The Shift to Three-Dimensional Thinking of the Family: Advancing Historical Multigenerational Mobility Research through the Use of Whole-Family Network Analysis

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Megan MACCORMAC, The University of Western Ontario, Canada
The study of families over time requires a multilayered understanding and conceptualization of individual lives embedded in family units that change throughout time, context, and processes of social change. Despite this understanding, research on the family has overemphasized individual and dyadic models of family relationships which merely illustrate one section of a relationship within the family and cannot explain multi-generational relationships or the multiple relationships that exist within one family unit. As a result, much is known about processes involving family relationships from an individualistic or dyadic point of view, however, our understanding of ‘whole-family’ processes, especially historic family life, remains limited. This paper advocates for the use of whole-family methodology to study families over time and addresses the methodological challenges of using historical multidimensional data that grapples with the tension of including observations that are continuous yet restricted to the boundaries of the family. In the paper, I argue that by applying a flexible framework encompassing whole-family methodology and the life course perspective, researchers are able to consider the interplay between individual and family mobility patterns by accounting for the influence of time (i.e. individual, collective, and historical), human agency, and linked lives on family mobility. Similarly, by reconstructing the historical social record for extended families over time in a whole-family manner, I contend that this type of research has the potential to add to our understanding of family life by viewing social mobility within the family from micro- (i.e. individual life patterns), meso- (i.e. whole-family networks) and macro- (i.e. community level affects on the family) level perspectives.