Archive for the 'Young People and Families' Category

Social forms of care: Changing relationships of support

Mary Holmes

Mary Holmes

Mary Holmes, Co-Editor of Families, Relationships and Societies, discusses the new special issue of the journal which is now available on Ingenta.

It may seem obvious to most of us that we rely on other people for care and support, but how has that changed given the fragmenting tendencies of contemporary life? In the latest issue of Families, Relationships and Societies we look at some of the different ways in which people care and are cared for from Finland, to Sweden, the UK, to the Phillipines. Whether it is caring for children, grandchildren, teenagers, or the elderly, care calls upon our bonds with other human beings.

Whatever the kind of bonds or location, social forms of care include state provision and welfare services, as well as informal care arrangements. People use family, friends and other connections to get the support they need. It is not always easy and may require negotiation and involve conflict. Some informal arrangements may be ad hoc and fragile, but some may contribute to community building and be good alternatives to more institutionalised care provision.

“Childhood, sickness, frailty and old age mean receiving care at times of vulnerability, but even in these cases the cared for might offer some support to others”

A lot of care is mutual. Childhood, sickness, frailty and old age mean receiving care at times of vulnerability, but even in these cases the cared for might offer some support to others – be it financial or emotional. In everyday terms, we give and take care. A friend makes us dinner when we are busy, we look after their children when they have a meeting. A colleague offers to help with our marking and we take a class for them to return the favour. Older children may take a turn to cook, or listen to their parent’s small woes. Caring changes. Parents care for children together and then perhaps alone; help from grandparents disappears as they die; supportive friends move to another town or country. Alongside these ‘private’ forms of caring are changing public provisions and policies that impact on how people care.

The impact of the rolling back of the welfare state in many countries shifts care responsibilities back on to the private sphere.  For example, we see in one article how austerity has made lone mothers in Finland more reliant on informal support networks. In another, Swedish parents have to deal with pressures to control their teenagers’ alcohol consumption. These are changes in what care means and in ideas about who should care for whom and how.

“The articles reveal generational and cultural differences in expectations around care.”

What care means in different kinds of relationships also changes, and the articles look at parents and teenagers, children and child carers in institutions, social workers and clients, parents and parent-in-law, grandparents, children and grandchildren within multigenerational families. In one instance, we see Filipino daughters-in-law making efforts to create affinity with their mothers-in-law to help them balance a sense of autonomy with caring according to cultural norms around obligation to parents. The articles reveal generational and cultural differences in expectations around care. Women also still have to make sense of having the greater part of the burdens and satisfactions of care. Yet people work at caring for each other.

Different contexts of care affect how it is given and received. For example, one author argues that institutionalised care can give children a different sense of time to ‘private’ forms of care. Meanwhile, in social work practice, care becomes difficult if always concentrating on risk prevention, especially within child protection. The articles do not glorify informal or private care as innately superior, but point out the difficulties of caring in the current climate. The social pressures on ‘private’ forms of care can be acute as people try to look after each other around the demands of work, changing demographics and shifting social norms. Fear-oriented assessments of risk, emphasis on responsibility and self-reliance and the withdrawal of various public services have different impacts according to gender, age, disability, class and race/ethnicity. Limited availability and problems within publicly provided care forces people to find support within often already overstretched networks or communities.

Self-reliance is a fantasy, albeit a powerful one, and it is imperative to know how families, friends and public bodies navigate around it to provide support. Here we see them using a range of ways to maintain relationships of support at a time when vulnerability and care are often degraded. Care remains a social achievement.

FRS_OFC_Feb2016_72.THINBORDER

 

Read the special issue “Social forms of care: changing relationships of support”.

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Siblings with and without disabilities think differently to each other about the comparison of their young adult experiences – and why it matters

This blog piece is based on the following article: Meltzer, A. (2017) Comparative life experiences: Young adult siblings with and without disabilities’ different understandings of their respective life experiences during young adulthood. Families, Relationships and Societies, early view.

Originally published by Sibling Leadership Network on 1st December 2017. 

