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Shades of individualisation: Narratives of middle-class women in a Swiss urban context about the families ‘they live by’

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This research presents various narratives about family configurations of middle-class women living in Geneva (Switzerland). The results are drawn from qualitative interviews of 22 women and mothers of a child aged between 6 and 13, who were part of a larger sample of female respondents from both first-time and stepfamilies. The research features five styles of narratives, with distinct ways by which the consequences of individualisation for family commitments and family relationality were played out. All narratives stressed autonomy and claims to self-development by family relationships. However, the contents and functions of such claims vary to a considerable extent. Some stress the importance of the family for the security it provides to individuals, while others see family as subordinated to individuals’ self-development and projects. Some emphasise the work of emotional care as central, whereas others consider the instrumental dimensions of family life more important. Some value equality between partners, and between parents and children, while others emphasise complementarity and specialisation between genders and generations as necessary. The styles of narratives are related to the life course experiences and resources of the respondents.
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Keywords: family narratives; individualisation; life course; middle class

Affiliations: University of Geneva, Switzerland

Appeared or available online: 17 October 2016

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