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No 29 - 2018

Family Time
Directed by Benoît Hachet, Gilles Pronovost

Working with time in contemporary families
Benoît Hachet

Research Framework : The renewed interest of sociologists for the temporal aspects of social activity offers enlightening perspectives on the functioning of family groups. Social time imposes a framework for the coordination of activities by differing family members, and, like a timespan, it offers the possibility of multiple narrations in the ‘future’. For families, time is both a constraint as well as a resource.

Objectives : The introduction of this issue of “Family Times” uses the plural to highlight the irreducibility of time to a single dimension, which also begs two questions. How Does Time Build Families ? How Do Families Build Time ?

Methodology : The discussions raised in the introduction to this work show that the sociology of time can shed light on family practices, using both a synchronic and diachronic approach, for the entire group as well as for its constituting members.

Results : The temporality of education, like professional activities, constitute a socio-temporal framework which is imposed on families as well as the necessity of building an adapted organizational calendar to best prepare for the future. Adoption levels vary according to social and physical constraints of time depending on gender and social environments. Women play a key role in the organization of family time and the transmission of temporal know how.

Conclusions : Time is not an external environment wherein individual and familial activities occur. Family members work time differently, whether separately or together, they fulfil the objectives of reproduction and physical and social aims in a manner which is either strategic and well-planned or opportunistic and scattered. Family time is not only experienced, it is also acted upon.

Contribution : In addition to making a contribution to the temporal analysis of family dynamics, this introduction opens rarely explored pathways into how families work the different times that shape them


Do parents matter? Teens’ time use, academic performance and well-being
Jiri Zuzanek, Margo Hilbrecht

Research framework : The widening generation gap between parents and teens has occupied researchers’ attention since the 1920s. The expansion of this gap has been often attributed to the growing roles of mass media and peers in teens’ lives.

Objectives : Changes in the role played by parents, mass media and peers in the lives of teens are examined through the lens of time use. Time use data document the declining role of parents, but also show that constructive time use strategies can help parents to retain and enforce their role in teens’ intellectual and emotional development.

Methodology : Data are taken from the Canadian General Social Surveys (1986 to 2005) and the 2003 Ontario Experience Sampling Survey of Adolescents’ Time Use and Well-Being. Relationships between teens’ time use and emotional well-being are controlled for age, gender, and family background.

Results : Although the communication and attitudinal gap between teens and parents widened during the past decades, the situation is not irremediable. Analyses of OATUS data suggest that indirect strategies, emphasising the importance of time use routines and habitual inter-family relationships, affect teens’ academic performance and quality of life more profoundly than household rules, verbal interventions, or sporadic behavioural controls.

Conclusion : Perhaps the most powerful but underestimated leverage that parents have to protect their share of influence on teens is the social ‘osmosis’ of family values and practices. The seemingly imperceptible sharing of family values, joint activities, and parental ability to serve as a model play an important role in affecting teens’ motivational structures.

Contribution : The proposition that teens’ academic performance and emotional well-being are grounded in their behavioural routines, and that the effectiveness of parents’ interventions depends to a large extent on their ability to redress these routines or habits is supported by research findings.


Time management during initial vocational education and training: the role of familial socialization
Guillaume Ruiz

Research Framework: This contribution is based on an ongoing research project on the time management of youths doing an apprenticeship in Switzerland. It presents how the time management dispositions inherited from familial socialization affect the way apprentices face the changes they experience during training. Additionally, we also studied the impact of the professional socialization process on time management dispositions.

Objectives : Two different hypotheses are explored. The first assumes that time management dispositions inherited from familial socialization influences the subject’s ability to organize time during their apprenticeship. The second posits that professional socialization transforms these dispositions.

Methodology : We used mixed methods including a questionnaire survey (n =523) and 28 interviews with apprentices in two different types of training : mediamaticians and social care workers.

Results : Apprentices manage their time differently depending on their social origins, their gender, their school career and their parents’ educational style. Furthermore, professional socialization has a limited influence on the apprentices’ time management dispositions. These dispositions are are strengthened rather than transformed, especially for the subjects who possessed strong time organization skills at the beginning of their apprenticeships.

Conclusion : Time management dispositions inherited from primary socialization are quite stable. If any transformations appear, they mostly occur at the end of the apprenticeship.

Contribution : This paper allows for a better understanding of time management dispositions inherited from family, improved identification of the challenges apprentices face at the beginning of their training and it provides additional knowledge about the time management of young people.