 

It’s a familiar feeling. You are a sibling of a person with a disability in your late teens or early 20s. You are busy constructing your life around you – doing new things, making new relationships, learning to drive, moving out of home, finishing school, starting work. Your world is expanding. And yet there is something uncomfortable lingering in your mind. Maybe it is a feeling of guilt, maybe it is a feeling of inequity, maybe it is a feeling of being awkwardly advantaged. Whatever it is, it is a feeling that is there when you look over at the experience of your brother or sister with a disability and see that these life changes that you are making come with more hurdles when your brother or sister tries to do the same things – or perhaps they are things that you believe your brother or sister may never do at all. You value your own life and experiences, but that feeling is always there somewhere. It’s hard to think about and even harder to talk about, especially with your brother or sister themselves – because it feels unkind to point out the discrepancy between you to them – so you bury the feeling and forge ahead, valuing your own experiences, but carrying that sense of disquiet always with you too.

… But what if it did not have to be this way?

What if your brother or sister thought about the situation differently to you?

What if, by never asking them about it, you missed your opportunity to discover that perhaps they do not perceive the differences in the same way as you?

How might that new knowledge help you?

 

What does research say about how each sibling thinks about the comparison?

I conducted research about the relationships between young adult siblings with and without disabilities. I spoke to 25 young people with a disability and 21 of their brothers and sisters about what their sibling relationships are like and how they navigate their lives together during young adulthood. As a researcher, I had the opportunity to ask questions that might usually be too hard to ask directly within families… I had the opportunity to ask what each thought about their respective life experiences during young adulthood, especially the comparison between them.

 

What did siblings of people with disabilities say?

The story that siblings of people with disabilities told me was usually consistent with the scenario at the beginning of this post. Most siblings of people with disabilities generally perceived themselves as advantaged during young adulthood compared to their brothers and sisters. They perceived they had easier and more numerous opportunities – and that in the future they would be able to learn, work and live where and with whom they wanted, but they were unsure if their brother or sister would get to experience the same things as them. Often they appeared to feel that this was an awkward and inequitable difference between then. Often they felt bad about it, and sometimes they felt guilty about it.

 

What did young people with disabilities say?

However, when I spoke to young people with disabilities, they told me a different story – or actually, a range of different stories. Young people with disabilities had a variety of different views about the comparison between them and their brothers and sisters, of which feeling disadvantaged was only one possible option. Across my research, young people with disabilities told me other ways they felt:

  • The difference isn’t about disability.

Some young people with disabilities did not view the comparison between themselves and their brothers and sisters as about disability at all. Instead, they explained the differences between them to be because of other factors that affect all siblings – age differences, making different choices, having different preferences or enjoying different personalities. One sister with a disability said, for example, that she did not mind that all her younger sisters were married when she as the older sister was not, because she preferred the control that comes with being single. When the comparison between siblings’ experiences was not seen as about disability, the differences between them felt far less awkward.

  • I want that too, I just don’t focus on feeling bad about it.

Other young people with disabilities did see the differences between themselves and their brothers and sisters as about disability – and they did indeed want to share their siblings’ experiences – but they did not to focus on feeling too negatively about it. One brother, for example, just stated the differences in a matter of fact way and then moved on to talking about other things he cared about more. Another person noted that she did feel jealous and frustrated about her siblings doing things she could not do easily – such as travelling or moving out of home – but said she also felt genuinely happy for her siblings’ experiences and did not resent them taking up those opportunities, in fact, she wanted them to. Others spoke about advocating or fighting for their right to be able to take up those experiences themselves, but did not blame their siblings for gaining the experiences with greater ease.

  • Actually, there are benefits to the differences between us.

Finally, some young people with disabilities noted benefits to themselves of the differences between them and their brothers and sisters. Some felt that their own experience was better, such as two young women who felt that their disability made their academic achievements appear all the better compared to their siblings. Another person felt that her sister’s experiences acted as a reminder to her family of the level of choice and autonomy that she herself should also be recognised as having, and therefore that her sister’s different experiences actually helped to safeguard her own quality of life.

