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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.