Do as I say, not as I do: The affective space of family life and the generational transmission of drinking cultures


In the context of new modernity, intimacy, theorized in terms of families as the embodied practices which mediate relationships between parents and children across the life course, has been reconceptualized. As part of wider transformations in social relations wrought by the ideological extension of neoliberalism into the realm of social and affective relationships, the language and logic of the market in terms of the importance of individual autonomy and choice have infiltrated family practices, shifting many of the responsibilities and risks for maximizing the life chances of children from governments to families. This principle of parental responsibility for children’s present and future well-being means that anxiety about doing the ‘right thing’ is at the centre of contemporary experiences of intimate family relationships. Yet how such attitudes are translated into everyday practices of knowing, loving, and caring for each other by parents and children within the affective space of the home has been relatively underrepresented in geographers’ thinking about families. Drawing on a survey of 2089 parents/carers and case-study research with ten families with children aged 5 – 12 years old, the paper begins with an exploraiton of parents’ perceptions of when, how, and where children ought to be introduced to alcohol (extrafamilial norms). It then focuses on lived realities by examining what practices parents model to their children through everyday family life. The conclusion reflects on how the social distance between adults and children is being reduced and the implications of the contemporary realities of everyday familial intimacy for wider processes of demoralization. Keywords: family, children, alcohol, generation, parenting

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