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Les temps des familles

Working with time in contemporary families

  • Benoît Hachet

…more information

  • Benoît Hachet
    professeur agrégé à l’EHESS, Institut de recherches interdisciplinaire sur les enjeux sociaux,

  • Traduction de
    Aaron Marchand

The author thanks Gilles Pronovost for his collaboration to this article.

Article body


There has been a rapid change in the composition of contemporary families including the commonplace creation and rupture of relationships and the application of new procreative technology. These new forms of family identity have been accompanied by a wealth of social science research that investigate the role played by time. This research generally focuses on the synchronic and diachronic aspects of time. Synchronic approaches include the synchronization/desynchronization of family time (Lesnard, 2009; Tremblay, 2012) and writings on social time (Drancourt, 2009; Pailhé and Solaz, 2009) such as the recent work done by the Groupe Thématique 48 in the Association Française de Sociologie [1] , and that of contemporary family networks (Castren and Widmer, 2015). Diachronic approaches include references to life cycle models, life paths and trajectories (Kolhi, 2007; Lalive d’Epinay and Cavalli, 2009) such as the use of biographical timelines (Bessin, 2009; Charton, 2006) and family histories (Lefèvre and Filhon, 1999) which are motivated by an understanding of individual and family dynamics over time. However, much rarer are works that take a sociological interrogation of time when looking the family. This issue of EFG is dedicated to this subject.

Above and beyond the fruitless attempts to define time and the relationships that it entails (Giddens, 1994; Elias, 1996; Pronovost, 1996; Bourdieu, 1997; Rosa, 2010), we take our starting position based on the seminal work by Henri Hubert (1905) who founded the study of time within French sociology (Hirsch, 2017). Far from the spatial metaphors held so dearly by Durkheim’s supporters [2] , Henri Hubert evoked the idea of thinking of time as a form of matter. He wrote: “associations are established between diverse periods and long-lasting items. These associations are where the period-form becomes a unit of time in matter-duration” (1905, p. 100). This abstruse language can be translated more simply by the idea that seasons, months or days, which are “set-periods” are entrenched in particular activities or “matter-duration”. Human time is unknowable outside of the activities that make it up. It is not simply a global space whereupon we float like a boat on the water (Elias, 1966). Norbert Elias laments, from this perspective, that we do not have a verb for “temporate” to indicate that men and women are the ones who make time happen. From a similar perspective, Pierre Bourdieu noted that “practise is not about time but rather that it makes time”(1997, p. 299).

This ‘time-matter’ has a shape and a structure that is created socially by common calendars. This macrosocial approach (Zerubavel, 1981) can be complemented by paying attention to the subjective relationship that individuals and families have with time. According to Michael G. Flaherty, by “interweaving our desires and circumstances, we create what we experience as the textures of time” (Flaherty, 2011, p. 2). This temporal matter of varying texture, affects families as much as it itself is affected. In the introduction to his work on the textures of time, aptly named “The Textures of Time”, Michael Flaherty defines working time as an “intra-personal effort in view of encouraging or preventing various temporal experiences” (2011, p. 11). We would suggest that families, like their different members, are not only led by time but rather that they have the means to shape it.

We should keep in mind however that families do not necessarily make for unanimous groups where all family members share the same objectives. The temporal experiences of each person, which the sociology of time refers to as “temporality” (Mercure, 1995) varies in effect depending on the position held within the family—children versus adults, male versus female, old versus young. Even for the same person, it can vary depending on the current stage of their lives. In this issue, the authors’ focus on families (specifically certain family members i.e.: women, mothers, teens, young adults) from countries including Canada, France, Togo and Switzerland. Also considered are the different moments of their family histories such as the desire for children, the creation of a nuclear family, family break ups and the rebuilding of new families.

All of the studies presented in this issue look at how families, and certain family members, “make use of their time”. The use of ‘their’ in the statement “make use of their time”, is used as a plural and a singular implying that both men and women are not simply passive receptacles of the imposition of time but rather, they are fully distinct actors who are able to partially manipulate “matter”. Additionally, “time” is used interchangeably as a countable and a noncount noun as “it exists, not just as time, but also as times”, “each possessing its own characteristics, which make them irreducible from each other (Grossin, 1996 p. 16). We will begin with the way time is worked by families before looking at how families work with time.

