Elements of sociology of the family : think of the status of step-parent

While the president of the Republic wants to create a status for the parents-in-law, to recognition of their educational presence with the children of their partner or companion, it may be useful to ask some of the milestones in the sociology of the family, as to the status of step-parent.

Rebuilding a family is it new ?

You may already remember that the divorce is contemporary is not the creator of a new situation. The domestic groups of the past were marked by a strong instability, following the mortality, and the unions were numerous. Widowhood and remarriage organized a “polygamy of successive” according to the term of Martine Segalen in his Sociology of the family, as with the divorce contemporary. The difference is in the fact that in the first case, the fracture was incurred, while in the case of a divorce, it is desired. The remarriage was done very quickly after the death of the spouse : the survival of a household, confused with exploitation, based on the complementary work of a man or a woman, demanded it. The young men who were widowers with young children would remarry quickly.

Parent in addition to and not a substitute parent

Whereas in the past, the new parent was a parent substitute, coming to take the place of the deceased parent, in the case of a divorce, the stepparent is not intended to take the place of the biological parent. This is why Segalen insists on this difference in appointing the parent a ” parent “. How to understand the role and the place of the “parent plus” in the universe of the family, which is more of a substitute parent as was formerly the case in the event of widowhood and remarriages ?

The paradox of the “parent plus” lies in the fact that it can be much more often in contact with the child as the biological parent, that is woven, therefore, with him, a relationship that is by nature domestic. However, vis-à-vis the law, this person is only a third party, it has neither right nor duty with respect to a child, that he may be high. The role of the step-parent is complex and is stuck between the ideal of love elective and the concern not to usurp the place of the biological parent. Sylvie Cadolle in Being a parent. Being a step-parent. The recomposition of the family published in 2000 speaks of a role of ” tightrope “. The legitimacy of the place of the step-parent is never acquired, it is built over time : the step-parenting is made by the child who accepts the newcomer. This is the beautiful child that elevates his father-in-law to the rank of a parent.

The blur of the places in stepfamilies is linked to the very low legal recognition of the step-parent. In its concern to promote co-parenting, the act of march 4, 2002 deals with the stepparent as an intruder who, as such, has no prerogative parental. For example, to transmit the heritage to the child of his or her partner, the State taxera this transaction as if it were two strangers. In the case of a simple adoption by the beautiful parent, it allows the adoptive parent to have parental authority, but it requires the permission of the non custodial parent.

What to call the step-parent ?

The reordering after marriage breakdown create complex configurations characterized by the proliferation of “figures of family and parenting “. The children have two homes, that of their custodial parent and non custodial parent. They have also often half-brothers or sisters and quasi-brothers or sisters” with whom they share no parentage, who are the children that the father-in-law or mother-in-law has had a previous partner. You still need to add the kin or parents-in-law, that is to say, the “almost-grandparents” of the “quasi-aunts “. The redial does explode the number of potential parents. The question is who, among them, are going to become ” parents in real life. While in the past there was a replacement of a parent by a step-parent, today there is a duplication that also affects the generation of grandparents.

Pierre Bourdieu in the article of the ARSS, 1996 ” families unnamed “, there is the problem of the name of the parents-in-law. How to label the step-parent, the quasi-brother-in-law and how to apply them in everyday life ? “The most striking of the families that sociologists have dubbed the lack of a better term, “compound” or ” complex “, it is, in fact, that nothing will more self. And the first words used to express social relationships are basic, and, hence, to produce, in the contents of thought and practice.

How to call the son a “first reads” of the new wife of her divorced father (or new spouse of his mother, divorced) : brothers, or “half-brothers” or “brothers-in-law” ? And how to name, something more delicate and more serious, the new husband of his mother, or to refer to him, is to speak of him to outsiders, if not by the first name? “Irène Théry will extend on this point the questioning of Bourdieu in the chapter “Finding the right words : language and relationship in the reshaping of family after divorce “, the work directed by a Professor, family Games, published in 1991.

Of the overhaul differential between social classes

Jean-Hugues Déchaux in the Benchmarks Sociology of the family draws attention to the fact that “parenting separate varies by social circles” In the categories of modest, low-cultural capital, the separation leads to a reconstruction replacement ; the new partner will overwrite the previous one. Conversely, in the social strata that are better off, with a strong cultural capital, the break between the gum not the ex-spouse who, although non custodial parent, preserves its prerogatives of parenting. A third configuration exists : that of a removal of the two men, father and father-in-law, strengthening the central position of the mother. For Sylvie Cadolle in the book previously quoted, the divorce or separation have the effect of strengthening the matricentralité of our societies. After their separation, women have more time to form a new couple, so that the children develop links of merge with them. When they once again live as a couple, they strongly influence, the relationship of the child to his father-in-law, but also with his father and his mother-in-law. Thus, the primacy of the link to the mother is obvious.

The step-parenting questions the parentage

The descent is here understood as ” the recognition of links between individuals which descend from each other.” (Segalen). The parentage is known in all societies, but the importance it is given is variable. In our society, the membership of the child to a family is ” natural “, the family ties being based on the blood ties. This biological view of the relationship relies on the idea that human reproduction is governed according to a principle of genetic inheritance. Kinship, inbreeding would be a natural relationship, fact, and involuntary, based on a common identity and could not be broken, as would be, for example, the marriage by a divorce judgment. The western representations of the family based on the metaphor of life that, itself, coincides with the genetic.

This organic dimension of kinship, in addition, however, the social dimensions (emotional, instrumental, etc) and legal (responsibility, authority, etc). According to the times, the relative weight of each dimension has varied. Today, under the impetus of biomedical technologies and of the evolution of manners, there has been a rearticulation of these dimensions which has had the effect of redesigning our approach to parentage, focusing on the social dimension.

New figures from the world of parenting

New reproductive technologies seem to have reinforced the idea that the parent is a personal choice. Indeed, the progress in this area, while allowing men and infertile women to have children, have brought in a blur at the level of biological family ties and, by extension, the ties of kinship. New reproductive technologies have shaken the idea that the child is necessarily conceived by a sexual act between a man and a woman. After a first rupture between sexuality and procreation, related to the advances of contraception, new reproductive technologies have allowed a second break between procreation and filiation. Now, a child can be conceived outside of sexual intercourse, with the donation of sperm, oocyte, and the use of surrogate mothers. Then, these new technologies have had the effect of allowing the authorship to be potentially delayed by the freezing of the sperm of the donor. The consequence of these various changes is that now it is no longer necessary to have two people engaged in a common project to make a child and that one is enough, the mother or father who would use the services of a surrogate mother.

Parenting elective

Several authors have stressed the primacy of affection in family relationships and the importance of the autonomy of the actors (including Singly). The importance of the quality of relationships between members of the family makes it the place par excellence of the development of individual identity and self-fulfillment. These changes refer to the project of modernity in which the social order is the result of a contract between individuals. In sum, the family bond is closer to the modern ideal of the social bond, that is to say that it is now based on equality, free consent and the contract. The social norms that ensured family cohesion have given way to the emotions, which is based on links more fragile and friable. Thus, whereas in the past the couple was at the foundation of the family by ties of marriage, today it is the arrival of the child, which constitutes its point of departure and its specificity. It is the child who makes the parent.

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