/Northern societies, and the growing prevalence in Nordic countries. Global care chain research, which has, indeed, brought this phenomenon into focus, has left assumptions about ‘family’ and ‘care’ under-problematised in many instances. Furthermore, in both strands of research, the perspective of the children receiving care has largely been missing. In this last chapter, we want to, first, elaborate on the necessity of including the analysis of nanny and au pair care in the theorising of family, as well as argue for the need for a critical analysis of the family in global care chain research. This is necessary to get at the ways in which this practice is ‘doing inequality’, in and through family doings, which is the second focus in this chapter. This, in turn, leads us back to the question raised at the beginning of the book: what is happening to the ideals of gender and social equality, in welfare states such as Sweden, when new and privatised ways of ‘doing family’ are introduced? Finally, we conclude with a discussion of the delicate question of ‘good care’: is nanny and au pair care good for children?

When outlining the main arguments in his theorising on ‘doing family’, David Morgan (1996) put the everyday at centre stage: the ‘whole set of what appears to be trivial or even meaningless activities’, those activities that seem ‘unremarkable, hardly worth talking about’, are constitutive of family, he argued (Morgan, 2011: 5).

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