Time working families

“Affirming that time is an object of collective representation” like Henri Hubert states in his 1901 review [3] , “[it] is not solely an objective phenomenon, external and unilinear, but rather the object of changing concepts in accordance with society” (Hirsch, 2017, p. 26). Families, like the men and women that form them, are located historically and geographically and share a similar “temporal location” with the other inhabitants of their society (Grossin, 1996). This temporal environment should be thought of in the same way we think of physical and environmental locations. The church’s time is not that same as that of the merchant (Le Goff, 1960), nor that of industry (Mumford, 2015), which also differs in late modernity (Rosa, 2010). Like the time of families, the time of major institutions is imposed. It constitutes a temporal framework that cannot be subtracted. Nor is it possible to subtract the temporal duration that modifies possibilities over the course of time.

The temporal framework of institutions 

Michel Foucault’s benchmark approach sees schools, like barracks, prisons, hospitals and factories as exerting controlling mechanisms over the social body (1975). These institutions, schools and business in particular [4] , shape bodies as well as the time of families by imposing temporal standards on the daily lives of individuals and by setting long-term “expectation horizons” (Koselleck, 2016) which must be coordinated. Each specializing in a generation, schools and businesses institute time for children, for parents and for family groups.

School time

As Benoît Falaise wrote in an internal document for the national education of future school instructors: “In kindergarten, children enter with a very egocentric relationship with time. All evidence points to an extremely intimate relationship with the world and there is a very subjective perception of time in children between two and four years of age. As a result, entering into class, participating in gatherings, going to the bathroom when everyone else does, going to recess with others, (including when the work being asked of them or the puzzle in front of them isn’t finished) means progressively accepting constraints and subsuming their own intimate time for those of others—the time of the class and its activities” [5] . School is one of the primary instances of socialization outside of the family. In France, school is an institution attended by children from the ages of three to the age of sixteen, lasting six to ten hours per day and, vacations aside, running at least four days a week. School teaches children from an early age, and retrains their parents, to respect schedules and to bend to the constraints of collective time [6] . As they get older, pre-teens (Singly de, 2006; Zaffran, 2014) as well as adolescents (Zaffran, 2010) are caught up in the omnipresence of school time where they wrest themselves free only to become further caught up, to varying degrees, in social environments and after school issues. From the top of the French school system, Muriel Darmon, showed that the preparatory classes of prestigious schools taught leading youths to “learn time” by teaching about urgency and in the midst of urgency. Regardless of class level, educational institutions equip youths with temporal know-how and knowledge which are also required, via a domino effect, by their parents.

Two contributions presented in this issue question the ties between scholastic institutional time and family time. Guillaume Ruiz looked at two Swiss professional training programmes (one more masculine and the other more feminine). He was interested in modifications to the time relationship experienced by students in school. Careful to include social origin and gender, he showed that upon leaving the family, entry into adulthood begins another transformation in the way individuals organize and represent time. Focusing on how time is used, Jiri Zuzanek looked at the Canadian Time Use Survey to show how success at school by Canadian adolescents—and from an associated perspective, their well-being— was tied to the organization and use of family time. For these two studies, family expectations regarding school bear witness to the importance of this institution in the projections built for future generations.

Work time

In modern and advanced industrial societies, work, whether salaried or independent, was necessarily imposed as a major activity in the structuring of social time. Regardless of the increasing phenomenon of fractioning (Cingolani, 2012), the temporal order of work organizes family life by distinguishing “office hours” from those which are not i.e.: weekdays versus week-ends, working time from vacation time and years of training in active lives versus those of retirement. This difference in time is the rhythm by which the majority of families exist, interweaving moments of distance (during the work day, the days of the week spent at work and the time spent working) with moments of closeness (evenings, week-ends and vacations). These seasonal variations in family life (Mauss, 1950 [1906]) constitute a largely shared experience, a temporal framework around which families arrange themselves.

