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Changing Patterns of Kinship: Cohabitation, Patriarchy and Social Policy in Chile

  • ALEJANDRA RAMM
Abstract

Cohabitation is a distinctive feature of low-income groups in Latin America. In the past, it has been linked to colonial legacies including notions of familial honour, poverty, and a kinship system focused on blood ties. By contrast, some scholars consider rising levels of cohabitation in the present day to be an effect of modernisation, through increased gender equality. The present research, based on life histories of young, poor, urban co-habitees in Chile, aims to show that rising cohabitation is linked to targeted social policies and also to declining patriarchy, which is distinct from gender equality.

La convivencia es una característica distintiva de los grupos de bajos ingresos en América Latina. En el pasado la convivencia ha sido relacionada con una herencia colonial –incluyendo asuntos de honor familiar– con pobreza y con un sistema de parentesco centrado en lazos de sangre. Por el contrario, algunos estudiosos consideran recientes incrementos en los niveles de convivencia como un efecto del proceso de modernización, mediante una creciente igualdad de género. Esta investigación, basada en historias de vida de convivientes jóvenes, pobres y residentes en zonas urbanas de Chile, busca mostrar que el actual crecimiento de la convivencia se asocia con políticas públicas focalizadas y con un debilitamiento del patriarcado, y que esto último es diferente de la igualdad de género.

A coabitação é um traço distintivo de grupos de baixa renda na América Latina. No passado, relacionou-se a coabitação a um legado colonial que incluía noções de honra familiar, pobreza e um sistema de parentesco focado em laços de sangue. Em contraste, alguns estudiosos consideram o aumento atual da coabitação um efeito da modernização, através do aumento da igualdade de gênero. Esta pesquisa, baseada nas histórias de vida de conviventes jovens, pobres, urbanas no Chile, tem como objetivo demonstrar que o crescimento da coabitação está relacionado a políticas sociais direcionadas e também ao declínio do patriarcalismo, o que é distinto de igualdade de gênero.

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1 Esteve, Albert, Lesthaeghe, Ron and López-Gay, Antonio, ‘The Latin American Cohabitation Boom, 1970–2007’, Population and Development Review, 38: 1 (2012), pp. 5581 , p. 55.

2 Jorge Rodríguez Vignoli, ‘Unión y cohabitación en América Latina: ¿modernidad, exclusión, diversidad?’, in Serie Población y Desarrollo, vol. 57 (Santiago de Chile: CELADE, 2005).

3 CRLP, Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives – Latin America and the Caribbean (New York: CRLP, 1997).

4 Martín, Teresa Castro, ‘Consensual Unions in Latin America: Persistence of a Dual Nuptiality System’, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 33: 1 (2002), pp. 3555 ; Raymond T. Smith, ‘Hierarchy and the Dual Marriage System in West Indian Society’, in The Matrifocal Family: Power, Pluralism, and Politics (New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 59–80; Göran Therborn, Between Sex and Power: Family in the World, 1900–2000 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004).

5 Castro Martín, ‘Consensual Unions in Latin America’, pp. 35–55; Esteve, Lesthaeghe and López-Gay, ‘The Latin American Cohabitation Boom’, pp. 55–81; Esteve, Albert, McCaa, Robert and López, Luis Ángel, ‘The Educational Homogamy Gap between Married and Cohabiting Couples in Latin America’, Population Research and Policy Review, 32 (2013), pp. 81102 ; Rodríguez Vignoli, ‘Unión y cohabitación en América Latina’.

6 Castro Martín, ‘Consensual Unions in Latin America’; Rodríguez Vignoli, ‘Unión y cohabitación en América Latina’, pp. 35–55.

7 Castro Martín, ‘Consensual Unions in Latin America’, pp. 35–55; Smith, ‘Hierarchy and the Dual Marriage System in West Indian Society’, pp. 59–80; Therborn, Between Sex and Power.

8 Castro Martín, ‘Consensual Unions in Latin America’, pp. 35–55.

9 M. Soledad Herrera and Eduardo Valenzuela, ‘Matrimonios, separaciones y convivencias’, in J. Samuel Valenzuela, Eugenio Tironi and Timothy R. Scully C.S.C. (eds.), El eslabón perdido: familia, modernización y bienestar en Chile (Santiago de Chile: Taurus, 2006), pp. 225–63.

10 Rodríguez Vignoli, ‘Unión y cohabitación en América Latina’.

11 Mideplan, Familia. Encuesta Casen 2009 (Santiago de Chile: Mideplan, 2009).

12 Larrañaga, Osvaldo and Herrera, Rodrigo, ‘Los recientes cambios en la desigualdad y la pobreza en Chile’, Estudios Públicos, 109 (2008), pp. 149–86.

