What is at stake in family troubles? Existential issues and value frameworks

Ribbens McCarthy, Jane (2013). What is at stake in family troubles? Existential issues and value frameworks. In: Ribbens McCarthy, Jane; Hooper, Carol-Ann and Gillies, Val eds. Family Troubles? Exploring Changes and Challenges in the Family Lives of Children and Young People. Bristol: The Policy Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/policypress/9781447304432.003.0026


In this chapter, I ask the question of what is at stake in family troubles, and highlight some key themes in responding, including: the moral issues of family living and the care of children; existential issues of shared and variable human experiences of troubles and suffering in relational lives and the challenges these pose, particularly in relation to children; and cultural resources for dealing with such experiences. And I further consider what help is available from philosophers and social scientists for establishing any frameworks or guiding principles that can avoid a nihilistic form of cultural relativism in defining family troubles, while remaining sensitive to the diversities, ambiguities and complexities of the family lives of children and young people in variable contexts. In this discussion, I seek to keep in mind how children and young people actively construct meanings through which to make sense of their everyday interactions and circumstances, but I also reflect on how adults and social institutions shape the meanings of troubles in children’s family lives and the sorts of resources young people can marshall in order to make sense of such troubles, and seek some degree of intelligibility in the process.

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