More-Than-Two-Parent Families

Displaying Legitimate Parenthood in Swedish Media

  • Catrine Andersson
  • Charlotta Carlström
Keywords: family, parenthood, polyamory, non-monogamy, legitimacy


Norms concerning family formation are generally based on ideals of coupled love and the two-parent-family, however, family practices frequently go beyond these norms. Families consisting of more than two parents that are co-parenting have only been studied to a small extent. Analysing Swedish newspaper and magazine articles on more-than-two-parent families between 1992 and 2016 we ask: How are more-than-two-parent families displayed in Swedish media stories? Are they portrayed as legitimate families, and if so, how is this legitimacy discursively constructed? What role does recognition play in the media stories and how is it negotiated in the narratives? We use the concepts display (Finch 2007) and recognition/redistribution (Fraser 1998; 2003) in exploring the significance that recognition and legitimacy have for the depiction of families with more than two parents in the media material. The display of more-than-two-parent families in the Swedish media stories analysed is generally characterised by repertoires of modern family life, of love and intimacy and responsible and successful parenting. These repertoires are used to display the families as normal, modern, and legitimate. In addition to the repertoires mentioned, there are repertoires of importance of geographical location, of strategies and of critique of current legislation that further emphasise the legitimacy of the more-than-two-parent families in contrast to an outdated legislation that forces these legitimate families to strategise their intimate relationships. Despite several of the people interviewed being described as polyamorous or gay/lesbian, there are no tendencies in the empirical material to motivate the need for rights based on an essentialised polyamorous identity; rather, the focus is on the fact that it is the practical care relations that need to be protected.


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How to Cite
Andersson, C., & Carlström, C. (2020). More-Than-Two-Parent Families: Displaying Legitimate Parenthood in Swedish Media. Lambda Nordica, 24(2-3), 81-103.