Understanding different kinds of family in context
Nearly all children grow up in families of one kind or another. Family relationships influence every aspect of their lives and crucially influence their life chances and trajectories. Social research on families and personal relationships offers insight into the diversity of family lives as they are lived and into how social change in families and personal life impact on children and young people. The research evid ence includes a growing body of work directly mapping how children and young people themselves experience and perceive family dynamics and family change. Some of the academic work in this topic area addresses concerns that are both more theoretical and more wideranging than those normally addressed by profes sional practitioners or policy makers. It includes, for example, understanding how personal life adapts to longterm social change and attempts to evaluate common
beliefs such as the idea that people are becoming more individualistic and less socially integrated. This chapter offers some engagement with such wider issues and with more focused research on the family lives of children and young people.