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Revealing Sources of Gendered Parenthood: A multi-method comparative study of the transition to parenthood in same-sex and different-sex couples

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GENPARENT (Revealing Sources of Gendered Parenthood: A multi-method comparative study of the transition to parenthood in same-sex and different-sex couples)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-07-31

The GENPARENT project was spurred by a need for an innovative and inclusive approach to gender, families and work. Even though a vast amount of research has tried to determine the causes of the gendered transition to parenthood, so important for long-term income and career outcomes, the theoretical drivers have remained elusive. Income and occupational prestige correlates with gender, making it difficult to separate financially rational decision making from gender norms and expectations when it comes to how parents divide paid work and care in the majority of families; different-sex couples with children.

The GENPARENT project applies an inclusive, internationally comparative approach to families in order to reveal the complex processes that result in a gendered division of work and its career related consequences. We do so by including same-sex and different-sex biological and adoptive parents in quantitative and qualitative analyses of parents. In female same-sex couples, gender can be ruled out as a determinant of the division of care and paid work when focusing on those who have their first child within the relationship. By focusing on male same-sex couples with children, and adoptive different-sex couples, the physiological aspects (of birth-giving and breast-feeding) is netted out. Hence, these couples all provide interesting contrasts to different-sex couples with biological children.
The GENPARENT project is divided into three sub-projects, each contributing an important piece of the puzzle to the picture of the transition to parenthood and its work related consequences.

GENPARENT NORTH is based on longitudinal analyses of register data for the full population of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. This enables studies of the process of becoming parents and its income and work related consequences for different-sex and female same-sex couples.

GENPAREN REGIME combines a comparison of the social policy and legal frameworks that govern the transition to parenthood in different-sex and same-sex couples in the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and the US, with a micro-level perspective and the work/care outcomes of parents. Cross-country comparative studies are extremely rare in this field of research. It enables a focus on institutions, legal rights, national gender ideologies and societal context for the possibilities and consequences of becoming a parent.

GENPARENT VOICE is based on in-depth interviews with female and male same-sex couples and reveals the reasoning, plans and expectations that underlie the decision regarding how to divide the child care and paid work once the child arrives. It focuses on Sweden and the Netherlands and include follow-up interviews where the parents’ plans and their realization are evaluated, and couples’ experiences as new parents are investigated.
GENPARENT North: In a manuscript prepared for a scientific journal, Evertsson, Moberg and van der Vleuten follow different-sex and female same-sex couples from a few years before the birth of the child to five years after in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Preliminary results show that differences in income pre-birth do not explain the income trajectories after the transition to parenthood. Instead, gender norms and ideals linked to birth motherhood seem to play a role as the income gap is greater in different-sex couples than in same-sex couples throughout the period, and birth mothers in both couple types experience the largest income penalty the first few years after the birth.

GENPARENT Regime: In a book chapter (Evertsson, Jaspers & Moberg, 2020) published in the Palgrave Handbook of Family Policy, we introduce the concept of parentalization, defined as the ability to become parents and be recognized as such, legally and via social policies. We apply this concept in an analysis of Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands and present trends in the number of children zero years of age in married/cohabiting same-sex couples in the period from the early 1990s until 2018, as evidence of the link between parentalization and realized parenthood.

GENPARENT Voice: Focusing on the first round of interviews with lesbian couples expecting a first child in Sweden and the Netherlands, our analyses suggests that norms regarding motherhood influence lesbian mothers experiences as mothers-to-be and to some extent also their decision regarding who will carry the (first) child. Many of the informants (slightly more than 20 couples in each country) plan to have two children and take turns to carry a child. In couple negotiations, age shows up as an important determining factor for who goes first in couples where both want to carry. Allison Geerts has conducted the interviews in the Netherlands and Madeleine Eriksson Kirsch, the interviews in Sweden.
The GENPARENT project is the first to apply a longitudinal, multi-methodological approach to the transition to parenthood. The project will produce two doctoral dissertations, one based on qualitative interviews with lesbian couples transitioning to parenthood in Sweden (by Eriksson Kirsh), one combining qualitative and quantitative methods and analyses of the transition to parenthood in lesbian couples in the Netherlands (by Geerts). Based on population register data for the Nordic countries, we write articles analysing the labor income development for different-sex and female same-sex couples in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden (Evertsson, Moberg and van der Vleuten). The first article (see above) will be supplemented by an article combining labor income and social transfers, to more closely study how family policies and parental leave benefits influence the parents’ income development from before to 5 to 7 years after the birth of the child. We are also studying how gay fathers discuss and divide parental leave in a manuscript combining retrospetive interviews with longitudinal analyses (Evertsson and Malmquist). Linked to this, we hope to be able to combine population register data for the Nordic countries to study how gay fathers’ incomes develop during the transition to parenthood. Also here, we plan to supplement the labor income analyses with analyses including social transfers. To our knowledge, there are no studies of gay fathers’ division of parental leave and their income development in the years after they become parents.

In a study still in its cradle (Evertsson, Jaspers, Aisenbrey and Machado), we estimate social class differences in terms of income and education between same-sex couples in the US, the Netherlands and Sweden; three countries with very different legal frameworks, health care and social security systems. Earlier research suggests that lesbian parents are an economically vulnerable group in the US, whereas in Sweden, lesbian couples transitioning to parenthood have a higher income and education than mothers in different-sex couples (Evertsson and Boye 2018). The inconsistencies found may be due to differences in data and estimations. Our paper improve on earlier research by providing a more thorough analysis of the sources of class differences. In addition, we estimate the income and education gaps for same-sex compared to different-sex couples in each country.
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