“We are so hermetic”—families’ social isolation as an essential feature of family life in contemporary Poland
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Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw, Polska
Submission date: 2023-05-12
Final revision date: 2023-09-04
Acceptance date: 2023-09-06
Online publication date: 2023-10-25
Publication date: 2023-10-25
Corresponding author
Malgorzata Sikorska   

Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw, ul. Karowa 18, 00-324, Warszawa, Polska
Problemy Polityki Społecznej 2023;61(2):1-19
The paper reconstructs relationships between families with children and their social environment consisting of both individuals and institutions. The relationships are identified from the perspective of families. I posit the following research questions: (1) What individuals and what institutions compose the social environment around families and have influence over them? (2) Which individuals and institutions do families trust, and which do they distrust? (3) Which individuals or institutions, in the eyes of interviewees, support their families, and which go against them? Edward C. Banfield’s concept of amoral familism and Stefan Nowak’s notion of sociological vacuum – both linked to social trust – provide a theoretical framework and serve as starting points for my study. The article is based on qualitative research findings. The study applied an inductive approach. I argue that families’ isolation from institutions – I propose the term “families’ social isolation” – is one of the most significant aspects of family life in contemporary Poland. I identify three key components of Polish families’ social isolation: the absence of social institutions that families can trust, families’ disposition to cut themselves off from institutions, and a perception of the family as a safe space as opposed to a “dangerous area” outside.
The author would like to express her thanks to Jan Wawrzyniak for editing and proofreading and to the Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw, for subsidising proofreading costs.
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