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Childhood in a Complex Family Situation: Looking at Family From the Perspective of Children

Claire Ganne

The term “parenthood” has taken on a wider sense within the political, sociological and psychological fields. If it is now agreed that the very fact of being a parent has acquired symbolic, legal, psychological and practical dimensions and can, thus, take several forms, what does this signify with regard to children? How do they define what they see as a family, and which adults do they consider to be their parents? More specifically, in complex situations, what factors do they draw upon in order to define themselves as the child of an adult or of a group? Like parenthood, infanthood is not based simply on biological affiliation, but is also built on representations, on a shared daily life, on a legal framework… Within the framework of a research activity concerning the future of children who have been the subject of socio-educational interventions, we met with twenty-three children between seven and twelve years old. Due to their specific pathways, they have gone through a range of family situations: some live with their two biological parents, others in a single-parent family, in a blended family, in the extended family, in a foster family… Their remarks underline the issues linked to the fact of belonging to more than one family and to the naming of the various players (the child, parents, step-parents, grandparents, foster parents…), and allow us to outline a model of infanthood. In some cases, it is possible to be at one and the same time the child of several parents or several families, but in different manners.