Cheerful diverse people huddling in the park

We need not look far to find cultures where caring kinships have been arranged differently. Whether by necessity or design, care beyond the nuclear family has been acceptable to different degrees in different societies for centuries, some examples more radical than others.

Indeed, as societies “de-traditionalized” in the late 20th century, partly as a result of these social movements, the alternative kinship structures they encouraged started to migrate into the lives of people who did not necessarily consider themselves radical. In empirical work carried out by sociologist Sasha Roseneil with Shelley Budgeon, in the early 2000s, they discovered that it was very often friends, rather than relatives or partners, who were the primary carers of people in different parts of the UK. Friends cohabited, looked after each other’s children and performed palliative care for the sick and the dying. The problem was, and remains, that there was not enough state recognition of these friendships to furnish them with either the decision-making powers or the resources necessary to care as well as they would have wished, making them less secure over the long term.

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