Distant family and close friends among single working-class men
Department of Sociology and Political Science NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology SKOTBU, Norway
Family studies have focused mainly on men as fathers and men's conflicts between family and work. Much less research exists about single men and men's relations to their family of origin. This paper focuses on single, working class men in their 30's and their relations to family and friends. The context is family life in the artic community of Longyear city in Svalbard. Longyear city differs from mainland Norway in being an international and fluid society where none of the inhabitants are born. They have all left part of their family and kin behind. From being a male dominated mining town, the community has developed into a differentiated society with a growing number of women and children. Based on the fact that the archipelago historically has been populated by single men, the question is how the transition to a family society has influenced the single miners and their personal relations. Contemporary theories about increasing individualization (Beck and Beck Gernsheim 2001) and "the transformation of intimacy" (Giddens 1992) would lead to an expectation that commitment and solidarity in personal relations are unstable. Results show that family are of little importance at this point in their lives, while friendships are significant and strong. However, family bonds tend to tighten when need for help and support appear. Findings shed light on how intimate relations change during the life course and how life events impact on personal relationships. The nature of coal mining culture and hegemonic artic masculinity contribute to strong male bonding.
The study is part of a research project about family life on Svalbard. This paper is based on interviews with single male miners who live on the island today. In addition, fieldwork was carried out in two periods in 2006 and 2007.