Involved Parenthood Everyday Lives of Swedish Middle-Class Families
Abstract: The dissertation studies how 16 Swedish middle-class parents understand and form their parenthood in everyday life. The focus is set on how they involve themselves in their children’s care and education, and how parental identities are negotiated in relation to cultural norms on parenthood. The analysis is based on qualitative methods, in particular interviews and participant observation with video camera in eight families. The study, which is inspired by poststructuralist perspectives on identity formation, shows that the informants position themselves in relation to a norm on involved parenthood, which is negotiated differently depending on social context and gender. The dissertation includes four empirical studies. The first focuses on the subjectivities and dilemmas that are created by parents’ strategies to manage time and childcare. The strategies render everyday life more effective, but the parents also want to be child-centered, which forces them to balance between positions as involved and uninvolved parents. The second study examines how the fathers negotiate their involvement in household work, childcare and time with children. To great extent, they follow the discourse on gender-equal and involved fatherhood, but they at times resist it through drawing on notions of child-centeredness, kinship, and a gendered division of labor. The third study focuses on how parents and teachers negotiate children’s education and rearing. Study four shows how the parents position themselves as involved parents in relation to their children’s homework. In conclusion, the dissertation shows that the parents idealize time spent with the children, but that in everyday life it is hard to get this time. Instead, much time is spent for the child, that is, doing household work and childcare. In both cases, time is child-centered, but time with the child is by the parents seen as “more” involved time.
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