Learning How to Use Time Use in the Families of High Level Executives - An Immersive Investigation
Annabelle Ponsin

Research framework: In families where the parents are senior executives, parental management practices are excellent illustrators of normative managerial rationalities. The application of traversal management reasoning (whether private, public, professional, family or leisure), influences the relationship with the self, with others, and the entire world (Le Testier, 2015). Their articulation of daily time (Kaufman, 1992) and life trajectories (Bessin, 2009) makes it possible to understand the relationship between class, age and gender (Fleuve, 2006) and how temporal standards are continuously shaped (Canguilhem, 1943; De Certeau 1994).

Objectives: I observed the manner in which these “managerial temporalities” are formed, interiorized and passed on by the couple in their professional , parental and marital lives; the children, in their socialization, schooling and travels; and the within the entire family itself through daily organization.

Methodology: This work takes a qualitative approach that started with immersion. As a baby-sitter, I assumed a triple role: functional (coordinating activities), educational (socializing with the children through a succession of activities) and emotional (temporizing the impacts of these rhythms). This immersion was complemented by private interviews and personalized logbooks.

Result: The homes visited are semi-open interfaces that are in a state of flux. I took a transitional place to better understand the focal role of mothers and the educational standards used for the production, diffusion, the interiorization as well as the invisibilisation of their temporal norms.

Conclusion: The “methods of construction” used for these temporalities (Elias, 1997) informs us of managerial norms that are applied to our way of being and our intimate co-constructions.

Contribution: The immersion that I’m undertaking in temporal territories is key to understanding the core of these processes. Through the means of a reflective look on my iterative practices, this article underlines the familial co-constructions of managerial temporal norms.


Female Business Leaders and Young Female Entrepreneurs in Lomé (Togo) : The Double Life of “Superwomen” and their Domestic Burdens
Charlotte Vampo

Research Framework : Togo is a country with a strong trade tradition and a high female labor participation rate. Women are encouraged to become entrepreneurs and they are free to make use of their revenue. At the same time, they bear a heavier burden than men in terms of work/life balance since they are responsible for virtually all domestic work. While most women are confined to informal sectors of activity, some businesswomen in Lomé have managed to be active in emerging areas of the formal economy. This investigation is about the women who seem to be an archetype for women emancipating themselves through work. These are the women who studied at universities and belong to associations that promote female entrepreneurship and empowerment.

Objectives : The article explores the way these women fit within the gendered division of labor. It investigates the tools women use to manage everyday lives filled with familial constraints and professional obligations.

Methodology : This study is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Lomé over five years. A micro-analysis of gender relations was applied to reveal the trajectories of success in these female entrepreneurs by taking a relational approach. The empirical material was gathered using interviews and observations in and outside of businesses, as well as informal discussions and through the use of a questionnaire about expenses and tasks.

Results : The results show that the work/family balance is seen as the duty of married women. The most common solution to this problem is transferring the care work to other women at home and at their places of work.

Conclusions : The study highlights that women adhere to the gendered division of labor because of social standards regarding marriage and due to issues of social recognition associated with the female reproductive role. The businesswomen of Lomé may be regarded as “superwomen” however, to reach this brass ring, they must shift some of their burden onto other women.

Contribution : The fact that women have access to high responsibility jobs hasn’t completely changed traditional gendered roles. The reconfiguration of gender relations depends on the economic empowerment of women. However, the social negotiation of a company manager’s status is made by transgressing gender norms but also by perpetuating the inequality of order. This article invites us to see empowerment as a sociopolitical process which is both individual and collective.


The Experience of Women in Their Forties and Assisted Reproductive Technology: Questioning the Thresholds of Reproductive Temporality, Fertility and Infertility
Manon Vialle

Research Framework : There has been a significant decline in age of first maternities in Euro-American societies. This has increasingly led women to turn to assisted reproduction technology (ART) to help with infertility caused by the “natural” alteration of their ovarian reserve. In France, women are treated using insemination or in-vitro fertilization up to the age of 43, but the use of self-preservation or oocyte donation to overcome a form of infertility that is not considered “pathological” is not allowed. When the alteration of their ovarian reserve is considered too significant, treatment is stopped.

Objectives : This article studies the thresholds of female reproductive temporality, fertility and infertility as envisaged by the French bioethical model (ART). In particular, it looks at the way infertility – as a “normal” or “pathological” biological phenomenon – is addressed and how this threshold determines permission and restriction in France.

Methodology : Our work is founded on a study of the experiences of women in their forties and ART using a qualitative sociological survey that includes interviews of 23 women over the age of forty from two ART clinics in Marseille who were confronted with an alteration of their ovarian reserve.