This range of views highlights that young people with disabilities commonly think differently to their brothers and sisters without disabilities about the comparison between their life experiences during young adulthood. It does not discount the possibility that some young people with disabilities may feel disadvantaged and may resent the inequality they experience compared to their siblings – but it highlights that this is one of a range of possible views. The research also does not suggest that young people with disabilities do not want to share their siblings’ experiences or that they are completely satisfied with their opportunities – many would indeed like more opportunities, the research just highlights that often they are able to see this in a broader perspective of the whole of their lives and relationships. Finally, the research does not represent all young people with disabilities – although people with a range of disabilities were included, including intellectual disability, there is still more to find out about what, for example, people with a high level of support and communication needs think. The research does however show a range of possible views.

 

Why does this matter? What can be gained from listening to what young people with disabilities say?

The findings of this research matter because they highlight that young people with disabilities have different views to their brothers and sisters, and that sometimes they may see their own experiences during young adulthood as more normalised, more empowered or in a different perspective than their siblings without disabilities do. Understanding young people with disabilities’ own views about their lives is important, not only for hearing what they have to say, but also because appreciating their perspectives may help sibling relationships.

Understanding young people with disabilities’ broad range of possible views means that the awkward sense of inequity that some young adult siblings of people with disabilities feel may not always reflect what their brother or sister is actually experiencing – it may reflect a more difficult or troubled view of what disability means in their brother or sister’s life than what that brother or sister actually feels themselves. Understanding the broad range of possible views should not stop siblings of people with disabilities acknowledging and challenging the inequities of their comparative opportunities – however, it does suggest that sibling relationships might improve, and feel less awkward, if young adult siblings of people with disabilities knew more about their brother or sister’s perspective. With this knowledge, young adult siblings with and without disabilities can perhaps together have relationships where they see their comparative experiences in a new light, building on each other’s understandings.

 

Ariella Meltzer is an adult sibling and a researcher at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The full article is available for free in the month of December 2017. You can download it here.

Violence against women and children in diverse contexts: FRS special issue

FRS 2013 [FC]Nicky Stanley, Ingrid Palmary and Khatidja Chantler, editors of the special issue of Families, Relationships and Societies, detail the content of the issue and explain why examining both differing and shared experience of violence and abuse is essential.

“Violence against women and children is a global phenomenon but experiences of violence and abuse and their impact are shaped by local settings and factors specific to particular societies and communities.

This special issue of Families, Relationships and Societies explores varying forms of violence and abuse in different parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Iran and South East Asia. Bringing these papers together highlights differences but also reveals what is common in the experience of violence and abuse, in the ways we investigate and understand those experiences and in the service response. This recognition of both differing and shared experience of violence and abuse is increasingly important as communities everywhere become more diverse. Any campaign or service aimed at preventing violence for women and children needs to take account of specific and local factors as well as those aspects of violence that are widely shared.

This special issue comes out of a research workshop held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in March 2015 that was funded by the British Council.

University-of-Witwatersrand-March-2015

Nicky Stanley, Ingrid Palmary and Khatidja Chantler with special issue contributors and workshop participants, March 2015, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Thirty-five researchers from UK and South Africa came together over four days. Their interests covered gender and violence across diverse contexts and explored the connections between gender based violence, migration and political violence. Participants came from social work, public health, psychology, sociology, social policy, health studies and anthropology with both early career researchers and experienced academics contributing. The workshop included mentoring sessions and career development opportunities as well as the papers that formed the basis of this special issue.

Two research centres led the workshop and have edited this special issue: the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and the Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm, School of Social Work, Care and Community, University of Central Lancashire, UK. AMCS is an Africa-based centre of excellence dedicated to shaping global discourse on human mobility and social transformation. The Connect Centre works with a wide range of international partners to make connections and to challenge fragmented thinking on violence and abuse and its impact in order to develop new research and services.

