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Portrait Sara Eldén. Photo: Emma Lord.

Sara Eldén

Associate Professor | Director of Research Studies | Senior Lecturer

Portrait Sara Eldén. Photo: Emma Lord.

Relationality, (in)dependence, and care in “the most individualised country in the world” : Rethinking family relationships in Sweden


  • Sara Eldén

Summary, in English

This paper investigates the significance of care between generations in Sweden. This is done towards the background of a strong narrative in both popular and sociological discourses depicting the Nordic countries in general, and Sweden in particular, as the ‘most individualized’ society in the world, where the expansive welfare state is seen as having taken over care responsibilities, leading to weakening intergenerational ties (Bauman 2013; Berggren & Trägårdh 2022). Indeed, there are numerous empirical proofs of the political aims striving towards creating the possibility of independence for individuals, not least in relation to generational relationships. However, the character of this ‘independence’ needs to be critically scrutinized. The paper departs in our study of care biographies, capturing experiences of care in the everyday, of three generations of Swedes – women and men born in the 1940-50s, in the 1960-70s, and girls and boys born in the 2000s. We analyse their narratives through the theoretic lenses of personal life (Smart 2007, 2009; May & Nordqvist 2019) and relationality (Mason 2004; Twamley et al. 2021:4; May 2015; Nilsen 2021), perspectives that places the reflexive social self at the centre and enables the capturing of the multi-dimensionality of relationships. We show how the expansion of the welfare state from the mid-2000s until today have transformed care doings between generations in ways that have enabled simultaneously independence but also new forms of ‘dependence’, less informed by economic necessity but often just as ‘strong’ or demanding as economic ties – sometimes constraining, sometimes positively affirming – as people continue to be embedded in webs of relationships to kin (Smart 2007:23).


  • Sociology
  • Department of Sociology

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper: abstract


  • Sociology

Conference name

Relationality in everyday personal life

Conference date

2023-08-17 - 2023-08-18

Conference place

Lund, Sweden




  • Intergenerational care in Sweden. A study of relationships, commitments, and practices of care in everyday family life.