The Jurisprudence of Extended Families and Intergenerational Solidarity

Time: Apr 30, 2012
Location: Doha - Qatar

Explored the jurisprudential principles that underlie the legal recognition of and substantive laws regulating extended family relations, and the implications of such laws and social phenomena for intergenerational solidarity.

This event was hosted by DIIFSD and the International Academy for the Study of the Jurisprudence of the Family on April 30-May 1 2012 in Doha, Qatar. The symposium was also co-sponsored by the Marriage and Family Law Research Project at the Brigham Young University Law School.
The symposium on ‘The Jurisprudence of Extended Families, Extending Families, and Intergenerational Solidarity’, brought together a group of leading scholars of family law and legal theory from many different regions, representing several traditions of thought and belief, to explore the principles that underlie family relationships which extend beyond the ‘nuclear’ unit of parents and their children, reaching out to encompass grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and even, in many cultures’ understandings, remote ancestors. Special attention was devoted to the place of children within the extended family. Some attention was given to adoption, and to legal initiatives looking towards the extension of familial status to nontraditional bonds.

The symposium concerned subjects of the most profound scholarly, social, and practical interest. It offered opportunities for reflection and discussion in the company of thoughtful and distinguished thinkers from a variety of cultures, disciplines, and expertise. It also anticipated that scholarly works of permanent importance will emerge out of these discussions.
Relevant topics in this symposium concerned financial, relational, public policy, historical, theoretical, sociological and social aspects of these and related developments, proposals, and relevant major contemporary issues that they raise. Comparative perspectives about the legal recognition and regulation of those relationships in various cultures, communities, and legal systems are especially relevant.
The International Academy for Study of the Jurisprudence of the Family founded The International Journal of the Jurisprudence of the Family (the ‘IJJF’). The aim of this journal is to foster the scholarly discussion of the foundations of family life and family law. It aims to contribute to an appreciation of the contributions made by families to the flourishing of individuals and of societies. It explores the meaning of provisions which protect the family, such as the statement in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the family is the “natural and fundamental group unit of society.” It seeks to promote a deeper understanding of the principles upon which families are based and of the standards of law and the governmental policies through which family life can be recognized and promoted. The IJJF has a distinguished governing body, based in several countries; as listed in the attached prospectus.
The first volume of the IJJF has been published, and is available in the Journal’s library of HeinOnLine

Volume One also has just been published in hard copy by William S Hein & Company.

Participants include leading academics from universities and scholarly institutes in many parts of the world. These scholars will be invited to prepare papers on fundamental questions relating to the jurisprudence of extended and extending families, and to present these papers as keynote or plenary presentations.

Papers presented at the symposium will be considered for publication in the International Journal of the Jurisprudence of the Family in both a printed volume and in the ‘Journals’ online database of HeinOnline.

The focus of the symposium reflects fundamental principles underlying the Doha Declaration (Doha International Conference for the Family 2004). That Declaration provides:

We further emphasize that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children from infancy to adolescence. For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding. All institutions of society should respect and support the efforts of parents to nurture and care for children in a family environment. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children and the liberty to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

Those statements reflect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and are mirrored in provisions of many national constitutions.

These principles underscore the importance of the entire family, and suggest the importance of the extended family in contributing to the well-being of children. The proposed symposium will thoroughly explore this wider dimension of family. Among the matters to be considered are the principles which should guide grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in supporting and nurturing children; the principles which should guide the relationship between parents and other members of the extended family; and the principles which should guide society and the law in recognizing, supporting or regulating such wider family relationships. Throughout, effects on the well-being of children will be emphasized, and suggestions for improving family law in these matters will be examined. The organizers hope that the question of how the law interacts with culture will also receive attention.

Basic foundational principles (matters of “jurisprudence”) in this area deserve special attention owing to the instability of the marital bond in many societies and the consequent instability of the bond between parents and children. The availability of members of the extended family to assist in instances of parenting crisis is therefore of special importance. Legal attempts to redefine the concept of “parent” also raise important issues, and will be considered at the symposium.

The Doha Declaration calls for action to “[e]valuate and reassess government policies to ensure that the inherent dignity of human beings is recognized and protected throughout all states of life,” to “[e]valuate and reassess government population policies, particularly in countries with below replacement birth rates,” to “[t]ake effective measures to support the family in times of peace and war;” and to “[t]ake effective measures to strengthen the stability of marriage . . . .”. To accomplish these goals, it is critical to lay a strong intellectual foundation by clarifying and articulating the principles of healthy, happy, and successful family relations and the standards which should guide the law and government policy in regards to the recognition and protection of the extended family. These will be the projects pursued through the symposium.

The Report of the Secretary General (United Nations Economic and Social Council) of 29 November 2010 (A/66/62–E/2011/4) identifies “intergenerational solidarity” as one of the issues to be highlighted in and in preparation for the 2014 International Year of the Family. Id. at IIB It notes that:

23. Intergenerational solidarity mostly relates to reciprocal care, support, and exchange of material and non-material resources between family members, typically younger and older generations. The demographic transition, changes in family structures, and living arrangements as well as migration often negatively impact intergenerational relations and solidarity.

24. Multigenerational families, with strong ties based on intergenerational support and reliance, although still common in many parts of the world, are rapidly declining in numbers…
The proposed Symposium is designed to focus on “intergenerational solidarity,” “reciprocal care, support and exchange of resources,” “demographic transition,” “changes in family structure”, and “multigenerational families.” Id. 23. It will consider the integration of the benefits of “traditional family” with extended family relationships (especially as regards the socialization and education of children and care for dependents) and problems presented by “social and economic changes” and by new and “diverse” family and relational structures. Id. at 24-26.

Finally, the symposium theme we propose is consistent with two paragraphs of policy insight in the Secretary General’s report:
9. Notwithstanding national efforts, at the international level the family is appreciated but not prioritized in development efforts. The very contribution of families to the achievement of development goals continues to be largely overlooked, while there seems to be a consensus on the fact that, so far, the stability and cohesiveness of communities and societies largely rest on the strength of the family.

10. In effect, the very achievement of development goals depends on how well families are empowered to contribute to the achievement of those goals. Thus, policies focusing on improving the well-being of families are certain to benefit development. Such policies should not only help families to cope with their numerous responsibilities and shelter them from vulnerability; they should aim at supporting a variety of family functions rather than replacing them and treating families as collections of individuals, who independently need support.

Background Material

Bios and Abstract

The views expressed in these papers or presentations are the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Doha International Family Institute


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