Changing families and sustainable societies: Policy contexts and diversity over the life course and across generations
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Grant agreement ID: 320116
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Present-day look into tomorrow’s families and society
Grant agreement ID: 320116
1 February 2013
31 January 2017
€ 8 365 754,68
€ 6 495 142,31
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Final Report Summary - FAMILIESANDSOCIETIES (Changing families and sustainable societies: Policy contexts and diversity over the life course and across generations)
The main objectives of the FamiliesAndSocieties project included investigating the diversity of family forms, relationships, and life courses in Europe; assessing the compatibility of existing policies with family changes; and contributing to evidence-based policy-making. Relying on a conceptual framework informed by a multidisciplinary approach, the project explored the growing complexities of family configurations and transitions within and across European countries as well as their implications for men, women and children with respect to inequalities in life chances, intergenerational relations and care arrangements. How policies address family diversity and identifying future policy needs based on an integrated foresight activities approach were also focuses within the project.
The analysis revealed the dynamic nature of families and family life over the life course, shedding more light on the role of socioeconomic resources, often intersecting with gender, culture and life stages, for family careers. Family constellations at heightened risks for vulnerability were studied: single parents and large families, living-apart-together partnerships, same-sex families and stepfamilies. The reconciliation of paid work and family life was shown to be of crucial importance for the well-being of families and children, enabling societies to counteract the reproduction of vulnerability. Examining family dynamics among immigrants and their descendants displayed a remarkable diversity of partnership patterns and family forms, shaped by both the mainstream society and the minority subcultures.
The project addressed the ways gender and family changes become intertwined, as now both women and men engage in earning as well as caring activities, often reinforced by increasing employment instability and precariousness, impeding convergence to a singular pattern of family life courses within and across countries. A focus on new parents showed 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 lower-educated mothers and from disadvantaged backgrounds in general gain from formal childcare compared to home-based care; and the positive association between maternal education and childcare usage and child outcomes. With respect to implications for child well-being of non-standard family arrangements, changes in family structure per se were shown to not be the main determinant for negative outcomes for children. Surprisingly, a more pronounced negative association between parental separation and children’s educational attainment was found for children with more advantaged backgrounds. In any case, the associations of non-traditional family forms with child outcomes are relatively modest compared to other characteristics such as parental education and income.
Recognising critical interdependencies between family generations and between men and women in families as constructed in the daily interactions between family members, and built and reinforced by social policies, the type of public provision offered was shown to have consequences for gender and socioeconomic inequality. Cash payments strengthened the gendered division of tasks more than actual care services. The primacy of family members in legal arrangements blocks interdependence between the childless and their network members, and there are strong contrasts between men’s and women’s actual family roles related to differences between de jure and de facto practices. The expansion of private care markets was found to contribute to social inequalities, hence seem less likely to provide a viable solution to meeting the increasing care needs of aging societies.
The project has contributed to broadening and improving the availability of comparative indicators of family-related policies. Significant cross-country differences were shown in terms of types of support, risks targeted, coverage and receivers of public aid to young adults to facilitate leaving the parental home, setting up an independent household and starting a family. Fathers’ parental leave use indicated beneficial impacts to second childbearing and reducing partnership dissolution. Three new databases were established in the project on i) Assisted Reproductive Technologies regulations (ARPNoVA), ii) legal family formats available for same-sex and different-sex couples in Europe (LawsAndFamilies Database), and iii) family-policy initiatives of the European Union (EUFamPol) related to fertility which cut across core aspects of family life, such as employment, care and gender.
The main conclusion of the project is that policies should acknowledge the diversity of families, that gender equality and social equality are necessary aspects of societal sustainability, and that economic, social and legal security are crucial for the well-being of families and individuals in Europe.
Project Context and Objectives:
Project context and objectives
Context: families in transition
Family patterns in Europe have undergone extensive changes in the past half century. The early to mid-1960s marked the end of the “Golden Age of the Family”, with high marriage and birth rates at relatively young ages, few divorces, and a low prevalence of non-standard family forms. By the late 20th century, fertility rates declined well below the level sufficient for population replacement (i.e. 2.1 children per woman on the average). At the same time, marriage and parenthood were delayed to more mature ages, new forms of couple relationships emerged while the propensity to marry decreased. Family dissolution became quite frequent even among couples with children, both married and non-married. The postponement of the transition to parenthood contributed to an increase in childlessness, especially among women and men born in the 1960s and thereafter, and to a related increase in assisted reproduction, both with considerable cross-national variation.
