Family Bliss or Blitz? Parents’ and children’s mixed emotions towards family holidays

Malene Gram, Anette Therkelsen, Jacob Roesgaard Kirkegaard Larsen

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    12 Citations (Scopus)
    252 Downloads (Pure)


    Purpose: This paper aims to explore mixed emotions experienced by parents and children on holiday, how they are dealt with and how they influence the way “family” is “staged” and “done”. Design/methodology/approach: This paper draws on 24 qualitative interviews with Danish parents and a questionnaire study reporting answers from 66 Danish children (11-15-year-old). Findings: Problems external and internal to the family are identified and the latter are associated with more unease particularly among parents. This paper shows that parents invest significant narrative efforts in transcending gaps between ideals and practices. Also children are aware of the gaps between ideals and practices; they seem more matter-of-fact, however, regarding critical aspects of holidays. Research limitations/implications: The informants of the study solely represent two-parent hetero-sexual families of Danish origin, and so inclusion of a wider range of families would have added interesting perspectives. Furthermore, children’s perspectives on critical holiday incidents need further research. Practical implications: Creators of family holiday products and marketing should present a more nuanced imagery taking a more diverse approach to what “family” on holiday looks like. They could take up the challenge of depicting a broader range of family situations, also showing less harmonious moments, using humour, and showing opportunities for some “alone time” for both parents and children should relational overload happen. Also occasional “wifi-free” moments seem to be much appreciated by all family members, and development of offline family experiences would seem to strike a chord. Social implications: The contemporary paradigm of intensive parenting along with strong ideals for family holidays make it essential for parents to narratively deal with and legitimize and transform less happy moments. To take pressure off contemporary families, it is important to bring to the fore the less glossy aspects of family holidays. Originality/value: The originality of this paper is to illustrate the strong efforts applied by families to keep up a certain front to be the family that “ought to be” by nurturing and narrating positive emotions in relation to family holidays. The inclusion of children’s voices gives insights into children’s annoyance with parents’ rowing, relational overload and parents’ occasional lack of attention to children, for example through parental use of mobile phones during holiday togetherness.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalYoung Consumers
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)185-198
    Number of pages14
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2018


    • Consumer ambivalence
    • Coping strategies
    • Family holidays
    • Family identity
    • Family performance
    • Intergenerational relations


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