Changing Meanings of Family in Personal Relationships: A Comparative Perspective

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 413
Distributed Paper
Karin WALL , Institute for Social Sciences - University of Lisbon, University of Lisbon, Lisboa, Portugal
Rita GOUVEIA , University of Lisbon, Portugal
Gaëlle AEBY , Université de Lausanne, Switzerland
Vida CESNUITYTE , Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuania
Eric WIDMER , Université de Genéve, Switzerland
Vasco RAMOS , Institute for Social Sciences - University of Lisbon, Portugal
Personal relationships are today less dependent on marriage and blood ties, with commitments going far beyond the nuclear co-resident family to include kin, non-kin and ex-kin. The aim of this presentation is to examine the meanings of family ties by exploring the changing boundaries within kinship and a wider array of affinities, in three European countries with different historical and social pathways and characterized by distinct welfare regimes: Portugal, Lithuania and Switzerland. Drawing on a comparative survey including national representative samples of two cohorts from each country (individuals born in 1950-1955 and in 1970-1975), we begin by analysing the ties which individuals consider as “family” within their personal networks and describe the main types of family configurations. Then we examine the determinants of including non-kin as “family” and excluding kin from the family network. We intend to grasp whether family configurations reveal different levels of kinship integration, as well as the degree of fluidity in the social construction of family ties, in particular through the inclusion of friendship ties in the family setting. Do the different social and economic backgrounds that have been affecting family life in late modernity in these countries shape the patterns of family configurations? To what extent do other factors, such as the life-stage, structural conditions (gender, education), family circumstances (partnership, parenthood) or relational characteristics of the ties (duration) moderate these cohort effects? Findings reveal the salience of kinship ties, as well as greater fluidity in the social construction of family bonds, in particular through friendship. However the degree of salience of kinship ties varies across the three countries. Structural, life stage and family variables are shaping factors, but relational effects (quality of the tie), are of particular importance.