In Canada, the increase of work time has provoked a debate on the increase of time-related stress overflowing from work into daily lives (Gershuny, 2000, 2011). This “interdependent relationship between family and work” (Tremblay, 2012) essentially expresses itself through temporal aspects, particularly when it comes to reconciling [7] (or more likely, reorganizing) social time to be more present with the family and at work without abandoning other activities such as cultural practices, leisure time, being part of associations and partisan sporting activities. Though it also affects men, this question of articulating of social time weighs heavily on women given that there is still an unequal distribution of child care and domestic tasks (Champagne et al ., 2015; Bianchi et al ., 2006). The development of flexible work makes this redistribution of work and family time more delicate for women (Pailhé et Solaz, 2006), especially for parents of young children, who from birth to the age of three are often pulled away from work (Régnier-Loilier, 2009). For younger workers and for those in new families, there is an increasing call for more family time (Mercure et Vultur, 2010). Some women decide to drop salary work entirely to start their own businesses after giving birth to a child. The new goal becomes attaining “successful independence” without their “professional, parental and domestic commitments being in competition” (Landour, 2017). From the disjointed work schedules of parents, emerges “disarticulated families” (Lesnard, 2010), who see their shared time reduced not only during the week, but also on Sundays (Boulin et Lesnard, 2017).

In this work, the contributions that study the order of work imposed on the family’s temporal framework are based, unsurprisingly, on the experience of women. Charlotte Vampo transposes the issue onto the articulation of social time in Togo. She concentrates on how women become business leaders, pursuing demanding economic and family lives in a society where the economic success of women is not valued. In her immersive study as a daily babysitter for the families of executives whose time is overrun by work, Annabelle Ponsin highlights the preponderance of the mother in the provision of advice regarding the organization of activities for the children. She confirms that in higher status environments, where there is a possibility of delegating care-related tasks, women seem to have “double lives” as shown by Monique Haicault (1984).

The temporal duration of life 

Time works families by transforming them over the long run. According to psychoanalyst Serge Hefez, “the family is a maturing and ever-changing organization” [8] . Families should be considered from a dynamic perspective as it changes in size and shape over time. The progression of age, just like the biological and social process of ageing, affects all family members and it permanently modifies the general economy. When families are uncertain (Roussel, 1989), the sequential progression of the “procreative family” (Parsons, 1955) fluctuates. The three phases of family life–becoming a couple, the birth and raising of children and their subsequent departure–are disturbed by conjugal breakdowns (Théry, 2001) as well as the levelling of the thresholds of age and by the processes of reversibility [9] (Van de Velde, 2015). Here we mean the relationships that are maintained by the passage of time when children are present versus conjugal separations.

The issue of children

When is it time to have a child? At what age? In other words, at what point in our lives do we begin building a family? The answer to this question is very different for men and women due to the physiological time available for bearing children [10] . There is no age limit for men, whereas women are more constrained by their periods of fertility. The true answer however also varies according to cultural spaces. In Quebec, many women consider the age limit for women bearing children to be thirty (forty for men). In France however, the thresholds are ten years older (Charton, 2014). In Quebec, and more generally in North America, parents prefer to have children earlier, to rationalize their life stages, and freeing themselves from parenting at an older age. This propensity for anticipating the size of the family in Quebec translates into a sizable proportion of parents who decide to put the end-date for their period of fertility before menopause [11] , thereby ensuring that no new children will be born from any subsequent spouses. In France, though “being a parent after forty” is neither new nor exceptional (Bessin and Levilain, 2012), more attention is drawn these days by women having later-life pregnancies; particularly more so than for men. The extension of youth and the push to enjoy it as long as possible, as well as the desire for professional and romantic stability before having children in an increasingly uncertain context, leads women to push back their first child to the point of their physiological limitations. On this topic, Manon Vialle looks into the tensions that appear between biological and social rhythms when women at the end of their periods of fertility look for medical assistance to help with infertility from medical centres when it comes time for them to procreate. She highlights the temporal disconnections that are found in the stories of these women and, by default, the normative expectations that weigh on becoming a mother.

When children are present, and when they are grown, the time dedicated to them, like the nature of the activities done together, is transformed (Pronovost, 2015). The time spent on care is exchanged for leisure time with the entire family, particularly during weekends and vacations. As they grow older, children become more autonomous and gradually distance themselves from the influence of their parents before leaving their “primary family” (Parsons, 1955). “The entry into college signals a realization that familial belonging is relative due to the multiple offers of belonging available to youths” (Singly de, 2006, p. 18). These other offers take up some of the time available to adolescents at the expense of ‘family time’. Based on studies of the use of time in Canada, Jiri Zuzanek shows how the parents of adolescents are “losing out to media and peer groups” in the influence that they are able to exert on the well-being and educational success of their children and that the competition from other instances of socialization is fierce. The temporal duration during which children grow up erodes the daily time spent with the family and it modifies the framework exerted by parental authority.

