Diversity is a lifeline for humanity and for growing as a person, and it is present in each individual and family. Families are multiform by nature, but there is also diversity regarding what matters are considered significant in family relationships and what kind of ideals are adhered to. 

According to family researchers, labelling a family or a family member as different may result in them becoming underprivileged. Negative labelling is a process in which stereotypical thinking creates dismissive emotional reactions. In turn, they feed discriminatory behaviour in the community.  

Because of the stigma put on an individual, family or family form, diversity may be seen as being different, atypical and, thus, underappreciated. Diversity is produced socially through this mechanism, and families must fight that the label would not lead to withdrawal, isolation and feelings of guilt. Instead of labelling, attention should be paid to issues related to equality, appreciation and the wellbeing and participation of families.  

How the difficulties related to families’ life situations are regarded and discussed is important. The essential ability of families to cope is primarily the ability of communities to find solutions to hurtful life situations. 

The role of communities is crucial for supporting the wellbeing of families. Communities should not accept stereotypical conceptions, attitudes and discrimination. Science has the responsibility to produce information that makes it possible to remove stereotypes and question prejudices. When producing scientific data in family research, we want to commit to starting points and perspectives that honour and respect diversity. 

Eija Sevon and Anna Rönkä 

This text is based on the speeches of Professor Ana Berástegui and Professor Michael Ungari at the ESFR congress, “Families through the lens of diversity” (5–8 September Porto, Portugal).  More than 20 researchers and doctoral students in education, social sciences and psychology from the University of Jyväskylä participated in the congress. 

Get latest articles from The University of Jyväskylä’s stakeholder magazine into your email. You can cancel your subscription at any time.