Results : This research allowed us to identify the profiles and biographical trajectories of these women, as well as their experiences with age-related infertility. A variety of reasons explain the time frames for becoming a parent at a later age, and these reasons are all linked to social injunctions of “reproductive norms” as well as the socio-demographic changes that led to the rejuvenation of this age group. For these women, discovering that their infertility was age-related was a surprise. It came as a surprising contradiction to their physiological, psychological and social “feeling of youth”.

Conclusions : We show that the trajectories and experiences of age-related infertility experienced by the women interviewed led to a different understanding of the threshold of reproductive temporality. This threshold clearly falls beyond the solely biological aspects represented by ART and ovarian capacity. It must also take into account broader notions of the body as a whole and the social, relational and temporal aspects of infertility.

Contribution : The research presented in this article allows us to separate the way in which the notion of infertility is addressed and understood from a legal, medical and, more broadly, social perspective. Far from being set in stone and strictly biological in nature, the study of these practices reveals the complexity of this notion and it reflects upon the opposition between what is considered normal versus pathological and the social versus biological aspects of the way infertility is addressed in France.


Conjugal bifurcations, the place of the child in rebuilt relationships: giving time to establish new family
Catherine Négroni

Research Framework: Many works have looked into the complexity of step families. However, far less qualitative research has delved into conjugal bifurcations and post-break-up family configurations to shed light on the incidence of children in rebuilt families.

Objectives: This article seeks to question recomposed temporalities and, in particular, the synchronous and asynchronous times of parental and conjugal roles as well as how the family comes undone and rebuilds itself through the role and the place of the child in a rebuilt family.

Methodology: The qualitative investigation was conducted in France in a mid-sized city with men and with women in post break-up situations. We collected 30 life stories: 16 women’s narratives, 11 men’s narratives and 3 interviews with same-sex couples.

Results: Our work studied the paths taken in the rebuilding of differentiated families in terms of acquired economic and social capital, socio-professional groups and gender as well as the situation and age of the children. The rebuilt families were gendered. For women, the time it took to re-enter ‘couplehood’ were generally longer, especially when they were the primary residence of the children. The age at which they were separated also seemed to be a determining factor in the rebuilding of families for women.

Conclusions: This work questions parenthood, how the parental couples continue to exist in spite of a separation of the initial family compared to entering into a new union.

Contribution: Taking a qualitative approach, this study analyzed family reconfiguration post break-up and showed how parenthood collides with conjugality in constantly renegotiated family configurations.


Testing time frames in blended families: the effects of the birth of a common child in a blended family
Justine Vincent

Research framework: This article is based on a sociological study focusing on birth within blended families. It stems from the tension these families are experiencing — the need to reconcile the search for a new beginning of a new couple and the weight of a past they didn’t share. This issue is embodied, symbolically and physically, by children from previous unions.

Objectives: The question of time is essential to understanding what is at stake in the process of family blending. This issue also becomes increasingly important in that it puts kinship ties into play. A common child is often the focus of this desire to start over and contributes to writing a common story for the stakeholders within a reconstituted family.

Methodology: Drawing from interviews conducted in France with seven men and nine women in stepfamilies who had a new child with their current partner, we seek to analyze the effect that the birth of a common child had on timeframes of blending families.

Results: While the birth of a common child creates a memory with a high emotional charge, it is a way of maintaining links within the new couple regardless of its outcome. It also leads the new parents to face the unattainable connection of their previous distinct trajectories. This gap influences negotiations and sets apart men and women, as well as parents who already have a child versus first-time parents. Furthermore, once the child is born, their continuous presence within the blended household, in contrast to the children born from other relationships who travel back and forth, is a reminder of how non-standard the family situation has become.

Conclusion: Substantial reorganization and reflection are put into establishing daily life in a blended household ; especially given that it has already undergone a seismic shift in the cycle of family life at home.

Contribution: From this research on the timelines of blending families, the question of when is the “right time” is further explored.


Conjugual infidelity : individialization of privacy and gender
Marie-Carmen Garcia

Research framework : This article expands our knowledge of the individualization of privacy as an explanation for conjugal infidelity. Its analysis takes into account social circles where the upper-intermediate class of the « authentic self » and gender representations are revealed.

Objectives : The main objective of this work is to show how the individualization of private lives and the romantic love model fosters a double-life based on a traditional family model which is largely borne by men.

Methodology : We conducted thirty-nine recorded biographical interviews ranging in length from one to three hours. We interviewed individuals who have, or had, regular extra-marital relationships for more than two years. An analysis of blogs was also conducted.

