Families in context. A transnational approach
This presentation is about the variation of family forms and how this can be understood in a local and trans-local perspective. The family is approached in two different ways; as framed by norms and values embedded within social policy and as framed by family practices. The comparative study of social policy informs us how norms and values embedded within welfare systems foster different expectations about the family as an institution; what caring responsibilities the family should take on. This fostering involves the structuring of social relations inside the family; between women and men and between children and parents. Whereas in some contexts the family (read women) is expected to take on the responsibility of caring for children, elderly, sick, disabled, etc., in other contexts the state will, in varying degrees, take on part that responsibility. This means that welfare states shape the contours of “normal” family relations; intimate relations tied up with conceptions of who we are, and that this normality is contextual varying across time and space. Taking another perspective, transnational studies inform us how individual and collective actors live their life oriented towards and even anchored within two or more states; in two or more sets of norms and values. In view of the more macro-oriented understanding of intimate relations that culturally inclined social policy scholars suggest, this article deals with a more micro-oriented analysis of how foreign born parents residing in a locality in Sweden respond to tensions between different sets of norms and values of how family relations as a normative practice should be constituted. The puzzle at stake is how migrants who have moved or is moving across space embedded in different sets of norms and values of what is considered to be “good” parental relations with children, experience and deal with tensions between different sets of norms and values in their parenthood. The study suggests that while some migrants adapt to the norms and values fostered by the Swedish welfare state, others ignore them overall. A third group captures a middle ground identifying themselves with some aspects of the norms and values fostered by the Swedish welfare state but not in others. This variation of identities, leads off to a variation of practices within and across state borders and cultures that are dependent on various forms of individual and collective resources.