Solitary Spaces? Single People’s Networks of Care in Contemporary Britain

Primary Investigator: Eleanor Wilkinson (University of Leeds)

This research questions the linking of legal rights and benefits to intimate attachments, and asks what could be done to better support those who live outside of traditional family forms. The home is often assumed to be the ‘correct’ space for caring, with childcare and care for the elderly best provided in the context of the (nuclear) family household. However, the recent recognition of same-sex partnerships and adoption in certain countries suggests the boundaries of care are beginning to shift.

This research asks if there is further scope to extend the boundaries of care in order to recognise relationships that are not romantic, sexual or familial. The project, based in the UK, focuses upon people who identify as ‘single by choice’, who have no dependents and who live either in single-occupancy households or communally. The project will engage with those entering later life, typically transitioning from paid employment to retirement. It will identify the networks of care that such people have created, and the pressures faced when living outside of the romantic/familial form.