13 Clarisa Hardy, Estratificación social en América Latina: retos de cohesión social (Santiago de Chile: Lom, 2014); PNUD, Desarrollo humano en Chile. Género: los desafíos de la igualdad (Santiago de Chile: PNUD, 2010).

14 Elder, Glen, ‘Time, Human Agency, and Social Change: Perspectives on the Life Course’, Social Psychology Quarterly, 57: 1 (1994), pp. 415 ; Hareven, Tamara, ‘What Difference Does It Make?’, Social Science History, 20: 3 (1996), pp. 317–44.

15 Recruitment of participants, particularly men, was problematic. Two main recruitment strategies were adopted. The first was to contact local institutions, such as town councils, doctors' surgeries, charities and government social programmes. The informal nature of cohabitation however rendered formal institutions relatively unhelpful. A second strategy, which proved more effective, was reliance on informal networks and personal contacts (friends and relatives). I used my own and my research assistant's social networks to identify people who met the selection criteria. Participants then helped recruit additional interviewees.

16 ‘Family’ is taken here to refer to ‘an intimate domestic group made up of people related to one another by bonds of blood, sexual union or legal ties’. ‘Household’ is defined as ‘a group of persons sharing a home or living space who […] regularly take meals together’ (see John Scott and Gordon Marshall (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd revised ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). This research focuses on young people's own families, that is, on young cohabiting partners and their offspring. Such families tend to move around and live with different relatives, in extended households. The attention to families rather than households as the unit of analysis is in accordance with the relevance of family bonds as a hallmark of family systems across Latin America and the Caribbean (see David Lehmann, ‘Female-Headed Households in Latin America and the Caribbean: Problems of Analysis and Conceptualization’, in Pour l'histoire du Brésil – hommage à Katia de Queiros Mattoso (Paris: Editions l'Harmattan, 2000), pp 113–49.

17 Sylvia Chant has pioneered this branch of research, see for example: Sylvia Chant, Women-Headed Households: Diversity and Dynamics in the Developing World (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997); Sylvia Chant (ed.), The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2010).

18 Larissa Adler Lomnitz, Networks and Marginality: Life in a Mexican Shantytown (New York: Academic Press, 1977); Mercedes González de la Rocha, The Resources of Poverty: Women and Survival in a Mexican City (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994); Chant, Women-Headed Households; Dagmar Raczynski and Claudia Serrano, Vivir la pobreza: testimonios de mujeres (Santiago de Chile: Cieplan, 1985).

19 Smith, ‘Hierarchy and the Dual Marriage System in West Indian Society’, pp. 59–80; Therborn, Between Sex and Power.

20 Therborn, Between Sex and Power, p. 159.

21 See for example the differing interpretations offered by Seed and by Gutiérrez of the roles of Church and parental authority in enforcing marriage in colonial Mexico. Ramón A. Gutiérrez, ‘From Honor to Love: Transformations of the Meaning of Sexuality in Colonial New Mexico’, in Raymond T. Smith (ed.), Kinship Ideology and Practice in Latin America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), pp. 237–63; Patricia Seed, To Love, Honor, and Obey in Colonial Mexico: Conflicts over Marriage Choice, 1574–1821 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988).

22 Lara Putnam, Sarah C. Chambers and Sueann Caulfield, ‘Introduction’, in Sueann Caulfield, Sarah. C. Chambers and Lara Putnam (eds.), Honor, Status, and Law in Modern Latin America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), pp. 1–24, p. 3.

23 Gutiérrez, ‘From Honor to Love’, p. 239.

24 Ibid ., pp. 237–63.

25 Putnam, Chambers and Caulfield, ‘Introduction’, p. 16.

26 Chant, Women-Headed Households, p. 135.

27 Rosario Montoya, ‘Women's Sexuality, Knowledge, and Agency in Rural Nicaragua’, in Rosario Montoya, Lessie Jo Frazier and Janise Hurtig (eds.), Gender's Place: Feminist Anthropologies of Latin America (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 65–88.

28 Raczynski and Serrano, Vivir la pobreza.

29 Nara Milanich, Children of Fate: Childhood, Class, and the State in Chile, 1850–1930 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009); Macarena Ponce de León, Francisca Rengifo and Sol Serrano, ‘La “Pequeña República”. La familia en la formación del estado nacional, 1850–1929’, in Valenzuela, Tironi and Scully (eds.), El eslabón perdido, pp. 43–92.

