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Seminar 4 - Beyond the non-nuclear family: Experiences of non-nuclear families

Tuesday, 7 June 2016, 09:30 - 16:30

University of the West of England, Bristol, Frenchay Campus (Room 4Q05). Maps and directions:

This event will explore psychological implications of emerging family forms

*Update - slides from the event now avaliable at the bottom of the page*

This event is part of the series New frontiers of Family and will explore the following theme: Beyond the nuclear family: Experiences of non-nuclear families. It is is sponsored by the British Psychological Society and supported by The Open University, Birkbeck, University of London and the University of the West of England, Bristol.

Further details here:

This seminar series is approved by the British Psychological Society (BPS).


9:30-9:50: Registration

9.50-10.00: Welcome from the New Family Frontiers seminar team

10:00-11:00: Families without children: Life narratives of voluntarily childless heterosexual and non-heterosexual women (Dr Victoria Clarke and Dr Nikki Hayfield, UWE)

11.00-11.30: Morning break

11:30-12:30: Bisexual parenting: Creating new narratives and maps of family relationships (Dr Fiona Tasker, Birkbeck, University of London)

12.30-1.30: Lunch break

1:30-2:30: Pregnant Men: Using virtual methods to explore trans male practices and experiences of reproduction (Dr Sally Hines, University of Leeds)

2.30-3.00: Afternoon break

3:00-4:00: Keynote: Towards a posthumanist account of LGBT kinship (Associate Professor Damien Riggs Flinders University, Australia)

4.00-4.30: Questions from the floor and closing remarks from  from the New Family Frontiers seminar team


Talk outlines

Keynote: Towards a posthumanist account of LGBT kinship (Damien W. Riggs)

There is now a rich history of critical theorizing on the topic of LGBT kinship practices, a literature that continues to reflect upon the impact of narratives of neoliberal inclusivity upon how we understand LGBT relationships and families. Yet despite the critical nature of this literature, to a degree it remains wedded to a discourse of humanism, namely one in which human values are given centre place. In this paper I draw upon recent posthumanist theorizing, along with work in the field of critical animal studies, to suggest the importance of both acknowledging the humanism inherent to much of the research on LGBT kinship, and to broaden our focus to include cross species kinship. In order to explore this suggestion, I present some recent research I have undertaken with colleagues in which we sought to explore the meaning of animal companions to LGBT people, in addition to exploring the relationship between domestic violence and animal cruelty in the lives of LGBT people. From this research I highlight the central role that animal companions play in the lives of many LGBT people, and that indeed for many LGBT people animal companions are seen as kin. The paper concludes with a consideration of what a posthumanist account means for the study of LGBT kinship, and how we may further explore the role of cross species relationships in the lives of LGBT people so as to contribute to the decentring of humanist accounts of LGBT lives.


Families without children: Life narratives of voluntarily childless heterosexual and non-heterosexual women (Victoria Clarke & Nikki Hayfield)

Childlessness is increasingly common in Western countries, and the UK has one of the highest rates of childlessness in Europe. It is difficult to measure precisely rates of voluntary childlessness but evidence strongly suggests it is also on the rise. The choice not to have children has been described as “one of the most remarkable changes in the modern family during the last few decades” (Agrillo & Nelini, 2008:347), and thus a “crucial” area for future research (Basten, 2009:2). Since the early 1970s there has been a growing research interest in why increasing numbers of women choose not to have children. Researchers have been particularly interested in rates of, and reasons for, childlessness among women in Western countries and have attempted to categorise childless, and voluntary childless, women into different ‘types’. In so doing it has often been assumed that certain groups of women (single, lesbian) are childless by default and therefore their reasons for being childless do not warrant investigation. The present study aims to shift the focus from why (certain groups of) women are voluntarily childless or ‘childfree’ to the ‘how’ of child-freedom; how women ‘live out’ child-freedom. This study also starts from the premise that all women’s voluntarily childlessness is meaningful and worthy of study. Twenty-three heterosexual and non-heterosexual women aged 35 to 65 participated in in-depth qualitative interviews conducted face-to-face and via Skype and telephone. Key themes in the women’s lived experiences are discussed including the notion that voluntary childlessness is a precarious and liminal identity (even for women who also articulated essentialist discourses of childlessness), that stigma is both acknowledged and denied and that the freedoms associated with childlessness are tainted by others’ resentments and the women’s feelings of loss and loneliness. We conclude that these women’s lived experiences are clearly located within a pronatalist society where their choice to be childfree is a stigmatised one, even if that stigma is often denied.

Bisexual parenting: Creating new narratives and maps of family relationships (Fiona Tasker)

The aim of this qualitative study, by Fiona Tasker and Marie Delvoye, was to explore the ways in which bisexual mothers came to identify as such and how they structured their family relationships and parenting. The experiences of eight mothers (aged from 28 to 56-years-old) were investigated through semi-structured interviews. Participants’ children were aged 8 months to 28 years old at the time participants were interviewed. Labovian and thematic narrative analyses were conducted to give insight into key points in the experiences, processes, and social contexts that bisexual parents were involved in. Interview data pointed to participants’ involvement in various self-identity projects: the construction of a positive bisexual identity, development of a romantic relationship and desire to parent, and the continuing development of compatible identities with the relative prominence and abeyance of sexual identity and parenting identity projects. Participants were able to narrate both their experiences of bisexuality and parenting in an integrated life course story; some participants constructed a single main narrative while others told their identity projects in distinct narrative pieces. The following main identity construction issues were evident in different participants’ narratives, although participants varied considerably in how they addressed these issues in their lives: prioritizing children with advantages and disadvantages of heterosexual passing, divergences between their own vs. others’ perceptions of bisexual identity and performance, and questioning society’s relationship expectations including monogamy. Identity construction issues also were echoed or introduced in the maps of family relationships (genograms) that women constructed and spoke about:  Children were placed at the centre of the family, connections with blood relatives, friends and communities were presented, and genograms captured important emotional representations of family.

