In recent years, there has been a resurgence of sociological work exploring the importance and meaning of kinship. Much of this work has criticized the ‘individualization’ thesis according to which changes in family structures over time have been interpreted as reflecting a fundamental decline in family values. Highlighting continuities as well as change in family life, this work has also suggested ways to move beyond the individualization debate and to develop alternative frameworks for the study of contemporary families and personal life, notably through the analysis of related practices. For various reasons, this recent work has focused primarily on the experience and practices of adults in ‘ordinary’ rather than more difficult family circumstances. This article aims to complement this work by focusing on the difficult family experiences of young people affected by parental substance use. It is argued that it is important not to lose sight of such experiences in order that sociological thinking reflect the diversity of family practices and the resources available to support them, including at younger ages. In addition, the importance of developing concepts or a language facilitating the exploration and communication of the emotional and symbolic significance of these practices is emphasized.
- Family and kinship practices
- young people
- difficult family circumstances
- parental substance misuse