Despite these common trends, often labelled under the “second demographic transition”, considerable differences in the extent of and the pace at which the new family patterns emerged across Europe exist. Individuals increasingly refraining from long-term commitments in respect of partnership formation and childbearing has led to a growing complexity of family compositions and to a previously unprecedented diversity of family forms and relationships over the life course. This process of de-standardization and de-institutionalization of family forms is linked to increasing individualization and a weakening of the normative constraints that shape possible, acceptable and desirable transitions over the life course and their sequencing. Individuals have more choices in lifestyle and personal arrangements and more freedom than ever to plan their own lives.
Several emerging family forms need to be addressed in policy-making touching upon the well-being of families. The increases in family dissolution and reconstitution have led to more stepfamilies across Europe, in which family boundaries are often blurred as many children in particular have families consisting of members from multiple households, leading to more complex patterns of “doing family” and to heightened economic challenges with multiple obligations. Furthermore, the relations and obligations between family members in different households often have diffuse legal underpinnings, increasing the challenges for negotiating such. Another emerging multiple household relationship is the living-apart-together (LAT) relationships, comprising committed partners not living in the same household, raising challenges for ‘doing partnership’ in this family form. Same-sex partnerships also contribute to the growing family diversity, with their increased acceptance and legal recognition across Europe, however with considerable variations over time with respect to the rights and obligations (e.g. partnership type, adoption and inheritance rights) granted to these families. Furthermore, the number of immigrants and their descendants has significantly increased in European countries. Their family dynamics and patterns were less studied (before the FamiliesAndSocieties project), though providing valuable information on their social integration, and notwithstanding the fact that the across Europe sizeable immigrant populations considerably shape wider societal trends.
These new family trends and patterns are paralleled by changes in gender roles, especially the expansion of the female role to include economic provision for the family, facilitated by women’s higher educational attainment and lately also the transformation of men’s role with more extensive involvement in family responsibilities, in particular care for children. How child development is affected by maternal employment, the extent of which varies greatly in European countries during early childhood, related significantly to differences in childcare regimes as well as in time allocation of both mothers and fathers on child care, is a question of particular importance given women’s increasing economic aspirations and considerable emphasis on work-life balance in contemporary policy making. Moreover, social relationships in the family, parenting and grand-parenting have major implications for child development and well-being. Family dynamics can disrupt these relationships and activities, and the related multiple family transitions and resulting complex living arrangements can affect children’s adjustment and development. Children’s family life courses have become increasingly complex with the implications for their well-being varying across groups defined by cultural or socioeconomic lines, across countries and over time. Institutional settings influence the social milieu and support systems as well as the quantity and quality of parental time available for families in transition. The implications of family changes for children’s life chances and well-being are of great importance also with respect to the intergenerational reproduction of inequality.
Due to a considerable increase in life expectancy, members of multiple family generations now share several decades together, hence the young and the old in families, and policies directed to them should be jointly considered. The “sandwich generation,” late middle-aged women in particular, increasingly face commitments to simultaneously support their elderly parents and their adult, but still partially dependent, children or grandchildren. Families can differ in their commitments to intergenerational exchanges and solidarity. Belonging to more ‘individualistic’ or rather ‘collectivistic’ family systems also influences responsiveness to the needs of family members, as norms of family obligations and related intergenerational exchanges in families vary. The complexity of intergenerational co-residence also needs to be recognized, as such a pattern provides little insight of whether this is a form of children providing care for elderly parents or of parents economically supporting their adult children. Viewing such arrangements as a response to economic necessity or housing shortages may also be misleading, as residential preferences differ by country, and parents may like to have their children living with them for as long as possible as suggested by Southern European examples.
Interdependencies in families should not be taken for granted, as these are constructed in daily interactions between family members and influenced by the policies in place. Furthermore, to understand the everyday realities of modern societies, we need to recognize that the family is a dynamic entity, characterized by growing complexity with respect to decision-making regarding transitions over the family life course and organization of family life. Indeed, the family can no longer be described simply as a set of well-defined roles; it is negotiated on a daily basis, constructed by interactions between partners at the micro-level, and influenced by macro-structures in the political and economic spheres. Work and family lives are increasingly influencing each other, as both women and men engage in earning as well as caring activities, often reinforced by increasing employment instability and precariousness. Gender relations and related values and attitudes have become more fluid, changing dynamically over the life course in the context of blurring boundaries of family and work life. Different policy settings affect new constructions of gender in doing family in various ways, impeding convergence to a singular pattern of family life courses across countries.
