Ett reflexivt syskonskap

Sammanfattning: The aim of this thesis is to describe and analyse how the natural children of foster carers experience growing up in a foster family. The intention was to gain knowledge about their everyday life through their own participation, and to make the research questions derive from their experiences. The Swedish research project “Growing Up With Foster Siblings” built on empirical material collected via focus groups (17 participants), discussion groups (16 participants), a (web and postal) questionnaire (684 answers) and 8 qualitative interviews. The study follows the sociology of childhood and the young people are considered as social actors participating in interactions, activities and negotiations, which contribute to the construction of their social world. Children’s competences as well as their constraints are explored. When a family becomes a foster family the whole family is affected, not in the least the natural children, who often take an active part in the fostering assignment. The young people’s experiences vary to a great extent. Some describe their relationships with their foster siblings as an ordinary sibling relationship or as being friends. Some take responsibility and care for both their foster siblings wellbeing as well as for their parent’s wellbeing. Several of them describe how they reflexively mould their own part in the interaction by focusing on the needs of other family members. A third of the young people in the study experiences a loss of time and attention from their parents. This theme has brought the analysis to the question of how the young people experience their position in the family. In the young people’s descriptions it is noticeable how important the feeling of being able to affect their own situation, of being an actor, is. The young persons who have negative experiences (in groups and individual interviews mostly girls/women) have often described themselves as powerless, with no possibility of negotiating and affecting their situation. Many of the young people describe themselves as active and involved in processes through which relationships in the family are formed. There is no consensus as to their construction of how a child in a certain age should engage in caring activities. The young people are involved and implicated in processes that are complex and full of ambiguity. In line with theories of late modern society where sources of authority are localised within the individual and to negotiating processes, the children seem to be of the opinion that they are active agents who themselves decide what to take responsibility for or not. But they do this in a context. They live within a context where they are expected to behave according to certain conceptions of in what way a natural child to a parent who foster should act in relation to their foster siblings but also towards their parents. Expectations interlock with the active child who engages in processes through which social relationships are formed in the family.

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