Representing family troubles through the 20th century

Fink, Janet (2013). Representing family troubles through the 20th century. 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: Policy Press, pp. 35–44.



Histories of family troubles in Britain through the 20th century have been written from a number of different perspectives and have taken a range of conceptual and analytical approaches. Autobiographical and biographical accounts have thrown much light on personal experience (Sage, 2001; Harding, 2006) and the effects of welfare encounters though which families with perceived troubles were identified, regulated or supported (Steedman, 1986). Social histories of family lives have been equally revealing about the ways in which the constitution of "normal" family relationships has shifted over time (Gillis, 1997; Davidoff et al, 1999; Davidoff, 2012).Tracing, inter alia, demographic, economic, political and cultural change as well as shifts in gender relations, familial ties and patterns of employment, such accounts have illustrated the significance of context not only for understanding how the norms of family lives are always contingent and in flux, but also for mapping their continuities. Other accounts have been generated in legal and policy histories concerned with the more public arenas of political intervention and professional accountability around family troubles, wherein the work of government commissions, legislative reform and public inquiries has been interrogated (Parton, 2004; Cretney, 2005). There are also rich analyses that take as their focus a particular dimension of what would have been regarded as family troubles in the past, such as unmarried motherhood (Evans and Thane, 2011), bereavement (Jalland, 2010), unemployment (Burnett, 1994), disability (Atkinson et al, 2003), migration (Webster, 1998), child abuse (Ferguson, 2004) and child poverty (Platt, 2005). These variously illustrate how experiences and discourses of "troubles" have changed and how, in turn, they have impacted upon and shaped the dynamics of family relationships and practices.

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