RITA LILJESTRÖM AND ELISABETH ÖZDALGA
Providing a summary of the perspectives in this book on family relationships and social change is a difficult but also exciting challenge. We use this opportunity for three purposes: to comment on the different ways of conceptualizing the family; to point to some of the dilemmas in family patterns in each country; and to reflect on the direction in which different family relationships unfold, that is, we look at the more general family dynamics underlying the data presented throughout this study.
In the second chapter, where the basic theoretical parameters of this work are laid out, the Turkish social psychologist Çiğdem Kağitşibaşi points to “the complexity” of the family, designating it “an intergenerational system moving through time.” Such an encompassing understanding of the family is not what usually comes to the minds of people living in Sweden, where the couple is most often seen as the singular core element of family life. However, Çigdem Kağitçibaşi's intergenerational conceptualization of the family institution is not only telling, it is also associated to freer imagery, like that of a journey.
Our life's journey starts with the family of origin, the relational unit that probably makes the deepest imprint on us. The journey continues when we marry, become parents, occupy positions as aunts and uncles, and later as grandparents. It includes a generational transition when the aged lose some of their authority and are taken care of either by their grown children and/or by public institutions. At some point, the oldest generation is doomed to leave and their journey reaches an end. The meaning of this whole process, including the departure and the often-overlooked period immediately preceding it is an intriguing topic for cross-cultural study.
The basic dividing line between the meaning of family in Turkey and Sweden lies respectively in the emphasis on a multi-generational family network on the one hand, and the marital bond between husband and wife on the other. A a result, the contributors to this book have approached the family in Turkey and Sweden by focusing on “social interdependence” and “individual autonomy” as the concepts that generally epitomize the distinctions in family relationships between the two countries. To be sure, these concepts were never meant to function as static descriptions. The core problematic has instead been to shed light on what happens to family relationships in two different societies as they come under the spell of modernization. The advantage of comparing societies so different is that the contrasts are highlighted and the distinguishing contours of family patterns in the respective countries are emphasized more clearly. Consequently, the comparative analysis offers an invaluable opportunity to “see oneself through