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Rational family structure dominates

Couples do not live together for traditional or romantic reasons. They do so for purely rational reasons - emotional, financial, intellectual and social. The nuclear family still holds a strong position in Sweden. Some 70 percent of the population live in a nuclear family, shows research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Many families today consist of networks of various people that include a whole host of constellations, without being a nuclear family. Family researchers are at any rate pleased at the break up of the nuclear family, and the late 20th century is of particular interest to those who specialise in to family research.

Not giving enough "The number of divorces in Sweden and other countries increased dramatically during the 1960s and 70s. A new form of relationship began to emerge in modern society, with people no longer forming partnerships and living together for traditional or romantic reasons. The new relationship takes a rational approach, where people ask what the relationship is giving them and what they get in exchange emotionally, financially, intellectually and socially. The answer often shows that the relationship is not giving enough in return, which explains the increase in the number of divorces in our part of the world, with reference to research carried out by the English sociologist Anthony Giddens and others," says Thomas Johansson, Professor of education specialising in child and youth studies at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning.

Studies of family structures during the 2000s are therefore about how people live together today, people's motivation for doing so and how the various, and often new, types of families organise their lives in practical terms.

Complicated business The fact is that just under 70 percent of Sweden's population live in nuclear families today. The heterosexual nuclear family is the dominant structure. "But there are many variations, including homosexual families and rainbow families. Thirty percent is quite a high proportion of people not living in a nuclear family," says Thomas Johansson. Time and relationship planning among the 30 percent who live in non-nuclear families is often a complicated business. The new paternal role is one aspect of the family that has been present since the 1970s. It is associated with the new parental insurance that was introduced in Sweden in 1974, enabling families to choose to allow dads to stay at home with young children. "The thing that is unique to Sweden is the system of parental leave, with 390 days on 80-90 percent pay, depending on the employer. The allocation of two months of parental leave solely to one of the parents is also unique."

Major variations "We have a tendency towards equality in Sweden, but there are also major variations when it comes to class and ethnicity, which leads to different outcomes in relation to becoming a father and equality. Parents today think along more equal lines, particularly among the middle classes," says Thomas Johansson. The family structure of the 2000s also embraces a global aspect - everything from the unaccompanied refugee children who come to Sweden, to the rich, mobile and transnational family that perhaps lives in Australia, where someone works in Holland for example, and they have relatives in Sweden. Thomas Johansson was appointed Professor in education specialising in child and youth studies at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning in the spring. In October he gave a talk entitled "The Family in Modern Society" at an open lecture at the Faculty of Education.

Thomas Johansson has written several books on the theme of family life, including "Den andre föräldern" (The Other Parent), "Nätverksfamiljen" (The Network Family) - together with Margareta Bäck-Wiklund - and "Familjeliv" (Family Life). In the latter book he looks broadly at recent family research and highlights several issues, including the network family. His most recent publication is "Nya svenska fäder" (New Swedish Fathers) from 2010 - written together with Roger Klinth - which is a study into fathers today. The lecture was one of a series of open lectures that were held during the autumn at the Faculty of Education.

Thomas Johansson +46 31-786 2003 thomas.johansson@ped.gu.se

idw :: 15.11.2010