The Local Family Circle

Catherine Bonvalet  By the same author


AbstractDespite the rise of individualism, the extended family continues to exist in urban society. The relationship between adult children and their parents take on a great variety of forms. While some keep their distance, others on the contrary remain very close. The INED survey Proches et parents [Next of kin, close friends, and relatives] has made it possible to distinguish between several types of family organization. The existence of local family circles provides evidence that contradicts the notion of a decline of the family. In the survey, 30% of the respondents were said to belong to a local family circle, because they lived in the same commune as a parent considered “close » , were in contact at least once a week, and exchanged help and services with that person. Qualitative interviews provided insights into the processes underlying this type of family organization. They include several types; some are based on a “family creation » rationale, either by reproducing a family model, adopting the in-laws, or, if links have been broken with the two families of origin, by initiating this mode of functioning with one’s adult children. Other forms are not the result of a genuine choice. In this case the local family circle is rather the result of economic constraints or the existence of the ownership of a capital asset. In fact, the local family circle appears to constitute a new family lifestyle, which respects the independence of each individual and couple, and an adaptation of the complex family to urban society.