30 Robert McCaa, Marriage and Fertility in Chile: Demographic Turning Points in the Petorca Valley, 1840–1976 (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1983).

31 Clara Han, Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012), p. 44.

32 Sueann Caulfield, ‘The Changing Politics of Freedom and Virginity in Rio de Janeiro, 1920–1940’, in Caulfield, Chambers and Putnam (eds.), Honor, Status, and Law in Modern Latin America, pp. 223–45.

33 Chant, Women-Headed Households; Claudia Fonseca, ‘Spouses, Siblings and Sex-Linked Bonding: A Look at Kinship Organization in a Brazilian Slum’, in Elizabeth Jelin (ed.), Family, Household and Gender Relations in Latin America (London: Kegan Paul, 1991), pp. 133–60; Angelina Pollak-Eltz, ‘The Family in Venezuela’, in Man Singh Das and Clinton J. Jesser (eds.), The Family in Latin America (New Delhi: Vikas, 1980), pp. 12–45.

34 Therborn, Between Sex and Power, p. 218.

35 Claudia Fonseca, ‘Spouses, Siblings and Sex-Linked Bonding’, pp. 133–60; Adler Lomnitz, Networks and Marginality; Raymond T. Smith, ‘The Matrifocal Family’, in The Matrifocal Family: Power, Pluralism, and Politics (New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 39–57.

36 Alejandra Ramm, ‘Unmarried Cohabitation among Deprived Families in Chile’, unpubl. PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2013.

37 Salinas, Viviana, ‘Socioeconomic Differences According to Family Arrangements in Chile’, Population Research Policy Review, 30 (2011), pp. 677–99.

38 Larrañaga, ‘Comportamientos reproductivos y fertilidad’, in Valenzuela, Tironi and Scully (eds.), El eslabón perdido, pp. 137–76, fn. 22.

39 Carmen Pimentel Sevilla, Vidas marginales (Santiago de Chile: Metales Pesados, 2013), p. 77.

40 Raczynski and Serrano, Vivir la pobreza, p. 86.

41 Lesthaeghe, Ron, ‘The “Second Demographic Transition”: A Conceptual Map for the Understanding of Late Modern Demographic Developments in Fertility and Family Formation’, Historical Social Research, 36: 2 (2011), pp. 179218 .

42 Man Singh Das, ‘Introduction to Latin American Family and Society’, in Das and Jesser (eds.), The Family in Latin America, pp. 1–11.

43 Lesthaeghe, ‘The “Second Demographic Transition”’, Table 1.

44 Gino Germani, Política y sociedad en una época de transición: de la sociedad tradicional a la sociedad de masas (Buenos Aires: Paidós, 1971), pp. 363–4.

45 Lesthaeghe ‘The “Second Demographic Transition”’, pp. 179–218.

46 Esteve, Lesthaeghe and López-Gay, ‘The Latin American Cohabitation Boom’, pp. 55–81.

47 Ibid, p. 75.

48 Fonseca, ‘Spouses, Siblings and Sex-Linked Bonding’, pp. 133–60; Oscar Lewis, La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty (London: Panther, 1968); Kristi Anne Stølen, ‘The Power of Gender Discourses in a Multi-Ethnic Community in Rural Argentina’, in Marit Melhuus and Kristi Anne Stølen (eds.), Machos, Mistresses, Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery (London: Verso, 1996), pp. 159–83.

49 However, other research contests the notion that cohabitation in Latin America is related to increased gender equality. Some scholars argue that cohabitation favours an exacerbated, ‘macho’, masculinity, as it diminishes parental responsibilities (see Rodríguez Vignoli, ‘Unión y cohabitación en América Latina’).

50 Castro Martín, ‘Consensual Unions in Latin America’, pp. 35–55; Osvaldo Larrañaga, ‘Comportamientos reproductivos y fertilidad’, pp. 137–76; Rodríguez Vignoli, ‘Unión y cohabitación en América Latina’; Therborn, Between Sex and Power.

51 Larrañaga, ‘Comportamientos reproductivos y fertilidad’, pp. 137–76.

52 Dagmar Raczynski, ‘Radiografía de la familia pobre’, in Valenzuela, Tironi and Scully (eds.), El eslabón perdido, pp. 289–330.

