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Changing families and sustainable societies: Policy contexts and diversity over the life course and across generations

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Present-day look into tomorrow’s families and society

An EU initiative examined the diversity of family forms and new family configurations to provide a more solid basis for policymaking at European, national and local levels.

Society
Fundamental Research

Substantial changes in family patterns across Europe have influenced the family life course – the sequence and pace at which certain events such as marriage and birth occur in individuals’ lives. The EU-funded FAMILIESANDSOCIETIES project furthered the understanding of family development in Europe and the resultant challenges. The FAMILIESANDSOCIETIES team also studied at-risk and vulnerable families, namely single parents and large families, living-apart-together partnerships, same-sex families and stepfamilies. Findings show that reconciation of paid work and family life is key to the well-being of families and children, thus enabling societies to minimise vulnerability. Project partners examined family dynamics among immigrants and their descendants. Findings reveal a notable diversity of partnership patterns and family forms influenced by mainstream society and minority subcultures. Research groups also addressed the ways gender and family changes become intertwined. For new parents, studies show that a child’s birth was one among many turning points leading to changes in the distribution of care work in couples and the gendering of parenting roles. Analyses highlighted the significant benefits children of less educated mothers and from disadvantaged backgrounds overall gain from formal childcare compared to home-based care. The negative association between parental separation and children’s educational attainment was found to be greater for those with more advantaged backgrounds. Other findings indicated that the type of public provision offered had consequences for gender and socioeconomic inequality. Cash payments strengthened the gendered division of tasks more than actual care services, and private care market expansion contributed to social inequalities. Three new databases were set up to improve the availability of data for family-relevant policy research. These involve assisted reproductive technology regulations, legal issues of same- and different-sex families in Europe, and EU family policy initiatives concerning fertility. FAMILIESANDSOCIETIES demonstrated that policies should acknowledge the diversity of families, that gender and social equality are necessary aspects of societal sustainability, and that economic, social and legal security are crucial for the well-being of European families and individuals.

Keywords

Families, society, life course, FAMILIESANDSOCIETIES, care work, gender, well-being, inequality

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