Objectives and conceptual framework
Based on the context of dynamic changes of family patterns and the family life course discussed above, the main objectives of the FamiliesAndSocieties project were:
- to investigate the diversity of family forms, relationships, and life courses in Europe;
- to assess the compatibility of existing policies with family changes; and
- to contribute to evidence-based policy-making
The project sought to extend the knowledge on how policies promote well-being, inclusion and sustainable societal development among families. To this end, highly qualified experts were brought together from the social sciences, law and humanities from 25 research partners in 15 countries, old as well as new member states, and three transnational civil society actors. The work was carried out through 12 work packages, including the project management (WP1), the synthesis of findings (WP11) and the dissemination (WP12). To achieve the main objectives the project relied on a conceptual framework informed by a multidisciplinary approach and based on three key premises:
1) Family life courses are becoming more diverse
Declining marriage and fertility rates, along with increasing cohabitation, divorce and separation have profoundly shaped the image of the family of the 21st century. Changes in demographic behaviour have also influenced family life courses, as the sequences and pace in which events occur have become much less standardized than before. These changes have affected family structures and created a growing diversity of family forms among individuals and across the life course. The possible, acceptable and desirable transitions and their sequencing are shaped by opportunities, resources and constraints ranging from labour market situations to societal norms. How family forms vary over the life course, how social institutions support different types of families and whether such support differs between same-sex and different-sex families, and how this affects the well-being of individuals and their children has major implications for the sustainability of European societies.
2) The interdependency of lives matters
Individual lives are “linked”: family members, kin, and the broader social networks facilitate and constrain life courses. These linked lives shape the forms individual family life courses take. Divorce can have repercussions for the lives and well-being of adults and children alike, childbearing and aging create demands for care, while decisions concerning families and economic activities and the availability and skills of care-givers shape the options for care provision. The linkages between individuals within and between families and generations and the decisions individuals make in these networks shape life courses and their outcomes, and set preconditions for any successful policy interventions.
3) Social contexts and policies matter
The societal context shapes the family life course. Policies, normative environments, and social and economic contexts create incentives for following different family life courses, for creating linkages between family members and kin in terms of co-residence and care, and for the division of labour and distribution of resources within families. These contexts also shape the consequences of actions in the family, reward or punish the following of specific family life courses, and distribute well-being and welfare risks across families and generations. However, policies are challenged in that they have to match and respond to the actual family experiences and needs. Family life courses, their causes and consequences, have to be studied in their structural and institutional contexts while policies have to be assessed against the background of the complexity in family lives.
Four transversal dimensions were embedded in the conceptual framework:
Gender. The meaning of family policies and their implications for individuals’ lives are very much dependent on gender. Changing family structures also influence women’s and men’s lives differently, contributing to the feminisation of poverty. Differences in care-taking between women and men structure their work careers and employment opportunities, supported to varying degrees by social policies in different countries.
Culture. European societies have become ethnically and culturally more diverse. Growing cultural diversity entails increasingly diverse preferences with respect to family structures. This allows for new forms of family life choices along cultural identities, while challenging societies to find strategies for supporting them.
Socioeconomic resources. Socioeconomic resources are crucial for defining the opportunities individuals have for self-fulfilment, and they also shape family life courses. Economic (in)dependence via the labour market, social policies or intergenerational support shape possibilities to establish a family, patterns of co-residence and family stability. Understanding the role of socioeconomic resources and lack thereof are important for removing obstacles to a successful family life.
Life stages. Life courses are constituted by life stages, each with their specific —though partly overlapping— possibilities and constraints. A key feature of recent demographic change has been a reshaping of these life stages and the boundaries between them. Lengthening educational careers and growing labour market insecurity have resulted in a postponement in the transition to adulthood with implications for family formation. At the same time, increasing life expectancies shift perspectives of socially and economically active life and the demand for and supply of care. Family change can thus mean very different things during different life stages.
The interactions between the four transversals with the fundamental processes outlined in the three premises shape the outcomes of the diversification of family life courses for individuals and societies. Differentiation in family life courses according to cultural aspects, gender and socioeconomic resources (re-)produce inequalities across the life course (i.e. life stages) and across generations. They also define the ways in which diversification in family lives are structured as well as their outcomes at the societal level. Finally, they shape policy responses that aim to promote sustainable development.
