About Us

MobileKids is a research project funded by the European Research Council and conducted by a team of sociologists from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Families and Sexualities from the University of Louvain. The project seeks to understand the lived experiences of children who grow up in separated or divorced families practicing shared physical custody arrangements in Belgium, France and Italy. Our aim? Identify the specific needs of those children, based on their own accounts of their lives. Our team studies how, and under what circumstances, children appropriate this mode of living and develop new abilities, practices, and ways of being that incorporate the capacity to maintain social relations in a multi-local context, including via the use of communication technologies. In doing so, we hope to enrich the understanding of societies where geographical and virtual mobilities have become an integral part of social relations, and are increasingly shaping our daily experiences at a personal, family and professional level.




Growing in a multicultural and multi-local context. The case of children in mixed, separated families in Brussels.

My research within the MobileKids project focuses on the identity construction of children from multi-cultural couples practicing shared custody arrangements. By giving voice to children through games, photo activities,… I try to understand how they position themselves, and appropriate the cultural references transmitted by their parents, in a context where family socialisation operates within, and across, two distinct households.

Project of Maryse Baar


Building a sense of ‘home’ in a multi-local context: shared physical custody in Brussels and its periphery.

In this project, I study contemporary family relations through the lens of children from separated/divorced families who experience multi-locality through their own residential mobility between different life spaces. It is through children’s own accounts of their lives that I try to understand how they build a sense of ‘home’ while being in movement between ‘here’ and ‘there’. The inter-relations between space and family relations are central to my work, as I question both how space structures family relations and, conversely, how family relations shape and structure space by giving it a special meaning and associated feelings.

Project of Bérengère Nobels


Growing up ‘connected’: social ties and digital practices within and around the family mosaic

My key entry in the MobileKids project consists in studying the convergence and inter-relations of two contemporary phenomena: the place of children from separated parents in and around the family mosaic, and the significant and lasting presence of the digital in our daily lives. With the help of visual and narrative methodological tools, this project seeks to understand the relational, spatial and symbolic relations that children develop through their family-related digital practices. By crossing family, childhood, mobility and digital sociologies, I wish to enrich our understanding of the modes of living of children in multi-local, shared physical custody arrangements. Here children are both considered as informants and key actors of the research process, which consists in analysing and mapping their practices (ego communicates, socializes, becomes autonomous…), as well as understanding how they “give meaning” to these practices, in a reflexive process.

Project of Kristina Papanikolaou


Shared Physical Custody as a channel for autonomization and agency?

This research project seeks to understand in what ways children from separated parents who live in shared physical custody develop new competences and/or ways of being as a result of a multi-local life. In particular, I try to grasp how these children are actors in the midst of the various changes that happen after their parent’s separation – be it, new organizations, mobility, or eventually the presence of new family members and figures of authority in the family – and in what ways their daily life between two homes develops certain forms of autonomization. More generally, what is central in this research project, is to grasp the children’s standpoint, the point of view that they construct in relation to the context of divorce and physical shared custody. In that respect, I mobilize creative and participative methods such as board games and pictures which help the children tell their story.

Project of Sarah Murru

Team Members

The Team

  • Laura Merla
    Laura Merla Principal Investigator

    I am professor of Sociology and director of the CIRFASE (University of Louvain, Belgium), where I study family relations in a context of geographical distance, including when family members are separated by migratory processes, or in the case of separation, divorce and family recompositions.

  • Sarah Murru
    Sarah Murru Postdoctoral researcher in Sociology

    I have a PhD in social and political sciences (ULB) and I am particularly interested in the study of various forms of resistance. My doctoral dissertation was focused on Single Moms’ resistance in Vietnam, which also triggered my interest in the various forms of family organizations. Within the MobileKids research project, my work focuses on the everyday forms of resistance mobilized by children of separated parents and living in shared physical custody. In other words, , I seek to understand how children are actors inside this reality and if they develop strategies, tactics or other creative responses towards situations/decisions that trouble or disturb them. My field of study is in Turin, Italy.

  • Maryse Baar
    Maryse Baar PhD student in Sociology

    I have a Bachelor degree in Sociology and Anthropology, and a Masters degree in Sociology with a specialization in research and social intervention (UCL, Belgium). My main research interests lie in the study of the identity construction of children in a multi-local and multicultural contexts. Whereas my Masters dissertation focused on the career of exile of unaccompanied minors in Belgium, today, I am studying the identity construction of children in separated bi-national (or mixed) couples.

  • Bérengère Nobels
    Bérengère Nobels PhD student in Sociology

    I studied Sociology at the Université libre de Bruxelles, and in my Masters dissertation I studied school strategies and scholar practices within a gentrified locality of Brussels, mixing urban sociology and the sociology of education. One of my key research interest lies in the spatial embeddedness of social and family practices. This is why my research within the MobileKids project focuses on the ways in which children from separated parents build a sense of ‘home’ in a multi-local context.

  • Kristina Papanikolaou
    Kristina Papanikolaou PhD Student in Sociology

    I am a historian by training: I have indeed a Bachelor degree in the History of Literature, Societies and Civilisation (USL-B) and a Master degree in History, Societies, Economies and Civilization (UCL). During my studies, I explored historiographic traditions and regimes of historicity, articulated with contemporary alter-activist storytelling. I am now studying family sociology through the lens of kin’s digital practices, with a clear interest in the symbolic and communicational dimensions of digital storytelling.

  • Jonathan Dedonder
    Jonathan Dedonder Research logistics

    I am a Dr in Psychology by training, and I work as a research logistician at the IACCHOS and ISPOLE Institutes, where I support the research activities of the members of these two institutes. My support ranges from helping them design their methodologies, to disseminating their results.

    My role in the MobileKids project consists in treating quantitative data and establishing the socio-demographic profiles of families who put in place shared physical custody arrangements in Belgium, France and Italy.

  • Sandrine Levêque
    Sandrine Levêque Administrative support