Time and separated families

Temporal duration equally applies in situations of conjugal separation and for rebuilt families. Though it does not make any new contributions to our understanding of marital breakups (Théry, 2001; Singly de, 2011), two articles argue there is a tie between the time of ‘exes’ and new families. Catherine Negroni and Justine Vincent question how time affects familial rebuilding with each author looking at a particular stage following a separation. The first article looks at how integrated families are built with children from prior relationships and the second article looks at research on children in rebuilt families. In both articles, the authors look at the clash between conjugal and parenting temporalities, not just in terms of how this is expressed in their daily lives, but more significantly, how it is considered over the long term. The time of family memories, like looking into the future, can be separated into several branches that do not concern all family members. A parent and their children from a former relationship do not have the same family history as the new partner and their own families. While the future of the new couple is joined together, the children have two distinct horizons that correspond with the two lines that brought them into being. Having children from a prior relationship affects decision-making for the creation of new relationships because with new partners, time must be taken for introductions and the creation of trusting relations between the children and the step-parent as well as between new half brothers and sisters before they can settle into being a family (Negroni). When a shared child project develops in rebuilt families, it extends the temporality of the new family by opening up a shared future.

Like in separated families, where children alternate between the homes of their parents, time is unthinkable without space, particularly for families whose members are geographically distant (Merla and François, 2014). No matter the geography of these distances, or their frequency or duration, they construct a type of fragmented identity. Yvonne Guichard Claudic took this perspective in her study of identity-building in the wives of tuna fishermen whose lives are shared between extended periods of separation and short bursts of communal living (1998). It is also the case of the badanti who spend several years as workers in Italy, leaving their families behind in the Ukraine. Driven by economic necessity, these women are representative of an entire class of migrant workers providing care services abroad (Baldassar and Merla, 2013).

Families working time

Families are not passive receptacles for the temporal standards that surround them, nor are they inert in terms of temporal duration. As the primary instance of socialization, they play a leading role in building representations and habits related to the use of time. They are also particularly fertile fields in which to observe how they act regarding time.

Temporal socialization

The cultural transmission from parent to child (Octobre and Jauneau, 2008) is especially relevant to what one makes of time. Gilles Pronovost, describes the family as a “vast undertaking of time socialization” (2009, p. 24-25). Similarly, Jiri Zuzanek cites Kerry J. Daly, who, in 1966, wrote that the “family constitutes the primary location where the sociocultural significations of time are learned”: “It is within the family that children learn temporal routines, how to order events and how to bend temporal standards and regulations” (p. 64). Though the family participates significantly to building the temporal dispositions of children, we must also consider diversity in terms of both position and composition.

Constructing the temporal dispositions of children

When Guillaume Ruiz looked at time management in Swiss interns, he placed key focus on the “the weight of inherited dispositions in family socialization”. From a theoretical dispositionalist perspective (Lahire, 2013), Ruiz describes the temporal dispositions of youths as “tendencies” or “propensities” to use their time in a particular manner. Embodied by these individuals, they are activated in practise depending on the circumstances. Considered temporal ‘habits’, they are different than temporal skills but are less deeply anchored and are the result of later learning. Temporal dispositions stem from habits acquired in childhood regarding representations and use. Aside from learning the scansions of social time (hours, days, weeks...), families share “ways of doing things with time” which are then propagated by imitation. This is how punctuality skills are built including being hurried or lax, as well as attitudes stemming from bravery, fatalism and ‘wait-and-see’ approaches (Bourdieu, 1997). Also built in this way is the ability to organize one’s time, which is instilled by the way parents manage their agendas and those of their children in a more or less dense manner. Integrating calendar days, clock hours and a variety of other planned activities into agendas, allows for a flexible and complex system of organization. Time is then dictated from the interior and the exterior (Boutinet, 2004). Another instrument for the training of dispositions is repeated “temporal routines” (Zuzanek) such as eating meals together and group activities done on Sundays which serve as the foundation for models of doings things with time and doing things in time. Jiri Zuzanek also shows that the use of time by Quebec adolescents is positively correlated with time dedicated to the same activities as their parents. Children are practically imbued with the “temporal culture” (Grossin, 1996) they inherit from their family.

