Dissertation Abstracts

Intergenerational negotiations of independent living in working class contexts

Author: Mattioli, Elena , elena.mattioli@hotmail.it
Department: Department of Sociology and Business Law
University: University of Bologna, Italy
Supervisor: prof. Paolo Zurla
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: italian

Keywords: youth , housing pathways , intersectionality , social class
Areas of Research: Youth , Biography and Society , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


This doctoral thesis offers an intersectional analysis of the housing pathways of working class young people in Bologna, and of the role played by their family in the transition towards independent living, within a broader reflection on processes of reproduction and intergenerational transmission of social inequalities. The first part sets out the national and international sociological debate on youth’ social and housing inequalities, as well as the debate on social class. In the second part, the focus is on the empirical research. In particular, questions are raised on how families belonging to a particular social class, as understood in Bourdieu’s terms, negotiate and support the transition to independent living of their adult-children. The empirical study consists of a retrospective longitudinal qualitative research, carried out in Bologna in 2013-2014 on a sample of working-class families. Through life stories, young-adults and their parents were asked to reconstruct their biographies and housing experiences. The research highlights the emergence of specific and creative "micro-economic family systems". Through analysis on the collected materials, it was possible to identify several forms of parental support in young-adults’ pathways towards independent living, embedded in a wider system of intergenerational support, which continues even after leaving the family nest and confirms once again the strong ties characterizing Italian families. In the study, particular attention is given also to logics of legitimacy of parental support, underlying working class families' decisions of helping their adult-children. Finally, by comparing young adults’ idea of independence with that of their parents, the research reveals an apparent contradiction between representations of autonomy and independent living and everyday life practices, which is being solved by negotiating, between the two generations taken in exam, the meaning of independence itself.

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