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The shifting territories of privacy : between spatial and temporal inequalities. A case study of contemporary single-parent families.

Alexandra Piesen

Research Framework : For quite some years we have witnessed raising number of divorces and separations in France (Buisson et al., 2015). The  » family  » became « families » with the emergence of new structures such as solo parenthood, mixed families, same-sex families… Those new familial structures make specific questions emerge on how to be a parent (Martial, 2016), but also how to deal with intimacy and personal spaces (Martin, 2001).

Objectives : The goal of the article is to understand how becoming a solo parent redefines intimacy by studying how solo parents deal with time and space since the separation. 

Methodology : To answer these questions, we based our research on a qualitative study’s lead in France with 54 solo parents (18 fathers and 36 mothers). Those solo parents have the day-to-day residency of their children under 18 years and live without spouses.

Results : The results of this study show that becoming a solo parent forces them to implement a lot of changes. They must establish new boundaries, temporal as well as spatial, sometimes changing during the day, in order to preserve the intimacy of each member of the family. If fathers and mothers are different regarding how they became solo parents, they are also different regarding how they deal with these new boundaries. As a matter of fact, some inequalities, linked to how you become a solo parent, are found again in how to deal with these boundaries. 

Conclusions : Although parents have different lives and strategies regarding maintaining or redefining the boundaries of both familial and conjugal intimacy, they all chose familial boundaries to be more important than their personal needs of conjugal boundaries. They all put the interest of the child above personal considerations.

Contribution : Very few studies are about solo parents taking into account the gendered experiences. The goal of this contribution was to bring some elements of information concerning the day-to-day life of those solo parents.