The restored family - Ambivalent intimacy in post-divorce family configurations
Department of Sociology University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
Family relationships are expected to be emotionally close, to offer support and shelter, and to be a "haven in a heartless world". But how are these expectations carried into post-divorce life? The paper analyses the ambivalence found in the post-divorce family forms, especially step-family, linked to the expectations of intimacy between family members, and it presents results of a study of 34 Finnish post-divorce family configurations. Family relationships are analysed from three perspectives: conceptions concerning the family, emotional closeness of relationships, and the structural embeddedness of relationships. Qualitative interview data, systematic questionnaire data and structured information about everyday social networks of divorced women and men are used to enlighten the dynamics. The results show that even though the respondents aim to restore the family by remarrying, the relationships in the following family form often fail to meet the expectations of intimacy. The structural embeddedness of relationships points out the particularity of step-families regarding this ambivalence.