Building upon the conceptual framework, more specifically on the premises and the transversals, five more specific research objectives were defined, which individually cut through several work packages addressing the main objectives:
1) To explore the complexity of European families and the individual goals, attitudes, decisions and trajectories that underlie them
Increasing family diversity has generally been acknowledged, yet the specific forms of this development and of the individual level processes underlying these macro-level changes remained poorly understood. The project addressed issues related to this complexity under the same umbrella to create more comprehensive knowledge of the developments in family life in Europe. Work packages directly related to this topic were: WP2 - family configurations, WP3 – new gender roles, WP4 – new role of children and ART, WP5 – inequalities in children’s life chances, WP7 – intergenerational links, WP8 - migrants, WP9 – policies.
2) To gain insight into the differences in family forms and dynamics across European nations, and cultural and socioeconomic groups within nations
European countries are often grouped by demographic behaviour or social policy constellations to highlight the similarities and differences existing on the continent. In the project particular attention was paid to the cross-national differences in family complexity and family change, with focus also on differences across socioeconomic and cultural groups within nations, and the cross-national patterning of these differences. Work packages directly related to this topic: the ones listed above.
3) To examine the implications of family change for social relations, care, well-being and inequality
Family change affects the linked nature of individual life courses. As life expectancy increases, there are more chances for temporal overlap between generations, but the postponement of fertility counteracts such changes. At the same time, increases in family instability and family re-formation make the generational overlaps and social relations between (current, previous and potential) family members and kin more complex, influencing patterns of care and social inequality within and across generations. Hence these issues are highly relevant to policy-makers who seek to address the challenges of family change to promote well-being of families, individuals and societies in Europe. Work packages directly related to this topic: the ones listed above, and WP6 – childcare arrangements.
4) To analyse how policies address family diversity and its consequences
The ways policies address the ongoing changes in family life and their social implications were specifically addressed in the project. Social and family policies were built in many countries on the premise of stable partnerships, high fertility, and male breadwinning, but recently, they have been partly refocused to address family change. How policies address new forms of family life and needs for care, how they influence decision-making regarding family life and shape the consequences of family transitions on social relations and well-being, were studied in the project, providing a strong empirically-based analysis of the relationships between policies and increasing family complexity. Work packages directly related to this topic: WP2, WP3, WP4, WP6, WP7, WP8, WP9.
5) To identify the likely paths of future changes in family compositions and needs to support policy-makers and stakeholders in the construction of future-oriented decision-making
The forward-looking activity in the project aimed to identify future trends and policy needs resulting from them, while contributing to a construction of international family-oriented future outlook based on modern quantitative and qualitative methods. In the project, the future development of old family forms and of new or currently rare ones was examined, families in need were identified, and issues related to the economic crisis in Europe were addressed specifically. Work packages directly related to this topic: WP10 - foresight with input from WPs 2-9.
Description of main S & T results
1. Family life courses are becoming more diverse
1.1 Changing family patterns (trends and timing)
Family patterns in Europe have undergone extensive changes in the past half century. The early to mid-1960s marked the end of the ‘Golden Age of the Family’, with high marriage and birth rates at relatively young ages, few divorces, and a low prevalence of non-standard family forms. By the late 20th century, fertility rates had declined well below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman on average, while marriage and parenthood had been delayed to more mature ages, new forms of couple relationships emerged while the propensity to marry decreased, and family dissolution became quite frequent even among couples with children. People have increasingly refrained from long-term commitments in respect of partnership formation and childbearing, which has led to a de-standardisation of the family life course. Three main drivers have been identified for these evolutions: changes in norms, changes in economic context and changes in legislative context (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 6(2014)).
There is a considerable diversity in the extent of and the pace at which new family patterns emerged across Europe, addressed here by policy regimes, namely: the Dual-Earner policy configuration type or Social Democratic welfare regime with extensive policy provisions facilitating work-life balance for both women and men; the Liberal or Market-Oriented regime with limited and usually means-tested state support to families and the dominance of market-based solutions regarding welfare provision; the General Family Support policy configuration type or Conservative welfare regime in which men’s primacy in the labour market has not really been questioned while the range of state support to families and to women to combine paid work and family responsibilities varies greatly across countries; the Familialistic or Mediterranean welfare regime with nearly no or extremely limited policy provisions to families and pronounced gender role differentiation; and the Transition Post-Socialist cluster which represents a hybrid model and is also rather heterogeneous in terms of state support to families and to women to combine labour market participation and family life.
