What are the future prospects of the modern family? For a long time the common image in the West has been to see the nuclear family, consisting of two economically independent spouses and their children, as the natural outcome of the modernization process. As the hierarchies of patriarchal society vanish, a social order based on equal and autonomous individuals all set for self-realization has been assumed. However, high rates of divorce, often reported domestic violence, teen-agers left on their own at an early age, do not harmonize very well with this idealized image. So, which are the mechanisms underlying a more realistic picture of family life in the modern world?
Critically analyzing the concept of the nuclear family the contribution of this book to family sociology is to point at the great variety of patterns "hidden" behind this one concept. The increasingly large space rendered to negotiation between the different members of the family in a modern setting has increased the range of diversity and unpredictability of the individual outcomes of each family relationship, or "project." For example, economic independence does not automatically weaken family norms, but may in combination with emotional interdependence preserve the importance given to family relationships (Turkey). Or, individual autonomy within the family may give opportunity to high self-realization, but it may as well lead to increased vulnerability and dependency in relation to peer-groups and other groups outside of the family (Sweden). Or, equality between the spouses may in combination with active interest lead to family relationships with a strong "inner core," but equality is no guarantee for suchpersonal commitment, and a family, where the spouses are on an equal footing, may as well end up in a situation where the inner core of the family is weak or even absent.
The width of this problematic is skillfully illustrated in this volume, where scholars (sociologists and psychologists) from countries at the opposite edges ofthe European continent - Turkey and Sweden - discuss the structural conditions and "moral economies" of the modern family from the point of view of their respective research. In this way the experiences of two very different social and cultural settings - one more hierarchical, the other more egalitarian - are combined in order to enrich the picture of current trends within modern family relationships.