Families in Society: Boundaries and Relationships
McKie, Linda and Cunningham-Burley, Sarah
Policy Press, Bristol
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Readers may rightly expect from edited collections, some of the best work on a particular subject, and 'Families in Society: Boundaries and Relationships' does not shy from this challenge. McKie and Cunningham-Burley, as editors, encourage an engagement with, and development of, the concept of boundaries in this unique and critical contribution to studies of the 'family'.
At no stage do the authors conceptualise the notion of 'family' in homogenous format, instead considering diversity as the basis of modern familial relationships. The boundary metaphor appears as helpful in deconstructing and then reconstructing the formation of 'family' throughout the chapters. Interweaving discussions of boundaries with a life-course approach allows for new critiques and contextualisations of the family: from baby, child and youth, through to adult and ageing individuals. A life-course approach also allows for an appreciation that families may form, alter, dissolve, and reform, all the time affecting the boundaries of relationships within those 'families'.
The twenty-six contributors involved with this book have provided varying conceptualisations of boundaries, with a subsequent structuring of the book by the editors into four relevant sections: families in society; children, families and relationships; health, illness and well-being; and relationships and friendships.
As the editors state:
…the family remains a central institution in the building bricks of social, economic and political life…[however] it is one without clear boundaries, and one that is likely to be in a constant process of construction and negotiation at both macro and micro levels
Considering that boundaries within families are broken or transcended provides an arena for theoretical critique of the 'normative' construction of a family in today's society, especially upon which social policy or welfare actions may be based. This work suggests implications for care, invasions of private domains, personal roles of family members, and implications for education within today's society. Such imperatives should not, and cannot, be ignored.
This book represents an alternative reading for those interested in families, and acknowledges that boundaries within families can not only be viewed as 'internally coherent and externally unique…but also permeable, malleable, dynamic and changing' (p 6). Theorists interested in theorising boundaries, or those interested in family studies would be well encouraged to seek out the critiques within this book.