The de-standardisation of the family life course that has led to increasingly diverse family biographies started with the decline in childbearing (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 11(2014). The baby boom of the 1950s-early 1960s was followed by a dramatic decrease of period fertility rates, below the level necessary for the simple reproduction of a population. This occurred first in the Dual-Earner and the General Family Support clusters, in the early 1970s. Countries of the Familialistic regime entered the low fertility path in the early 1980s, followed by the Liberal regime and the Transition Post-Socialist cluster in the same decade. Fertility rates continued to decline in all but the Dual-Earner and the Liberal regimes to and even below the so-called critical level of low fertility (i.e. 1.5 children per woman on average), known to accelerate population ageing if sustained for a longer period. The German-speaking countries in the General Family Support policy configuration type also have shown very low levels of childbearing, though more or less counterbalanced by reasonably high fertility rates in other countries of that cluster. In the first years of the 21st century, the trends turned slightly upwards, generating hopes for a fertility recovery, but the rate of increase stopped and/or reversed after the economic crisis of 2008, with childbearing around the critical level in the majority of European countries. The decline in completed family sizes (or cohort fertility) was less pronounced except for the German-speaking countries, and for cohorts born in the 1970s in the Familialistic cluster and most Transition Post-Socialist countries. For the latter region it was also shown that intentions of family formation are less likely to be realised than in other regions of Europe, studying them in a life course perspective (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D2.5).
The decline of fertility rates has been accompanied by rising mean age at first birth. In the 1960s and 1970s, women in Europe had their first child in their early to mid-twenties, with the youngest first-time mothers in the Transition Post-Socialist cluster and the oldest ones in the Familialistic cluster. In the beginning of the 21st century, motherhood is entered at around age thirty in Liberal regime countries and at the late twenties in other clusters. Ages of first fatherhood are a few years above that of first motherhood, because men start their family careers later than women. In any case, early entry into parenthood, as in the Transition Post-Socialist cluster up to quite recently, is not necessarily accompanied by high fertility levels, whereas a late start of childbearing may not be a hindrance to achieving reasonably high fertility rates (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 44(2015)), the latter seen in the Dual-Earner and the Liberal regimes.
The postponement of the transition to parenthood, related to prolonged education, availability of reliable contraception, delay in the formation of committed partnerships, higher levels of family instability as well as economic uncertainty, has contributed to the increase in childlessness in the past decades. Using a wider time window, we find that most European countries experienced a U-shaped trend in childlessness among women born in the 20th century, with the recent increase being less connected to non-marriage unlike in the first decades of that century (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 69(2017)). Childlessness levels in the Dual-Earner cluster have been only slightly above the European average, which is around 14 per cent for the early 1970-cohorts, but close to 20 per cent in Finland. The Transition Post-Socialist countries have displayed very low levels in the 1900s, currently about 10 per cent, probably related to the dominant patterns of early marriage and childbearing and a negative perception of voluntary childlessness in the region. The more recent increase has peaked in Western Europe at 18 per cent, at above 20 per cent in the German-speaking countries, with the Familialistic cluster approaching 25 per cent with no sign for levelling off. Cross-country differences in childlessness levels have been widening in the recent decades, and the relationship with completed fertility seems less than straightforward. Countries such as the UK, Ireland and Finland have combined reasonably high cohort fertility with pronounced levels of childlessness (18-20 per cent), whereas the low levels in the Transition Post-Socialist countries have been accompanied by low levels of completed fertility. Not including the latter cluster, the emerging European pattern is however that higher childlessness goes hand in hand with lower fertility, but the opposite is true for the Transition Post-Socialist cluster.
The research carried out in work package 4 in the project has also shown that most of the increase in childlessness in Europe is involuntary and unwanted, which may partly explain the increasing and considerable usage of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), especially at ages of late thirties-early forties with diminishing success rate. Globally somewhat more than half of the ART treatments are confined to Europe. The proportion of ART births, which by 2013 reached 5 million births worldwide, varies considerably across countries, from around 1.5 per cent in Poland, Ireland, Moldova and Turkey to above 4 per cent in Iceland, Norway and Belgium and nearly 6 per cent in Denmark (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D4.6). The ‘net impact’ of ART on national fertility rates is much lower however, shown by the difference between the observed number of births and a hypothetical one achieved in the absence of ART treatments taking into account the chance of spontaneous natural conception as well as multiple births occurring due to ART, the dramatic increase of the latter being clearly associated with ART. The ‘net impact’ of ART on the overall birth rate has been shown to vary between 0.04 and 0.06 highlighting that ART would not be an effective policy instrument to counter (very) low fertility.