Here, like everywhere, gender also counts. Temporal socialization is clearly gendered (Bessin and Gaudart, 2009). Girls learn from an early age to be introduced to others, to make themselves available to the needs of others such as brothers and sisters, and older family members (Bessin, 2014). In countries such as Togo, women are required to be completely available to their children and husbands who would never themselves “cross the threshold of the kitchen” (Vampo). Charlotte Vampo points out that when Togoan women are an economic success, they deviate so significantly from the norm that they are suspected of practising witchcraft. To find the time for their businesses, the Nana Benz delegate the care of their children to other women and, if they become divorced, they can opt to become the second wife of a married man with whom they do not live. The impact of competing availability requires innovation.

Though these expectations of women are less obviously expressed in Europe and North America, they remain present nevertheless. The skills acquired by women regarding temporal availability once they are mothers, play a vital role in the temporal socialization of children. These are mothers of families who are executives, who “produce, control and manage family agendas, arranged on the family’s kitchen cork board” (Ponsin). They are the mothers who appear the most organized to trainees (Ruiz) and the mothers who are the “custodians and guarantors of family ties”, all organized via domestic calendars in recombined families (Negroni). Women, and mothers in particular, seem to be the decision-makers of family time, or more so than men anyway. This is true both in its present organization but also in the transmission of what to do with time for their children.

The crossed effect of social environment and family compositions

“The present is yet to arrive” (Bourdieu, 1997, p. 301) and it is not equally distributed across all social categories. This has consequences on the way that a generation of parents envisage the present of children and how it is organized. For higher classes, a child’s use of time is loaded with many and varied extracurricular activities (Ruiz, Zuzanek). This level of activity participates in the development of multiple reusable skills but also, it allows them to incorporate more congruent temporal dispositions that are consistent with the expectations of the social world where they will eventually find themselves living. Like that of their parents, the time of these children is organized, planned and rationalized, explicitly thought out as a training program with a multitude of multitasking (Ponsin), a skill that is both expected and developed in the training programs of the elites (Darmon, 2013). As shown by Olivier Schwartz (1990), this long-term projection, using a rationalization of present time, is an aptitude that is also developed by increasing numbers of working class families raising children in a hierarchical society. On the other extreme of the social spectrum, necessity drives people in precarious employment, or the “sub-proletariat” to experiment with a life that is “randomly transformed” (Bourdieu, 1997, p. 318), and where the experience of time is less well-rationalized. The predicted timeline for the future of children is controlled by the urgency of the present, which is the significant temporal horizon.

Families cannot be reduced to a social category however. They are composed, decomposed and rebuilt, with different members who have differing experiences of time. Regardless of the social environment, in large families, the available time dedicated to educating children is reduced with every extra child, and the feeling of “educational laxity” does not necessarily increase for the youngest children either (Bertrand et al , 2012). Though parents in upper classes have the means to compensate for this loss of time, in working class families, the eldest children often finish their education quickly or choose local training options so as to not overly impact the family budget (Vanhée et al , 2013). Aside from the differences in the temporal timelines of education, the eldest children have experienced stricter parental control over their time and requests for help are more numerous for the youngest children, particularly if they are female (Bertrand et al , 2012).

Accordingly, aside from gender, the number of children also counts. The larger the family, the more it affects the way they work with time. Catherine Negroni insists for example, that in the time of conjugal rebuilding following a separation, “only children take up more space”, because they have a more fused relationship with the parent in question compared to when there are bothers and or sisters. The age of the children also affects the propensity of parents to rebuild a family. The older the children, the more difficult it is to harmonize memories and temporal horizons (Negroni, Vincent). Additionally, the age of the parents also affects the opportunities of having a first child (Vialle), or a new child in the case of a rebuilt family (Vincent). Age, at a given point in time, limits the wealth of possibilities, particularly in terms of maternity as well as being a powerful accelerator of family decisions when the amount of “remaining time” is reduced.

Acting on time

In his book The Textures of Time, Michael Flaherty (2011) identifies six ways that humans act upon time. They can develop efforts to modify the duration of the experience, change the frequency of activities, modify the order of temporal sequences, choose the most appropriate moment to act, control the allocation of time between uses, or take time [12] . In families, the many actors, goals and interactions involved open up vast areas of research on ways of playing with time. Here, we propose distinguishing between games played with time, which have a direct affect on daily life, and those which deal with the depth of time.

