Contemporary spinsters in the new millennium: changing notions of family and kinship.
New working paper series,
Gender Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
Familial change in recent decades has been the subject of much academic theorising and political attention, with concerns raised that changing
familial forms signal a decline in obligations and commitments and a
concomitant rise in selfish individualism. Remaining single can be seen
as paradigmatic of individualism in contemporary Western societies, and
single women in particular risk being depicted as strident individualists
characterised by their lack of connection to significant others, despite
their singleness historically being explained in relation to duties to care
for parents and wider family members. This paper draws on ongoing
research on the family and social networks of contemporary spinsters
look specifically at their caring relationships as daughters and mothers
and argue that the changes and continuities illustrated reflect more an
increasing diversity in the context and meanings associated with these
caring commitments rather than their decline. I suggest this research both
challenges a conception of the individual as autonomous and self-directed,
supporting rather a more relational interdependent conception, and that it
supports arguments about the progressive potential of diversity of familial
practices in the context of changing cultural and societal conditions of
contemporary Western societies.
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