Another important dimension of fertility trends addressed is the upsurge of extramarital childbearing in connection with new partnership patterns. Indeed, marriage had nearly ceased to be the dominant form of couple relationships in the Dual-Earner, the General Family Support, and the Liberal clusters by the late 1970s, as non-marital cohabitation has become increasingly prevalent. The Familialistic regime joined the trend in the early 1980s, and the Transition Post-Socialist cluster followed from the early 1990s, probably related to growing economic uncertainty and housing shortages. Independent of the cause, marriage formation has been increasingly postponed from the early-/mid-1980s in most regime types, and since the mid-1990s even in the Transition Post- Socialist cluster. By the early 21st century, first marriage is entered around age thirty by women, but somewhat earlier in the Post-Socialist cluster. In fact, the mean age at first marriage has been above that of first parenthood in the past decades in the Dual-Earner policy configuration type as couples entered marriage after the birth of their first or second child, indicating changes in the traditional sequence of events in the family formation process (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 11(2014)). A similar pattern has also lately emerged in the Liberal and the General Family Support clusters.
As the propensity to marry declined, births have increasingly occurred in consensual relationships. In the early 1960s, when marriage rates were still high, the proportion of out-of-wedlock births was around 10 per cent or less in European countries. This share has increased rapidly in the Dual-Earner cluster since the 1970s, currently accounting for about half of all births there. Other clusters displayed moderate levels of non-marital childbearing up until the late 1980s. Since then, the share of such births has nearly doubled. The Familialistic regime joined the increasing trend during the early 2000s. In recent years, nearly one-third of births occurred out-of-wedlock even in these countries. However, we do find quite large variations across countries in the different clusters with respect to non-marital childbearing, and the association with fertility levels is also far from clear-cut.
The new partnership patterns have also had implications for family stability. Couple relationships have become less stable over time as consensual unions, which are more fragile than marriages, have spread and divorce rates increased. The propensity to divorce doubled between the early 1960s and the late 1990s, and divorce rates remained modest only in the Familialistic regime cluster, where it has increased mainly in the last decade. Declining relationship stability is linked mainly to the reproductive ages, hence it can also affect childbearing. On the one hand, it can reduce fertility as the time people spend in couple relationships is shortened (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 66(2017) study no. 7), and due to the choice to have fewer children because of the prospect of either having to raise one’s children alone or not being able to be involved with the children because of separation or divorce. On the other hand, high rates of family dissolution can raise fertility rates as second and higher-order partnerships are increasingly formed during the reproductive ages, and couples may opt for joint offspring even if they already have children from previous relationships. The impact may be context-specific (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D2.6 study 3) with a fertility reducing effect found especially in the Familialistic cluster, while a fertility increasing effect was shown mostly for Dual-Earner regime countries. In any case, the high and/or rising instability of partnerships have contributed to the remarkable diversity of family biographies in contemporary Europe.
1.2 Growing diversity of family forms
The changes in family patterns as seen in later and more prolonged transition to adulthood especially partnership formation and childbearing, although with considerable cross-country and within country variations (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D2.3) have been paralleled by changes in gender roles, notably an expansion of the female role as an economic provider for a family, and lately also transformation of men’s roles with more extensive involvement in family responsibilities, in particular care for children. These gender role changes are so important that they have been referred to in the literature as the ‘gender revolution’. In contemporary family scholarship, there is an increasing awareness of gender and family changes being interconnected, which is clearly supported by the research findings of the FamiliesAndSocieties project. To understand the everyday realities of modern societies we need to recognise that the family is a dynamic entity, characterised by growing complexity with respect to decision-making regarding transitions over the family life course and organisation of family life. Work and family lives are increasingly influencing each other as both women and men engage in earning as well as caring activities, often reinforced by increasing employment instability and precariousness, impeding convergence to a singular pattern of family life courses within and across countries (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 71(2017)). Families with disabled children can however be considered a particular case, as traditional gender role arrangements prevail among them, with the father often working additional hours to meet the greater economic needs of the family and the mother devoting her time mainly to care giving with little if any engagement in the labour market. The lower level of well-being in such families is also gendered, related to fewer emotional exchanges for men and less social contact for women, in the longer run not seldom leading to family dissolution (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 23(2014)).