Temporal games and daily life

For families, the first way of making time is to organize it by creating spaces dedicated to specific activities that give a rhythm to the weekly, monthly and yearly routine (Zerubavel, 1981). In the families of the executives studied by Annabelle Ponsin, the managerial organization of time is “done in advance to avoid scheduling conflicts” between family members and outside actors. To create sustained family time, the parents make weekly collective moments sacred: a film on Friday night, sports on Saturday afternoon and the pool on Sunday morning. The regularity of contact can create an affective proximity similar to how ritualized moments of co-presence can encourage a rapprochement between a child and their step-parent (Vincent).

When they are separated, and even more so when they rebuild, families make time by building, with or without the help of the legal system, temporal frameworks that organize the flow of children between homes. In situations of shared residences, the sequencing of weeks might be inverted to allow for a coordination of the use of time with the new partner and their children (Hachet, 2014), or to preserve a temporal territory reserved for the parent-child relationship without the interference of new partners (Négroni).

In the studies presented here, all the stakeholders considered were looking to make the most of their time by controlling allocation or by acting on their own experience of duration. Students in training attempt to wrangle more free time (Ruiz) and families of overworked executives attempt to find time as a couple (Ponsin) like new partners in a situation of recomposition (Négroni, Vincent). In the high-pressure situations experienced by the sociologist babysitter, Anabelle Ponsin learned to slow down time by reducing the number of expectations made of her by the children she was looking after. According to Michael Flaherty, individuals find that time passes quickly, or they feel a “temporal compression” when activities are routine and the “density of information processing is low” (1999, p. 112). In other words, when the situation being experienced doesn’t require you to reflect on your actions. The inverse is also true, when required to wait for a moment of freedom to get to the local taxi shop so they can be in touch with their loved ones, time passes more slowly. It is marked by a “density of conscious and high-information processing” (Flaherty, 1999, p. 112).

In contrast to the most common representations of time, that it passes by in a uniform and infinite manner and that humans have no control over it, studies conducted in families show something different. Families, and their various members, play with time, by shaping it in a sense which allows them to fill different objectives. This possibility of shaping time, directing it or controlling it, slowing it down or speeding it up, confirms the image of a material time as proposed by Henri Hubert at the beginning of the twentieth century (1905). This playing with time, though it can have entertaining aspects (1988), should be thought of as a game that exists in a mechanism and which allows for flexible articulation between aspects depending on the different members of the family.

The time of daily life is not the only one families can act upon. As Charlotte Vampo writes, the female executives in Togo, are required to “juggle between the shorter time of daily life (hours, days, months) and the longer time of business strategy”.

Converting the depth of time

Converting the depth of time consists of choosing the best moment for a break-up (Bessin et al. , 2010) or a re-working of the family past, present and future into a new narrative form, (Ricoeur, 1991).

In the temporal duration of their biography, men and women act on their own story by eliciting, or eluding, the “right moment” to create, break-up or rebuild a family. This “optimal moment in time” (Bessin, 1998) sheds light on the family via kairos which engages the subjective judgement of individuals and families which is more or less closely tied to the objectivity of chronological time. The right moment for “wanting a family” [13] , or for having a child is, for women, situated at the intersection of availabilities which do not necessarily intersect before the period of fertility has come to term (Vialle). For women over forty without children, the possible time for motherhood which was formerly unthinkable, becomes counted time and then measured time and eventually a reduced space when it becomes “high time” to visit fertility clinics. At another stage over the course of their lives, the “right moment” to separate from a spouse can be pushed to the future while waiting for better access to professional and financial resources, or to wait for the children to grow older (Hachet, 2017). The “right moment” to rebuild family must express itself across the ages and availabilities of each person, knowing that with older children, many parents in new romantic partnerships choose not to cohabitate (Negroni).

These moments of opportunity opens a new projective aspect for the future. This reconstruction of the future, like that of the past punctuates the families in their overcoming of common events such as a birth, moving, the departure of adult children (Van de Velde, 2008), the dependence of ageing parents (Caradec, 2008), and less explicitly, the death of a parent (Blanpain, 2008) or a child (Jégat, 2015), illness and conjugal separation.