The wide variety of forms of sexual and interpersonal violence, and the way in which gender and other positions of marginality, including migration, interacts with these forms are explored in this special issue. Nadia Aghtaie’s paper provides new insights on rape in Iran. Aghtaie’s study illustrates that, within an Iranian context, rape is often sanctioned implicitly and explicitly through culture, laws and policies that provide impunity for perpetrators and normalise violence against women. Similarly, Ingrid Sinclair’s paper explores the ways in which notions of women’s morality, derived from marital status, shape the responses of the South African Police Service to women who experience abuse from their partners.

Rebecca Walker’s paper in this special issue describes how structural violence is experienced by migrant mothers who sell sex in Johannesburg. Walker’s paper reveals the intersection of gender and class as predominantly shaped by the women’s marginal migration status: basic survival for themselves and their children is dependent on mothers selling sex. Women’s status as sex workers shapes public sector workers responses to them. Their often oppressive responses are legitimised by populist notions of who is and is not entitled to services. The paper by Rebecca Dudley’s also draws attention to the intersections of domestic abuse and state structures, specifically the immigration rule of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) in the UK. Her UK study explores the impact of this rule and the State’s complicity in trapping women in abusive relationships. In common with other contributors, she identifies the hostility that migrant women may experience from service providers as a key factor.

Patricia Hyne’s paper explores processes of trust and mistrust in accounts of displacement and asylum drawing on analysis from different research projects over a 25 year period. She reports practitioners’ experiences working in Thai refugee transit and processing camps and Burmese refugees as well as drawing on research conducted with in the UK refugees, asylum seekers and trafficked children. Hynes provides examples of when it is ‘safe’ to trust someone and where mistrust is essential for survival. Deborah Allnock’s UK based study on childhood disclosure of sexual abuse, examines the relationship between memorable life events (MLEs) and disclosure of sexual abuse in childhood. She provides a framework that illuminates those contexts that can inhibit, alter or reverse decisions to disclose abuse.

In relation to researching ‘hard to reach’ groups, the paper by Lorraine Radford, Nancy Lombard, Franziska Meinck, Emma Katz and Stanford Mahati includes a case-study from each author’s research on children and young people’s experiences of violence and adversity across the different contexts of the UK and South Africa. Each researcher used different methodologies and concepts but shared a common understanding of the social construction of childhood and the centrality of cultural and social contexts for understanding what constitutes violence. They report considerable ethical challenges and dilemmas were experienced in gaining ethical approval and in conducting the studies. This paper highlights the importance of researching with children rather on children. Similarly, the paper by Vearey, Barter, Hynes and McGinn provides rich illustrations of the ethical dilemmas of researching gender based violence. The article draws on diverse examples including: research on the Burmese-Thai border; research in Ireland on intimate partner violence and research with school children in a number of European countries. This paper provides detailed accounts of real life problems encountered during research and the complexity of establishing an ethical response in contexts where the outcome of actions can be difficult to anticipate.

Sharma and Marsh’s Open Space piece offers an analysis of group-work at Safety4Sisters, Manchester, UK, by workers who facilitate a group for women with experiences of abuse with NRPF and insecure immigration status. Their contribution brings to life the harshness of the immigration and asylum process and the fragility of the women’s existence. In their Open Space piece, Elsa Oliveira and Jo Vearey, researchers based at the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand, discuss creative research approaches with migrant sex workers in South Africa. They are founders of the MoVE:method:visual:explore project, and their paper highlights the importance of doing research differently with marginalised groups. The emphasis is very much on working with marginalised groups through media that allow marginalised voices to be articulated. In achieving this, the boundaries between research and activism are blurred and overlap.

 

FRS 2013 [FC]Find out more about Families, Relationships and Societies on our website.

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Family migration: Re-uniting across international borders

Why have so many Polish families chosen to make the UK their home? In this blog post, Anne White discusses some of the motivations for and complexities of family migration to the UK, as explored in her book, Polish families and migration since EU accession, out today in paperback. 

Anne White

British society has been changed beyond recognition by the recent influx of people from Central and Eastern Europe, and particularly from Poland.