New gender roles have been strengthened by the expansion of tertiary education in Europe in the last decades, during which the male educational advantage has diminished and by the end of the 20th century there are more highly educated women than highly educated men entering today’s marriage market. The shifting gender imbalance in education has been shown to have implications for family patterns. The traditional pattern of assortative mating, that is, men marrying women who are less educated than themselves and women marrying men who are more highly educated than themselves, prevails in a limited extent only in contemporary Europe, being increasingly replaced by educational homogamy, and an emerging pattern of highly educated women partnering with less educated men. Consequently there is a greater diversity also in the educational pairing of couples nowadays. Despite some delay of first union formation and substantial delay of first marriage across cohorts in most European countries, there is no empirical evidence for highly-educated women suffering an education-specific mating squeeze (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D3.3 study 2). Fertility is however influenced by couples’ educational pairings. While homogamous highly educated couples are most likely to postpone the transition to parenthood, they are also the most likely to have a second or even a third child compared to any other educational combinations. In contrast, couples in which the man is better educated than the woman are less likely to extend their families, despite having their first child relatively early, which suggests an inhibiting effect on completed family size of the traditional educational pairing (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 38(2015)).
Addressing a research gap in the knowledge on male family dynamics with a focus on four Transition Post-Socialist countries, a study indicated that the gendered marriage pattern with respect to education may have contributed to an increasing diversity of first partnership forms in contrast to previous dominance of marriage due to gaps between increasing demand for highly educated male marriage partners and their supply (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D3.4). At the same time, the propensity of cohabitation has increased at least partly due to differences in the effects of educational attainment for entering cohabiting unions compared to marriages, which has resulted in non-marital unions replacing marriage as the main form of first partnerships in three of the four countries studied, hence enhancing diversity of family structures in the region. The choice of marriage versus cohabitation as first partnership and the timing of union formation seem to be influenced also by one’s educational field, but the pattern varies by gender and country (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 52(2016). Certain fields of study are associated with later union formation patterns suggesting possible barriers to employability, while more traditional choices of educational fields are often linked to more traditional partnership patterns such as early union formation and entering marriage as first union rather than non-marital cohabitation.
Childless couples are a family form on the rise, especially as voluntary postponement of the first child, often related to obstacles in the transition to adulthood can easily turn into involuntary, permanent childlessness (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 69(2017)). While women acquiring higher education and thus economic independence has been viewed as the main cause of trends towards ‘less family’, particularly in economic theorising, research on childlessness in the project has revealed that this stereotype no longer holds. Childlessness has been found to be complex and differentiated across Europe and in many cases increasingly situated in the lower educated and precarious economic groups in society who often face difficulties in forming and maintaining committed couple relationships, which is a precondition of childbearing. It is also suggested that the educational gradient of childlessness is linked to the phase of the gender revolution where a country is situated, with a positive gradient related to the first phase with women’s increasing presence in the public sphere, in particular the labour market, but turning into a negative educational gradient as the society moves to the second phase with men’s increasing engagement in family tasks and extensive policy support for work-life balance (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverables D4.2 D4.3). In contrast to previous research suggesting that different determinants explain men and women’s childlessness, analysis in the FamiliesAndSocietes project showed no gender-specific patterns, but rather that the main variables act in the same direction for both sexes. It was also highlighted that lifetime childlessness can hardly be traced back to one single reason or decision, but is the culmination of several interacting factors which contribute to the postponement of childbearing up to a point when having one’s own child becomes impossible due to reproductive constraints. Not being a biological parent does not necessarily mean a ‘childfree lifestyle’ as many childless people are actively involved in raising the children of close family members and/or friends, as a study on the narratives of childlessness in Hungary and Romania with low but increasing childlessness levels (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D4.4) revealed.
Another emerging family form is the Living-Apart-Together (LAT) relationships in which a couple does not even share residence. More recent surveys made it possible to reveal that not all single people are alone; in many countries, nearly one adult in ten is involved in LAT. Several studies addressed this new family type in the project (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 25(2015)). The findings have revealed a variety of LAT relationships, considered either as a temporary stage or a more permanent state by the partners involved, that is, a prelude to a co-residential (non-marital or marital) union or a permanent arrangement with separate residences notwithstanding commitment to each other. Although LAT is hardly ever the context of childbearing, it may be a preferred form for an intimate relationship when a partner has children from previous relationship or other care obligations. Among young people LAT is often the result of constraints related to housing and labour market uncertainties among others, hence not being able or ready for marriage while cohabitation is not yet diffused and institutionalised in the society. Thus, LAT may even prolong the transition to adulthood in terms of entering the first co-residential union and having a first child. At later phases of the life course, notably after a family break-up, LAT is usually a choice to maintain privacy and autonomy while engaging in an intimate relationship, which can also facilitate contacts with (adult) children from previous unions. At ages 50+ it is more like a sustainable form of coupledom as fewer partners move in together despite a (longer) lasting relationship. The spread of non-marital cohabitation does not appear to be a prerequisite for the occurrence of LAT unions, considering their similar prevalence in France and Italy, but where cohabitation is not yet diffused and institutionalised as in Southern Europe, LAT-arrangements are more likely to occur at younger ages and often as a constraint. In Poland however, despite similarly unfavourable circumstances for the youth as in Italy, the prevalence of LAT unions is very low.