In rebuilt families, the stakeholders in question must find ways to “establish a connection between memorial and projected times” (Vincent) in a new family setting. The shared history that a parent has with their children must mesh with those of newcomers with a different history. For the step-parent, “the partner’s children” are not always easy to accept (Negroni), because they disturb the single parent equilibrium which follows a separation. Cognitive and emotional disturbances stem from the reunion of children with differing socializations which they retain, in part, due to the shifting of residences. The shared adaptation to the habits of others varies depending on the array of temporal organizations that occurred following the separation. In turn, this means that the experience of the new family is not the same for children, compared to their parents, whose main residence remains set in the new home, then for the children who live half their lives in a shared residence, or for those who only come for one weekend out of two. Justine Vincent suggests that a new project involving a child in rebuilt families, creates a new temporal projection that serves as the foundation for the family (Théry, 1998). When children are involved during a pregnancy, with either their mother or step-mother, they construct a common memory (Vincent) that is then included in the long story of brotherhood or sisterhood.


The articles presented in this edition fall into three categories and though they share different perspectives, they all respond to each other’s perspectives.

The first research group led by Jiri Zuzanek, Guillaume Ruiz, and Annabelle Ponsin, look at the temporal socialization of children as constructed in the family while remaining tied to other instances including school, the media, peers, training centres and babysitters who care for the children on a daily basis.

The second group are focused on the articulation of family and professional time. Charlotte Vampo look at how mothers articulate their professional and family lives in a country where tasks are shared between men and women in a very traditional manner The third group looks at the clash of temporalities that run through families at key times. Manon Vialle studies pregnant women at the end of their fertile period, Catherine Negroni looks at the effect that the presence of children has on rebuilding families and Justine Vincent delves into new births in rebuilt families.


Based on the work done by our contributing authors, we find the answer to the two questions that make up the title of this edition - How Does Time Build Families? and How Do Families Build Time?

Families are not free from the social dominance of the calendars and schedules that make up their different activities. They also experience the pendular movement of switching between residences, shared homes and work or school that engage each person in their different spheres over varying periods of time. Sundays still remain a key time for families as it is most often the time where the everyone can get together. This temporal framework affects families above and beyond the organization of daily life as it is that of institutions, schools, businesses and projected future horizons. School time, which is tied to the future of children, imposes a long-term temporality for an entire group. Work time, tied to adults, is stretched out over careers and can direct the entire family.

Neither can families escape the “passage of time”. Over time, bodies age, reducing the chances of bearing children. Parents, like their children, also age which transforms the family’s general economy. The preoccupation of families with young children are not the same as those with adolescents or those experiencing the departure of young adults. Temporal duration is built by habits and attachments within intact families as well as in those of separated parents looking to rebuild a family. Temporal duration can also be detached and separated when one spouse, or both, decide to end a conjugal relationship.

In particular, this edition delves into the manner in which families, and their members, work time in a manner that suits them. From this perspective, time is a resource among others that can be mobilized or manipulated and in current times, whose order can be manipulated to the advantage of women who are generally in charge of domestic activities and for care which once again signals the importance of inertia in the transformation of gender regimens. Individuals, like families, can act on this “time-matter” on a daily basis as well as in the long-term. In terms of daily life, time can be accelerated or slowed through the choice of rhythm and tempo when organizing the sequences of activities. Modifying the allocation of time between varying uses can be useful in freeing the time required for family and personal life. Families can strategically develop temporal routines that shape children in the adoption of a relationship with time and of organizational skills which will be valuable in their eventual professional fields. Waiting time can also be reduced or increased when looking for reasons to live together, or for breaking up, for meeting the “other partner’s” children or for leaving the home indefinitely. The principal agency over time, which is distributed unequally within families as well as with its members, offers the possibility of “choosing the right moment” to act.

The work that families make of time essentially consists of its organization, rupture and reorganization. The narrative coherence between the past, present and future changes over time. Each new birth builds a new starting point for the present family. Additionally, the narrative identity of a couple without children is not the same as a couple with children, or when the said children grow up or when they leave home. In cases of conjugal separation, this affects the people concerned with rebuilding the time of distinct families, and those joining together to create a new, joint family history.

In all these cases, time is an actor that is wholly separate from family lives.