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No 2 - 2005

Family and Money
Directed by Hélène Belleau, Françoise-Romaine Ouellette

Individualization and models of financial management within families
Jan Pahl

This article examines changing patterns of money management in the UK and elsewhere and argues that couples are becoming more individualised in their approach to finances. It draws on both quantitative and qualitative data and considers some of the implications of individualization, using the example of paying for children and childcare. It sets this data in the context of broader debates about individualization in the welfare state. The conclusion is that independent management of money may give both partners a sense of autonomy and personal freedom – so long as their incomes are broadly equivalent. However, if the woman’s income drops, for example when children are born, while at the same time her outgoings increase, because she is expected to pay the costs of children, the situation may change. Individualization in money management can then be a route to inequality within the family.


Difficulties related to negotiation in family research: an examination of the financial organization of the Swedish couples
Charlott Nyman, Lars Evertsson

Negotiation has become an almost given aspect of research on intimate relationships. In this article we question negotiation as a fruitful concept for understanding how couples organize their lives together, more specifically, how Swedish couples organize their finances. The use of negotiations tends to conceal structural inequalities since everyday life is seen as a worked out agreement. This leads to a conceptualizing of relations in couples as void of power. We argue that a more fruitful way of studying how couples organize their finances and lives together is by regarding this from the perspective of the gendered nature of everyday life.


The maintenance of the child within the reconstituted family constellations
Agnès Martial

The anthropology of family relationships may, as demonstrated by Florence Weber, throw a new light on the current development of family structures. Taking this as our standpoint, we will examine the various logical approaches that are at work when it comes to the economic exchanges governing child upkeep that bind parents and step-parents together in the world of the extended family. These economic exchanges appear to be governed both by the obligations stemming from filiation and (or) co-residence – since the resources of the step-parents are included in the “bills” for child upkeep – and by an accounting reciprocity, which is both indirect and obligatory, due to the existence of a child who belongs to two “families” at once. Using a diachronic approach, we are able, through 14 case studies, to reconstruct the background to the modi operandi of the child’s upkeep, and to show that financial strategies, like the relationships to which they are applied, change as the child grows up and becomes the independent manager of his or her own financial requirements.


Money between adult siblings: ambivalence, denial and parading
Jean-Hugues Déchaux

With respect to money, we find two types of overlapping discourse within families (Lacan, 2002): one excludes financial calculation from the family environment; the other uses it to explain tension and disputes. In the one case, inter-parental solidarity offers a “portrayal of gratuitousness” (Dechaux, 1996). In the other, it is generally supposed that money is at the root of the difficulties encountered and feeds the perverse passions (jealousy, envy, greed, covetousness, etc.) that corrode family ties. “Family” and “Money”, thus, are two incompatible, but closely linked symbolic universes, and where they overlap, problems may arise. In the present paper, we will first bring out the discreet interplay of sibling assessments, where each stakeholder’s attitude to the economic situation of the other is critical. Next, having demonstrated that money is perceived as a threat to the caring relationship expected between siblings, we will see just how underhand a role it does play in the relationship. We will conclude with a study of the rules governing inter-sibling exchanges, underlining the significance of the principle of equality.


Between public rules and private arrangements: filial work and the preservation of family property
Simone Pennec

This analysis deals with the different forms of logic that drive a family when it needs to take into consideration both filial and legal obligations. The cases studied deal with situations where the rules of operation laid down by public authorities result in children taking a large number of business decisions on behalf of their lineal ascendants. Purely family arrangements then have to give way to the transparency requirements imposed by the public registry with regard to statements of account. The result is that many children end up by taking over the handling of monetary affairs, of cheques and bankcards. This happens all the more frequently due to the number of warnings issued to elderly people, telling them to be careful and to protect the assets and cash that they keep in their homes. This preoccupation with streamlining and protection embraces the neighbouring safety net of friends and relations, is reinforced by public transparency requirements and takes little account of private values and concerns for confidentiality. In such a context, handicapped people may find themselves deprived of means of exchange and of any way of ensuring that they have enough money left to live on.


Money, circuits, intimate relationships
Viviana A. Zelizer

The dichotomy between intimate and interpersonal relationships stems from a longstanding tradition. As an alternative to this dichotomy, the present article proposes an approach based on the recognition of interpersonal circuits. To illustrate the range of this concept, four areas are taken under consideration: 1) corporate circuits; 2) local currencies; 3) paid personal care, and 4) children’s participation in family economies. The author concludes that both intimate and impersonal transactions frequently work through circuits that participants mark off amongst each other through well-established practices, understandings and representations that differ from one circuit to the next. Far from determining the nature of interpersonal relations, the media of exchange (including legal tenders) incorporated within the circuits take on specific connotations according to the understandings, practices, and representations embedded in these circuits. These are the means by which people bridge the apparently unbridgeable gap between social solidarity and monetized transactions. They form the crossroads of money and intimacy.


Young adults in Quebec and credit
Marie J. Lachance, Pierre Beaudoin, Jean Robitaille

This paper deals with an evaluation of the attitudes and practices of Quebecers aged between 18 and 29 with regard to credit and the nature and level of their debt burden. Survey results indicate that their use of credit instruments is fairly high, but their knowledge of how they function is slender. They have diverse attitudes to credit and indebtedness, and a majority of them lay claim to socially positive practices. Over 75% of those surveyed have at least one debt, most usually their student loan, followed by the unpaid balance of a credit card. This study confirms that the use of credit and the number of young people with debts have increased considerably over the past ten years.