Final Programme Released

The final Alternative Families Conference Programme has now been published!

Registration is now closed, and we look forward to meeting our delegates.


Registration now open!

Registration for the Alternative Families conference is now open!

The conference will be held at the University of Sheffield, 9-10 February 2017.

View the Conference Programme here, or visit our Registration page for more details.

Call for Papers

In many societies throughout time, children have been cared for by adults who were not their biological parents. The practical and emotional care of children was and is, out of necessity or choice, undertaken by a patchwork of individuals.

Those responsible could include grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and friends, caring for children temporarily or as long term foster or adoptive ‘parents’. In modern Britain, as more women return to work after childbirth and the costs of childcare skyrocket, parents have relied on others to make up the shortfall in time and money to keep family life running smoothly. Modern western families have also been perceived as becoming less ‘traditional’, with the growth of single parents and stepfamilies provoking debate about parental stability and its effects on children.

In recent years this sharing of childcare responsibilities has been heralded as a new development, necessitating the flexibility of shared parental leave and consideration of the effects of shared childcare on family life and the national economy. The imperatives of maternal employment are not new however, and neither are the concerns over the cultural and economic impact of parental substitution. This conference invites submissions from across the disciplines and from a wide chronological and geographical range, to question what makes a parent, and the effect that shared childcare responsibilities have on familial relationships and cultures.

Confirmed speakers: Professor Linda Pollock (Tulane University) and Dr Angela Davis (University of Warwick).

Proposals for 20-minute papers or panels of three speakers are welcome from a wide chronological and geographical reach, exploring concepts of familial childcare, historical perspectives and present day challenges. Papers might consider:

  • The influence of economic status and poverty
  • Considerations of gender
  • Non-normative family types, such as lone parent families
  • The emotional value of the relationship between the child and ‘parent’
  • Institutional, charity and governmental responses
  • The cultural value of parental figures in wider society
  • Regional variation: childcare in urban and rural communities

Contributions are welcome from any academic discipline, as well as policy-makers and charities.

For individual paper proposals, please submit a title, 200 word abstract, and contact details. For panel proposals, please submit a title, 200 word abstract for each paper, and contact details for one speaker.

Submissions should be emailed to Kate Gibson, Sarah Fox and Maria Cannon at by 30 September 2016.