What is considered a ‘normal’ family? A mother, a father, their two biological kids and a Labrador, right? Wrong. In fact, this family set up couldn’t be further from normal. With 1 in 10 children living in a ‘step’ family and over 212,000 reported same sex parented families living in the UK, the ‘normal’ ideal stated above couldn’t be further from the truth. A ‘normal’ family has no set frame, no template and no limits. There could be numerous parents, or only one. There could be children both biological to the parents or none at all. There could be some children biological and adopted. There could be some children biological to the mother and not the father, and vice versa. The list is endless really.
With ‘blended’ families becoming more and more common, people, especially the children involved do not go through changes to their family environments unscathed. As interesting as this may sound many people struggle with getting to grips with living in these non ‘nuclear’ family situations.
When referring to a family of two parents and their children we call this a ‘nuclear’ family. While some families are non-nuclear by choice, others begin as nuclear and end up very much blended, (a combination of two or more families living together due to divorce or change in partners) they grow and develop into a different type of family, and sometimes that’s out of people’s control. Some factors to consider are divorce, loss, struggling to conceive or having same sex parents which leads to more than two parents involved.
Due to the nature of the problem and how broad of a subject this is, I have chosen to focus my research into two main categories. The first category is the display of non-nuclear families in the media and on television. Many lesbian and gay parented families say they struggle with explaining their different family situations and relationships to others due to the lack of representation in the media. The few examples that are shown tend to be heavily stereotyped and discriminatory. 9 times out of 10 the media will display stereotypical nuclear families and wont address topics such as adoption and divorce. Considering that in this day and age this is not the norm, something needs to change.
The 2nd category I have chosen to explore, is the affects that living in such families has on the people involved. In the early stages of my research, it quickly became apparent that children really suffer after a family breakup or reshuffle. Children are 15% more likely to end up struggling with mental health issues in the future if they’re from blended or broken families. I would like to find out why this may be and whether there is a link between the lack of media representation of non-nuclear families and the struggles children from these backgrounds may face.
As part of my initial primary research, I wanted to see what people thought about the word family. Shown below, are three separate research outcomes where participants were asked to draw what they associated with the word ‘family’ in under 60 seconds. Each participant began to draw a mum figure, a father figure and two children in different variations. This research further clarified the idea that non-nuclear families are still seen as outside the norm.
The studio I am working in this year is the design for ideology studio where we have learned to link our own ideologies into our work to produce the best outcomes possible. For my project, I want to focus on inclusivity ideologies and make sure that the theme of equality runs throughout.
My aims going forward with this project is to continue to research the affects living in blended families has on the people involved and how accurate and sufficient representation of non-nuclear families can help vocalise these issues while normalising different family situations and backgrounds. I would like are to produce a service or intervention that hand in hand helps eliminate negative stigma around blended or non-nuclear families while using my ideologies to enhance the project.