The erosion of the traditional, male breadwinner model family – both normatively and in social reality – has opened up the possibility of more choice in terms of both partnering and the nature of the contributions that men and women make to households, but processes of ‘individualisation’ have also given rise to greater uncertainty.
We know relatively little about how people perceive their options for partnering, re-production and employment at the level of the household, and in particular what they are prepared to ‘take a chance on’, and what kind of security they seek. Yet this is important for policy purposes, particularly in view of the rapid pace of family and labour market change.
This article first addresses the kind of considerations that are necessary for a better understanding of the nature of risks and uncertainty arising from processes of individualisation. The substantive sections that follow draw on in-depth interviews with a heterogeneous sample of 21 cohabiting and married men and women, drawn from an Omnibus representative sample survey. The extent to which individuals regard partnering and childbearing as risks, and how they seek to manage them are explored and the implications for policy assessed.