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FP6

WELLCHI NETWORK Résumé de rapport

Project ID: 505978
Financé au titre de: FP6-CITIZENS
Pays: Spain

Final Report Summary - WELLCHI NETWORK (The Well-being of children: The impact of changing family forms, working conditions of parents, social policy and legislative measures)

The purpose of the WELLCHI NETWORK project has been to set up and operate a European network of researchers with the aim of improving our knowledge of the impact of changing family forms, the working conditions of parents, and social policy and legislative measures on the well-being of children and their families. It has sought to bring into focus, coordinate, channel and publicise the results of research that have already been carried out through the organisation of international workshops and conferences.

The focus of the project has concentrated on the analysis of the potential consequences of family diversification on the well-being of children and their parents. The decline of the nuclear, male-breadwinner family model has led us to assess the extent to which the emergence of new household forms can be associated with adverse outcomes for children.

These events have brought together a large number of professionals from different specialist areas in this field, in order to debate and compare their research and experiences, to tackle the ways in which different kinds of public policy and legal reform can ameliorate the conditions of children and to explore the best strategies for the exploitation and dissemination of academic outcomes to wider audiences. The very basic idea on which the WELLCHI NETWORK has based its endeavours is that raising public awareness of the problems related to childhood is an integral part of their solution. Therefore, one of our primary efforts has been to reach out to actors beyond the research community to get their cooperation in the dissemination of the results of our research and obtain their feedback to assess how to improve our approach to these problems. For this reason, the activities of the WELLCHI NETWORK have included several instruments for disseminating information to civil society, of which the creation of the Children's Well-being International Documentation Centre (please see http://www.ciimu.org/webs/wellchi online) and the setting up of commissions of local agents (composed of stakeholders in the well-being of children from various areas of expertise) can be counted among the most relevant achievements.

In recent decades, factors impinging on the well-being of children have become more complex, so that nowadays they are not only affected by the old but still persisting class inequalities but are also challenged by new social risks. The new risks tend to affect people at younger stages of their lives than the old social risks did. Children make up one of the social groups that are most affected by these risks, insofar as they have a diminished mobilising capacity and greater difficulties in representing their interests.

Many of these new social risks result from family change. A number of ongoing social processes, such as the trend towards individualisation of family relationships, the de-institutionalisation of marriage, the growth of marital instability and partnership dissolution, and the proliferation of new household forms, together with the intensification of labour market insecurity, have led to an increase in the hazards that often involve cumulative high-risk vulnerabilities for some groups of children and their families.

One of most relevant changes underlying the transition to a post-industrial society is the loss of legitimacy of patriarchal domination. The legal rights of women and children have been extended in all countries, and the expansion of education and paid work has extended autonomy. The massive incorporation of women into paid work has increased women's bargaining power with respect to men, and undermined the legitimacy of men's domination as the main economic providers in the family.

Individual life courses have become increasingly diversified. The most dramatic change in children's lives over the past one hundred years has been the growth in the number of children spending at least some portion of the childhood in a single-parent family. Although most single parents are women, in recent times a growing number are men.

The changing nature of families and the contributions that men and women make to them as well as the restructuring or recasting of modern welfare states are processes that constitute important variables in the understanding of variations in children's well-being throughout different countries.

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Lluís FLAQUER
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