Family-based Social Activism: Rethinking the Social Role of Families


  • Norine Verberg St Francis Xavier University



This paper sheds light on family-based social activism, defined herein as the broad range of activities undertaken by family members to raise awareness and bring about policy reform about a serious condition or tragic event that affects or affected someone in their family. These activities constitute social activism because they are intended to foster social change. The activism is ‘family-based’ because the social change advocate is a family member responding to the serious or traumatic situation that affects or affected a family member. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Westray Families Group, and Family and Friends of Schizophrenics are just a few examples of the many family-based social activist groups which have formed in Canada. Family-based activism is not addressed as a specific subject of study in the sociology literature on families, social movements, social problems, or voluntary association membership. The first goal of this paper is to bring family-based social activism into focus and provide some empirical evidence of this phenomenon in Canada. The second goal is to situate family activism in the sociology literature by drawing theoretical inspirations from social memory literature and suggesting avenues for theoretical development in perspectives on families.