53 Larrañaga and Herrera, ‘Los recientes cambios en la desigualdad y la pobreza en Chile’, pp. 149–86.

54 Therborn, Between Sex and Power.

55 Verónica Schiappacasse, Paulina Vidal, Lidia Casas, Claudia Dides and Soledad Díaz, ‘Chile: situación de la salud y de los derechos sexuales y reproductivos’ (Santiago de Chile: SERNAM, 2003).

56 Interviewee names are pseudonyms.

57 Mideplan, Situación ocupacional, previsional e ingresos del trabajo. Encuesta Casen 2009 (Santiago de Chile: Mideplan, 2009).

58 María Elena Arzola and Rodrigo Castro, ‘Determinantes de la movilidad de la pobreza en Chile (1996–2006)’, En Foco 140 (Santiago de Chile: Instituto de Políticas Públicas Expansiva UDP, 2009); Larrañaga and Herrera, ‘Los recientes cambios en la desigualdad y la pobreza en Chile’, pp. 149–86; and Raczynski, ‘Radiografía de la familia pobre’, pp. 289–330.

59 Larrañaga, ‘Comportamientos reproductivos y fertilidad’, pp. 137–76.

60 Research on poor families elsewhere in Latin America has shown a similar pattern, with young families tending to live with their parents until they become economically independent.

61 Chant, Women-Headed Households, p. 252.

62 PNUD, ‘Desarrollo humano en Chile. Género’.

63 Chant, Women-Headed Households; Fonseca, ‘Spouses, Siblings and Sex-Linked Bonding’, pp. 3133–160; Montoya, ‘Women's Sexuality, Knowledge, and Agency in Rural Nicaragua’, pp. 65–88; Pollak-Eltz, ‘The Family in Venezuela’, pp. 12–45.

64 I thank an anonymous reviewer of a first draft of this article for this lucid insight.

65 Asunción Lavrin, Mujeres, feminismo y cambio social en Argentina, Chile y Uruguay 1890–1940, translated edition (Santiago de Chile: Centro de Investigaciones Barros Arana, 2005); Maxine Molyneux, ‘Change and Continuity in Social Protection in Latin America: Mothers at the Service of the State?’, Gender and Development Programme Paper (Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 2007); Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney, The Politics of Motherhood: Maternity and Women's Rights in Twentieth-Century Chile (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009); Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, Gendered Compromises: Political Cultures and the State in Chile, 1920–1950 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000).

66 Silvia Borzutzky, Vital Connections: Politics, Social Security, and Inequality in Chile (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002); Stephan Haggard and Robert R. Kaufman, Development, Democracy, and Welfare States: Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008); Maxine Molyneux, ‘Change and Continuity in Social Protection in Latin America’.

67 J. Samuel Valenzuela, ‘Diseños dispares, resultados diferentes y convergencias tardías: las instituciones de bienestar social en Chile y Suecia’, in Valenzuela, Tironi and Scully (eds.), El eslabón perdido, pp. 359–430; Pilar Vergara, Políticas hacia la extrema pobreza en Chile 1973–1988 (Santiago de Chile: FLACSO, 1990).

68 Vergara, Políticas hacia la extrema pobreza en Chile.

69 Mariana Schkolnik, ‘Políticas sociales para grupos de riesgo:un nuevo enfoque’, in Crisóstomo Pizarro, Dagmar Raczynski and Joaquín Vial (eds.), Políticas económicas y sociales en el Chile democrático (Santiago de Chile: CIEPLAN-UNICEF, 1995), pp. 257–82.

70 Mideplan, ‘Informe final: Comité de Expertos: Ficha de Protección Social’ (Santiago de Chile: Mideplan, 2010).

71 Ibid .

72 Patricio Meller, Sergio Lehmann and Rodrigo Cifuentes, ‘Los gobiernos de Aylwin y Pinochet: comparación de indicadores económicos y sociales’, Apuntes CIEPLAN (Santiago de Chile: CIEPLAN, 1993).

73 Schkolnik, ‘Políticas sociales para grupos de riesgo’, pp. 257–82.

74 Mideplan, ‘Vivienda. Casen 2006’ (Santiago de Chile: Mideplan, 2006).

75 Mideplan, ‘Estadísticas Salud. Encuesta Casen 2009’, available at www.mideplan.gob.cl.

* I would like to thank the young women and men from the municipalities of La Pintana and Cerro Navia who participated in this research. Martin Richards provided generous feedback on earlier drafts of this article. Thanks also to my colleague Florencia Herrera, and to Cath Collins for her thorough editing, and to David Lehmann. I am particularly grateful to Jackie Scott and Maxine Molyneux, who encouraged me, at different times and in different ways, to carry on writing.

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Journal of Latin American Studies
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