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The non-modern child? Ambivalence about parenthood among young adults
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Child Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Sociologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet, Sweden.
2013 (English)In: The Social Meaning of Children and Fertility Change in Europe / [ed] Anne Lisa Ellingsaeter, An-Magritt Jensen & Merete Lie, London and New York: Routledge, 2013, 1, 102-119 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In the present study, we investigate the meanings that having a child connotes for youngadults in Sweden. In a rare research design, we draw on both survey data and focus groupinterviews, and thus we utilize the strengths of both quantitative and qualitative information.The child connotes dependence and stability and is likely to restrict the personal freedom ofits parents, while at the same time children are supposed to make life more meaningful. Thispotentially creates ambivalent feelings about having a child, and possibly also about the(potential) child itself. We investigate and discuss the ambivalence found in the data byasking the following questions: How do men and women answer survey questions about thepositive and negative implications having a child may have on their life? How do men andwomen in focus group interviews reason about the implications a child may have on their life?Both sorts of data provide evidence that young adults in Sweden are concerned aboutrestrictions in their personal freedom as an expected negative consequence of becomingparents. The child connotes dependence and responsibilities in a society where independenceand self-actualization are highly valued, and may thus be referred to as non-modern. Judgingfrom the analysis of the survey data, it seems that young men are more worried aboutrestricted personal freedom than are the young women, and this is the main reason behindtheir feeling more ambivalent. Post-secondary education increases the likelihood that therespondent is ambivalent. The overwhelming majority, of both men and women, in the dataexpect to make the transition to parenthood, at some point in their life, as this is regarded as anatural step to take and that the child adds meaning to life being a symbol of dependence,belonging and social relations – also valued aspects of life. However, they appear to strive topostpone the transition, so that they can enjoy the unrestricted freedom of single life for quitesome time. This ambivalence is likely to contribute to an increasing age of becoming a motheror a father, without necessarily leading to more (final) childlessness. The present studycontributes to the understanding of what notions and ideals young adults face, reproduce andact in relation to. It illuminates contemporary connotations of the child, and the ambivalencethat different meanings of the child may cause.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London and New York: Routledge, 2013, 1. 102-119 p.
, Routledge/European Sociological Association studies in European societies, 17
Keyword [en]
Children -- Europe.Fertility, Human -- Europe.Demography, Fertility, Human
Keyword [sv]
Nativitet, Barn -- sociala aspekter, Demografi
National Category
Sociology Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-89890ISBN: 978-0-415-81091-3ISBN: 978-0-203-07063-5OAI: diva2:610347
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Available from: 2013-03-11 Created: 2013-03-11 Last updated: 2014-03-20Bibliographically approved

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Bergnéhr, Disa
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