Results : The social logic of extramarital affairs is close in nature to divorce in terms of age groups and social surroundings. However, the results of extra-marital affairs characterized by sustained clandestine liaisons are singular when it comes to gender.

Conclusion : The quest for an « authentic self » in clandestine relationships is real for both men and women. However, the latter adhere more to the contemporary model of romantic love while men prefer the familial and traditional model–meaning the indivisibility of the family. In relationships which last over a period of many years, women’s representations are closer to those of men.

Contribution : This article contributes to expanding the rare analyses of conjugal infidelity. It shows how a gendered individualization prevails as a « self-quest » in extra-marital love affairs.


Elderly people with dementia : Caregivers’ experience when the need for legal protection is considered
Dominique Giroux, Maude Carignan

Research framework : Several studies report that support for seniors with loss of autonomy is mainly provided by caregivers. Following a diagnosis of dementia, questions about safety and the need for legal protection are commonplace. Throughout the course of the disease, caregivers are called upon to play various roles and this can be difficult, especially if they don’t have the knowledge required to meet these needs.

Objectives : A study was conducted to document the difficulties experienced by caregivers following a competency assessment and to create a better understanding of their reported expectations.

Methodology : Five focus groups were conducted with three categories of participants : 1) seniors ; 2) caregivers ; 3) members of seniors’ rights organizations.

Results : The results of this work highlight three main difficulties : 1) the fluctuation of symptoms ; 2) the acceptance of illness and the role of caregiver ; 3) an increased burden and the feeling of exhaustion. Another important element also emerged : caregivers feel that they are not sufficiently informed to fully assume their role. This reality influences their perceived burden since they often find themselves helpless in the face of a situation for which they are not well prepared.

Conclusions : Health and social services professionals need to be made aware of this reality to better prepare the caregivers of people diagnosed with dementia so that they can be more proactive as the disease progresses along its course.

Contribution : To our knowledge, no similar study has ever been done.


Adopting a child as a gay couple: the experience of sexual minority parents in Belgium
Roberta Messina, Salvatore D’Amore

Research Framework: This study aims at analyzing the experience of same-sex adoption in Belgium, shedding light on the challenges encountered by sexual minorities during the adoption process and after adoption. Data presented in this article is part of a larger cross-national study conducted in three European countries: Belgium, France and Spain.
Objectives: This study has the purpose of answering the following research questions:
1. What are the main stressors experienced by same-sex couples during the adoption process in Belgium?
2. What are the main difficulties and the needs encountered by these parents after adoption?

Methodology: The sample is composed of 14 sexual minority adoptive parents (7 gay couples) living in Belgium. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each couple at their home and video-registered. The interview verbatim was transcribed and analysed using an inductive thematic approach.

Conclusions: Results show that same-sex adopters deal with many institutional barriers, such as the “gay quota”, the high refusal rate of birth parents to entrust their children to same-sex couples and the heterosexist attitudes from adoption agencies. Furthermore, participants report that they do not feel adequately supported by social actors, whose theoretical and experiential knowledge concerning same-sex parenting is, according to them, shortcoming.

Contribution: The results of this research highlight two fundamental aspects. First, the urgency of adopting measures to avoid any form of discrimination; secondly, the need to increase the training of social workers and adapt the adoption process to better meet the demands of these new family configurations.


Did They Have a Father? Paternity and Partnership in Cases of Neonaticide
Laurence Simmat-Durand

Research Framework: Cases of neonaticide, as described from the legal files, are seemingly exclusively perpetrated by the mother who, in turn, also faces the trial completely alone.

Objectives: This article assesses what is revealed by the partners of these mothers and their ‘attitudes’ about paternity and the way their relationship works as a couple.

Methodology: Using 2,306 press articles describing 357 suspected neonaticides in France from 1993 to 2012, we developed a thematic analysis for the descriptions of the fathers.

Results: Our analysis revealed three main trends: the men who conceived the children either were not considered to play a paternal role because they were deviated from their paternity (by the mothers or by the legal system), that they didn’t want to be the fathers, or that they wanted to be the fathers but were prevented from doing so by the mothers.

Conclusions: In contrast to the literature on parenthood, neonaticide cases present a stereotypical perspective in which mothers alone are responsible for wanting the child. During prosecution for neonaticide, the father’s role is consistently denied and refused, regardless their desire for the child.

Contribution: This article reviews the father’s existence in the context of the legal proceedings of the mothers using a corpus of press concerning 141 mothers who have been pursued on neonaticide.