MobileKids at the 15th European Sociological Association Conference (ESA)

The MobileKids Team was thrilled to participate in the 15th ESA conference. Originally planned to be held in Barcelona, it was moved to a virtual format due to the sanitary crisis. Our team members presented the following papers: 

Title : Material practices of Children in shared custody arrangements: dealing with, and making sense of, a world in motion 

Authors: Bérengère Nobels et Laura Merla

This proposal focuses on multilocal families and more specifically on the lived experiences of children of separated parents, aged between 10 and 16, and living between two fixed households. Our main aim is to highlight, through materiality, different daily practices that children develop to deal with these absences and presences. Based on semi-structured interviews with 20 Belgian children mobilizing participatory methods, we analyze how the objects that surround these young people help them organize their world into a lived space (Rolshoven, 2008) and establish links and continuities that offer them a certain stability in the experience of mobility. Two sets of material practices emerge from our data. The first consists of fixing “stationary objects” to order, distinguish and be anchored in each living space. The second consists of creating permanence and continuity in movement with « objects in transition » that travel with children. We show that these practices and the meaning given to them are constructed at the crossroads between children’s own aspirations and the affordances and limitations set by their family environment (marked by material and spatial constraints, educational values and styles, and specific temporalities).

Titre: Children’s Everyday Practices of Shared Physical Custody in Italy : An Institutional Ethnography of the School System and the Neighborhood.

Author: Sarah Murru

This paper presents new material about my current research project exploring the social organization of Italian children’s experience of living in shared physical custody after parental separation – and from their own standpoint. This IE (part of the ERC Starting Grant project MobileKids: Children in Multi-Local, Post-Separation Families – supervision: Prof. Merla) was conducted over the past 4 years, and through two fieldworks in the Piedmont Region, (one year-long field work in 2018-2019 and a longitudinal follow-up in 2020), with 22 children (aged 10 to 16) and their families. Through the use of creative and participative methods, I consciously mapped children’s work practices inside their everyday lives in-between two homes, as well as the coordination of this work with that of their parents and other actors. 

My results discover that children’s experience of shared physical custody is organized by two intersecting institutions: the School System, and the Italian urban planning of neighborhoods. 

In particular, this is explained by the appropriation of the neighborhood as a “home” and, in this frame, of the appropriation of one of the parent’s home (in majority the mother’s) as, what I call, the “homework-home”. Moreover, since the second follow-up fieldwork happened during the first Covid-19 Spring Lockdown, where schools were entirely closed, paradoxically, the organizing power of the institution of Italian School System was made even more visible through its absence: as children’s experience of shared custody completely changed with the school out of the picture.

Titre: How Children of Separated Parents View Their New Post-Divorce Family?

Author: Coralie Theys

In the context of everchanging family configurations, this paper focuses on children of separated parents’ conceptions of what their family is. It is based on an ongoing research project entitled MobileKids: Children in Multi-Local, Post-Separation Families (ERC Starting Grant project – supervision: Prof. Laura Merla) which seeks to understand how the lives of children are affected by divorce, mobility and multilocality in the context of shared custody arrangements, and how children accommodate to this family situation. Moreover, as children’s own accounts and experiences of contemporary changes have largely been overlooked up to now, this project considers children as active social actors that can, to various extents, exercise agency and influence on their own lives as well as on the lives of the people surrounding them, while being constrained by institutions.

Based on the analysis of in-depth qualitative interviews – through the mobilization of creative, visual and participatory methods (Socio-Spatial Network Game & Relational Maps) – with over 8 children (ongoing fieldwork) aged 10 to 16 in Belgium, this paper presents how children in shared physical custody perceive the contours and the substances of their family. Contours, here means the actual people that children consider as being a member of their family. Substance, here refers to the dimensions (values, affects, or practices) that children mobilize to recognize or negotiate the place of each member inside their perceived family – which is particularly of interest in the presence of step-family members. 

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