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UNAF and the Diversification of Family Models

Raymond Debord

Research Framework: Our study focuses on the National Union of Family Associations (UNAF), a French institution that is unique because it was created by the legislator to structure the family movement and officially represent families to public authorities at all levels.

Objectives: The article sets out to analyze the emergence of familyist ideology and its structuring in a dedicated apparatus. It studies how the diversification of family models has been taken into account by the legislator and incorporated by the UNAF even if it clashes with its convictions.

Methodology: Our work is based on an analysis of historical, demographic, legal research on the family and family associations, as well as documents from the UNAF and its constituent organizations. Finally, it is based on fifteen interviews with actors of the family movement and officials of the main federations of family associations.

Results: The UNAF and its components have adapted and the familyist ideology has showned great resilience. At each stage, despite the difficulties, the protagonists have been able to make compromises making it possible to integrate changes while maintaining and developing the role of the family movement. The emergence of the theme of « parenthood » has allowed the development of new activities and services.

Conclusions: Frictions around opening marriage to same-sex couples have subsided, as some of the more conservative family associations have dramatically refocused.

Contribution: At a time of growing individualization of rights and when the public authorities have abandoned all familyist references, is there a new paradigm taking shape, in which the existence of a « family body » makes less and less sense?