Public and private families: a comparative thematic analysis of the intersections of social norms and scrutiny
Riggs, Damien Wayne
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Despite the increased diversification of Australian families, the nuclear family formed through reproductive heterosex continues to be treated as the norm. This paper argues that this norm impacts negatively upon families formed in other ways, by exposing them to increased scrutiny. Drawing on interviews with 60 participants from four cohorts (families formed through reproductive heterosex, intercountry adoption, long-term foster care, or surrogacy), a comparative thematic analysis is presented in which two key themes are elaborated: (1) the impact of government policies and practices, and (2) the degree to which families are treated as public property. Findings suggest that families formed through reproductive heterosex were the least regulated and scrutinised; families formed through either adoption or surrogacy received a considerable degree of regulation and scrutiny; and foster families were the most scrutinised and negatively impacted by government policies. The paper concludes by considering what is required to engender more inclusive and supportive responses to all families.