Diversity in family life: Gender, relationships and social change

Elisabetta Ruspini

Elisabetta Ruspini

by Elisabetta Ruspini, author of Diversity in family life

Families have changed dramatically over time due to economic, demographic, cultural and political factors. Family life is dependent on the culture of the societies of which the family is a part. Since the early 1970s, we are supposed to have been living in a new historical epoch. This epoch has been defined in various ways. Late, second, high, new, contemporary and post-modernity are different terms used to describe the condition of today’s societies. Instead of ‘standard’ biographies, more and more women and men are today in a position to realise a so-called choice biography. Transitions no longer follow a standardised, strict sequence. A large variety of pathways through the life course are both possible and accessible. Starting the adult life course with unmarried cohabitation, followed by marriage, followed by divorce, living alone or as a lone parent, followed by unmarried cohabitation with another partner is broadly accepted.

There is thus a need to understand how family arrangements and models of parenthood are changing. Diversity in family life provides an account of family life in the contemporary society.

One first aim of the book is to discuss, using a comparative and a sociological perspective, examples of the relationship between changing gender identities and processes of family formation in the Western experience: asexual couples; childfree women and men; living apart together (LAT) relationships; lone mothers and fathers; homosexual and trans parents. These new living arrangements are the communes of the 21st century, the century inhabited by the Millennial generation (also ‘Digital’ or ‘Net’ generation). The book helps readers discover the characteristics, advantages and drawbacks of these contemporary living arrangements. It also discusses the political implications—in terms of social movements characteristics and demands—of these emerging dimensions of family life. More specifically, readers will understand: the role played by asexuality in the process of forming intimate and family relationships; what it means to be a childfree man or woman (feelings, motivations, and reasons for staying childfree); the reasons behind the choice to start a LAT relationship; why househusbands and stay-at-home fathers are becoming more and more numerous; the forms and characteristics of contemporary lone parenting; the relationship between parenthood, homosexuality, transgenderism and transsexuality.

One second aim of the book is to describe how the changes in relationships and family life fit into the bigger pattern of cultural change in the last few decades, trying to grasp the reciprocal interconnection between the cultures of the past and contemporary generations. The interplay between past and present raises the crucial question of how the contemporary modernity relates to and interacts with the ‘old’: how institutions, norms, rules and structures of modernity coexist and interpenetrate the new. The book will help readers understand contemporary changes in social institutions and their impacts on family life—one recent change is, for example, the ‘Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill’ in the UK, that allows for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales. It will also assist readers to understand why LGBTTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer) rights are widely diverse in different (European and non European) countries: from legal recognition of same-sex marriage or other types of partnership, to the right to adopt.

In sum, the book explains that, today, it is possible to live, love and form a family without sex, without children, without a shared home, without a partner, without a working husband, without a heterosexual orientation and without a ‘natural” (i.e. biological) sexual body. It is thus a useful guide for anyone interested in interpreting and responding to challenges in family life created by contemporary modernity.

Diversity in family life is available to buy with 20% discount from www.policypress.co.uk

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