Pregnant Men: Using virtual methods to explore trans male practices and experiences of reproduction (Sally Hines)

Trans male pregnancy shows how shifts in gendered and intimate practices occur within changing social institutions, technological advances and developing cultural understandings. Vice versa, such social, technological and cultural transformations impact on how individuals live their gendered, bodily and intimate lives. Diversification of gendered, sexual and intimate practices, and advances in health care practices and reproductive technology, have significantly altered contemporary experiences of pregnancy and birth. Changing social and cultural attitudes about gender and sexual diversity, and legal advances around sexuality and parenting, have enabled the recognition of same-sex and gender diverse partnerships and allowed equal access to fostering, adoption and assisted reproductive technology. Over the last decade, same-sex parenting practices have received increasing social and cultural visibility, while legal shifts have fore-grounded the rights of same-sex people to parent. Moreover, lesbian and gay parenting has emerged as a central site of inquiry within the field of sexuality studies, and in sociological studies of intimacy, kinship and personal life. Transgender practices of parenting, however, have received much less attention across social, cultural, legal, and academic spheres. This paper draws on virtual data to explore trans male practices and experiences of pregnancy and birth. Through the analysis of chat rooms, trans campaigning and support – group websites, wikis, blogs and vlogs, this paper will first explore the extent to which trans men feel supported and understood by health care professionals at pre and neo natal stages. The paper will move on to examine the extent to which law and policy at international levels supports the health needs of trans men in making reproductive decisions and choices, and will consider the degree to which legal and policy frameworks impact upon decisions to become pregnant. Finally, the paper will address developments in reproductive technology and consider the level of which such advances impact on trans male pregnancy.


Speaker biographies

Damien Riggs is an Associate Professor in social work at Flinders University, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, and a Lacanian psychotherapist working in private practice. He is the author of over 150 publications in the fields of gender/sexuality, family, and mental health, including Pink Herrings: Fantasy, Object Choice, and Sexuation (Karnac) and with Elizabeth Peel Critical Kinship Studies: An Introduction to the Field (Palgrave).

Victoria Clarke in the Associate Professor in Sexuality Studies in the Department of Health and Social Sciences at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, UK. She has published four books, three of which have won national or international book awards, edited numerous journal special issues, and published over 70 book chapters and journal articles (in journals such as Psychology of Women Quarterly, Journal of Sex Research and the British Journal of Social Psychology), principally in the areas of lesbian and gay parenting, same-sex relationships, civil partnership, heterosexual marriage, and qualitative methods. With Nikki Hayfield, Victoria recently won a British Academy grant to research women’s experiences of voluntary childlessness.

Nikki Hayfield is a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology in the Department of Health and Social Sciences at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, UK. Her PhD was a feminist mixed-methods exploration of bisexual women's (visual) identities and to date she has published 14 journal papers and book chapters on the topics of bisexual identities and bisexual marginalisation. Nikki's research has included qualitative research on social psychological topics, which have included perceptions of volunteering, charity and pro-social behaviours, civil partnership, and young people’s understandings of bisexuality. Her current research interests are lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual sexualities, and (alternative) families and relationships, including experiences of voluntary childlessness. Nikki is a chartered psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society.

Sally Hines is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds. Her recent work has addressed the role of social movements in changing gendered and sexual understandings and practices, especially around questions of ‘difference’. Between 2008 and 2010 she was PI of a grant funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) titled ‘Gender Diversity, Recognition and Citizenship', the findings of which are explored in her book Gender Diversity, Recognition and Citizenship: Towards a Politics of Difference (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Sally has published widely in the fields of gender and sexuality and studies.

Fiona Tasker Fiona Tasker is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck University of London. Fiona has extensive expertise in researching – both quantitatively and qualitatively – children's social and emotional development and life span development. To date, Fiona has published over sixty papers spanning the fields of child development, family psychology, family studies, and systemic family therapy in journals such as Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, Child Development, Journal of Marriage & Family and the Journal of Family Therapy. She has published mixed method studies on interview data from both parents and children in non-traditional and modern families, including post-divorce families, de novo families with adopted children or children conceived via reproductive technology (e.g. Golombok et al., 2014; Jennings et al., 2014; Tasker & Granville, 2011). She has published two books: Tasker & Golombok (1997) and Tasker & Bigner (2007). Fiona’s current work focuses on:  examining experiences of bisexual parents; adoptive parenting; and prospective parenting in different cultural contexts.


NB: The seminar is free to attendees however there are limited places (40), so booking is required.  Morning and afternoon refreshments will be provided for this event; please let us know if you have any dietary requirements. Attendees will be able to purchase lunch from several outlets on the UWE campus.


To register and reserve your place at the conference please click this button [REGISTER]

If you have any specific queries please contact Jennifer Scarna, E-mail: