Despite all recent changes in families, and maybe because of them, the birth of a child remains an event of intense expectation, investment, and symbolic meaning. In this chapter, we offer a simultaneously new, innovative, and contemporary perspective on the social construction of the family through the lens of family rituals, specifically directed to the postnatal hospital visit following the birth of a child. The raw data were collected through episodic interviews carried out to Portuguese middle-class men and women. A qualitative content analysis of their detailed descriptions was then conducted making use of software NVivo (©QSR International). The sociological perspective we used allows us to conclude that the moment of the birth of a child is a quintessential time–space for the social construction of the family. Around the baby, for the task of rocking the cradle, men and women join and take on their old and new roles. While the postnatal hospital visit allows the presentation of the newborn family member for the extended family and friends, it strongly underlies the strategies and senses of belonging to one particular family, thereby serving the purpose of its social construction.
This text results from a broader sociological study developed in the context of a doctoral-level program at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Portugal), with the financial support of FCT – the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Ref. SFRH/BD/38679/2007). I wish to thank to all the informants who were interviewed for this study and gratefully acknowledge Ana Nunes de Almeida (ICS-UL), who wisely supervised the work. I would also like to thank Ramon Sarró for his most inspiring and sensitizing lectures during “Symbolism and Ritual,” a semester MSc course in Social and Cultural Anthropology which I attended between November 2006 and February 2007 at ICS-UL. Finally, I am equally grateful to the colleagues from the permanent research seminar “The Family as an Object of Research: Issues and Problems” functioning at ICS-UL since 2005, who read and commented on earlier drafts of this work. During the time when this thesis was written, the seminar comprised, besides Ana Nunes de Almeida (Coord.), Alexandra G., Alexandra R., Cláudia C. C., Fátima F., Ludmila F., Teresa L. M., Verónica P., and, more recently, Luena M., Ana G., and Filipa C.
Costa, R.P. (2013), "The hands that (yet) rock the cradle: Unveiling the social construction of the family through the contemporary birthing ritual", Visions of the 21st Century Family: Transforming Structures and Identities (Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, Vol. 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 105-131. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1530-3535(2013)0000007007Download as .RIS
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