To everyone’s surprise, within a few years Poles have become the largest group of foreign nationals and the largest foreign-born population in the UK. The evidence suggests that many Polish people now consider themselves settled in Britain, at least for the medium term.

The fact that so many Poles are with their families does a great deal to explain why they feel at home in the UK, even if just ten years ago parents shared the general ‘wait and see’, ‘let’s give it a go’ attitude of the tens of thousands of other young Poles who experimented with migration to the West around the time their country joined the EU.

How did it happen?

The Brexit campaign centred on the slogan of ‘taking back control over our borders’, but migration research has demonstrated time and time again that controlling immigration in a democracy is an unrealisable ambition. As Castles and Miller (2009) famously observed, immigration cannot simply be ‘turned on and off like a tap’.

Continue reading ‘Family migration: Re-uniting across international borders’

Blinded by science: when biology meets policy

Sue White and David Wastell, authors of Blinded by science out today, explain the rise of neuroscience and genetics and their influence and impact on social policy.

David Wastell

Sue White

“Biological sciences, particularly neuroscience and genomics, are currently in the ascent. These new ‘techno-sciences’ are increasingly seen to promise a theory of everything in the psychosocial realm.

Social policy has not been slow to conscript technological biology, and is making significant use of neuroscientific evidence to support particular claims about both the soaring potentialities and irreversible vulnerabilities of early childhood, and the proper responses of the state.

The far reaching implications of epigenetics

The last decades have also seen a profound shift in our understanding of biological processes and life itself.

Whereas genetics has conventionally focused on examining the DNA sequence (the genotype), the burgeoning field of epigenetics examines additional mechanisms for modifying gene expression in manifest behaviours, physical features, health status and so on (the phenotype).

It provides a conduit mediating the interaction of the environment on an otherwise immutable DNA blueprint, and invites a natural interest in the impact of adverse conditions, such as deprivation or ‘suboptimal’ parenting. The implications of this for social policy are far reaching.

Continue reading ‘Blinded by science: when biology meets policy’

Telling the truth about Baby P: Ray Jones on the impact of his book

Ray

Ray Jones

As part of our focus on impact for Academic Book Week, author Ray Jones talks about the terrible and tragic death of Peter Connelly, the devastating fallout for the social work profession, and how his book, The Story of Baby P, has made a difference.

The terrible and tragic death of 17 month old Peter Connelly in Haringey, North London, in August 2007 became a major media story in November 2008 when his mother and two men were found guilty of ‘causing or allowing’ Peter’s death.

To avoid prejudicing a further trial, when one of the men was convicted of raping a little girl, the media was not allowed to publish Peter’s real name so he became known as ‘Baby P’. The press, politicians and police worked together on shaping the ‘Baby P story’ so that it targeted social workers and their managers who were described by The Sun newspaper as having ‘blood on their hands’.

The police and health services faded unseen and uncriticised to the margins of the media coverage, although it is now known that there were significant failings and omissions in their contacts with the Connelly family.

‘A campaign for justice’

It was The Sun newspaper and its editor, Rebekah Brooks, who had full page ‘Baby P’ stories day-after-day as she ran ‘a campaign for justice’ demanding the sackings of the social workers, their managers and, in particular, Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey Council’s director of children’s services.

“A shameful and sordid bullying use of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid power.”

Continue reading ‘Telling the truth about Baby P: Ray Jones on the impact of his book’

5 free articles all about mum #MothersDay

Springtime flowers Credit: Pixabay

Springtime flowers Credit: Pixabay

Mother’s Day is one of those beautiful first signs of spring and the one day in the year when the focus is supposed to be on mum.

Over at Policy Press however, we’re thinking about mum all year round and in our journal Families, Relationships and Societies we’re writing about her too.

We’ve picked a posy of five fabulous articles looking at how mothers navigate work and mothering, their aspirations for their children’s happiness, the mother daughter relationship in terms of sexuality and fashion and what buying second hand goods for children says about mum…. Continue reading ‘5 free articles all about mum #MothersDay’


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