Personal Communities: not simply families of 'fate' or 'choice'
Pahl, fba R
This paper makes a substantial empirical contribution to the debate about the degree to which 'families of choice' are replacing traditional, 'given' families. It reports research on personal communities - the set of active and significant ties which are most important to people, even if geographically distant. Sixty in-depth interviews based on a purposive sample, were carried out in England and Wales. Evidence that certain family relations can be seen as more 'friend-like' led to an analysis of the forms of a process of social suffusion between friends and family. This suffusion process is unpacked in an analytically innovative way. Distinct patterns of suffusion of friends and family in personal communities are demonstrated. The 'family of choice' thesis is shown to be overstated and the subtleties of actual forms of suffusion ignored. Similarly, those such as Anthony Giddens who stress the importance of 'pure relationships' in what he calls The Transformation of Intimacy ignore the degree to which such relationships may be combined with more traditional, given relationships. It is argued that by adopting the concept of personal communities a better and more realistic understanding of contemporary issues surrounding family, friends and community may be achieved.
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