1 Why ‘family meanings’?
1.1 Introducing ‘family meanings’
Wendy: What's important about being in a family?
Juliet: I've got mixed feelings in a way, cause I sometimes feel they are over-rated … You don't have to be suffocated in a two parents and a couple of kids situation. To me that is not the be all and end all.
Fred: … it's the natural flow of family life isn't it. You know that you get old enough to get married, you find someone, you get married, you have children, it's just the natural thing to do and I feel yeah that's important about a family. It's having that self-respect and having that family around you. You've got your own people then haven't you. They're your little gang if you like. You've all, you've all got one thing in common, that you're all together. You've basically come from the same place haven't you and that's a good start isn't it. You're always going to be reasonably of like minds.
(Langford et al, 2001, pp. 16–7)
Ideas of family can raise strong emotions in all of us, and the great majority of people, when asked in research interviews, describe their idea of ‘family’, like Fred, in very positive, perhaps idealised, terms. Dissenting voices, like Juliet's, which question whether or not family is the most useful framework for understanding personal relationships, are not often heard in such studies.