• Individualisation versus the geography of new families

      Duncan, Simon; Smith, D. (2006)
      According to leading sociological theorists we have now entered a `late modern¿ epoch of `de-traditionalisation¿ and `individualisation¿. Families are crucial in this vision, where the social ties of kinship and marriage are weakened, increasingly replaced by the project of self. In this paper we take three geographical indices of central elements of the individualisation thesis, examining the distribution in Britain of same sex couples, births to cohabitants, and mothers¿ withdrawal from the worker role. Analysis of all three indices give support to two levels of criticism of individualisation theory. First, pre-existing social structures have not gone away; the prevalence and the effect of the components of family form and change examined here seem deeply influenced by pre-existing local structural conditions. Secondly, the analysis supports the criticism that while people might indeed have more room for manoeuvre in late modern society, and may well be less constrained by older traditions, this does not necessarily mean individualisation. The behavioural components of individualisation theory may be a non-sequitor from the observation of changing family forms. We conclude that it seems likely that individualisation may be better conceptualised as one part of pre-existing social and structural processes, and that its behavioural assumptions are unjustified.