The Local Family Circle

Catherine Bonvalet  By the same author

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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.