238 Townshend Hall
1885 Neil Avenue Mall
Areas of Expertise
- Gender, Race, & Class
- Health & Medical
- Ph.D., Sociology, University of Texas at Austin
Areas of interest: Family, gender and sexuality, health, population, aging
Rin is the author of over 60 articles and chapters, most of which are on LGBTQ families, and is the co-editor of “Marriage and Health: The Well-Being of Same-Sex Couples” (Rutgers University Press). Rin is currently PI along with Mieke Beth Thomeer on an R01 exploring how childbearing biographies shape parents’ health at midlife using NLSY79 longitudinal survey data.
Rin’s new book with Emma Bosley-Smith, titled, “Families We Keep: LGBTQ People and their Enduring Bonds with Parents” (NYU Press), examines the question: Why and how do we stay in not-so-good relationships with our parents after we become adults? There is no “‘till death do us part” vow between parents and children. And yet, parent-child relationships are far more enduring than the marital relationships that made this phrase famous. The life-long parent-child tie is so ubiquitous and taken-for-granted that it doesn’t need an oath. This unspoken pledge is our birthright; in times of good and bad, sickness and health, parents and their children are bound for life.
But, not every parent-child tie is healthy and helpful. And what’s remarkable is this imperative persists even when these relationships are unsatisfactory or even deeply damaging. Why do we stay in these parent-adult child relationships? And how do we stay bonded amidst rejection and pain? “Families We Keep” answers these questions. Drawing on interviews with 76 LGBTQ adults and 44 of their parents, Rin and Emma explain that conflictual, rejecting, and even abusive ties with parents endure because of what they call compulsory kinship: the overarching socio-cultural forces that tell us we have to stay in this bond, no matter what. That is, what we think of as the “natural” and inevitable connection between parents and adult children is actually created and sustained by sociocultural forces of compulsory kinship. With their rich empirical data Rin and Emma show why LGBTQ people justify their adherence to compulsory kinship, using the rationales of love and closeness, parental growth, and the uniqueness of the parent-child tie. Further, they reveal how LGBTQ people stay in difficult relationships with parents through a new type of family work called “conflict work.”
In their conclusion, Rin and Emma question the primacy of the parent-child tie in the U.S. By shining light on the forces that hold intergenerational ties together, “Families We Keep” aims to help us break free of those family bonds that do not serve everyone’s best interests.