A more sizeable family type, also often the result of divorce or separation, is single-parent families, shown to be a growing minority among families with children. Although single-father families have become more common in the last decades, the vast majority in this family form is single-mother families for whom changes in the educational gradient have been seen recently. Up until the late 20th century higher educated women were more likely to become single mothers, but lately education has increasingly been associated negatively with single motherhood not only in the Dual-Earner cluster in forefront of the gender revolution but even in the Familialistic regime barely starting it (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D2.6 study 5)). The changing educational association has been mainly driven by the transformation of the educational gradient of union dissolution, from positive to negative, which in turn is likely to be affected by increasing probability of partnership break-up in case of less stable labour-market position (e.g. due to unemployment) of partners, being more prevalent among the less educated. The effect is clearly gendered however as unemployment of the male partner increases the risk of partnership break-up in all countries, but woman’s unemployment only in societies with high levels of female work with a magnitude of impact about half of that of the man’s unemployment (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D2.8). In economic theorising women’s employment too is considered as increasing marital disruption, a question addressed in the project. A four country comparison suggested elevated divorce risks of employed women in Italy and Poland, that is countries with relatively low levels of divorce, but not in Germany and Hungary where marriage dissolution is quite common (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D3.3 study 4). Thus the findings indicate that an improvement in women’s socioeconomic status does not necessarily increase the risk of divorce, but women’s earnings can have a stabilising effect on the family budget and hence the marriage. Selection and women’s anticipatory employment adjustments may operate differently in different contexts.
Stepfamilies, or its more complex form, the so-called blended families with both joint children and children with previous partner, is another growing non-standard family form. It is linked to the decreasing stability of couple relationships even among families with children and in the reproductive ages, and is based on repartnering after shorter or longer experience of single parenthood. As pointed out by a study on Belgium in the project socio-economic resources affect repartnering being more likely to occur in the lowest and highest income groups due to economic need and financial attractiveness respectively (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D2.6 study 4)). The pattern is more complex for women, however, interacting with gendered patterns of care for children and related values, decreasing their chances to form a new union more than do low earnings or weak labour market position, unlike for men. With respect to educational attainment, no clear pattern is shown across Europe. In Spain, repartnered mothers have lower levels of education than single mothers (ibid, study 5). The educational gradient of ‘multi-partnered fertility’ varies across countries. The more highly educated exhibit higher risk for second birth in a new union in for example Finland, but less so elsewhere (ibid, study 3). In any case, the welfare regime framework has proved to be less helpful to explain the variation of fertility behaviour in stepfamilies. The share of stepfamilies will increase among families with three or more children, as indicated by microsimulation results on future family developments (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D10.3) hence enhancing family diversity.
The FamiliesAndSocieties project has also shed more light on the relatively new and understudied domain of same-sex families, combining three perspectives: legal, statistical and sociological. The statistical approach led to an overview of statistical issues regarding the identification of same-sex couples in censuses, population registers and surveys, and to a collection of comparative statistical data on same-sex families in 12 European countries concerning various forms of registered partnerships and, where applicable, marriage and parenting (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 8(2014)). In addition, a sociological analysis addressed the reception of the legal recognition of same-sex partners in Iceland, Italy, France and Spain, countries with great differences in the legal situation of LGBTQ people ranging from no legal mechanisms at all to extended legal protection, based on 30 qualitative interviews for each country. Legal support has been viewed as essential for initiating social inclusion, strengthening the feeling to be treated equally (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 75(2017) chapter 8). These two data sources, the statistical and the sociological, have been linked to the LawsAndFamilies Database, a database of legal issues of same-sex and different-sex families in over 20 European countries, recently launched in the project making informed studies of the process and implications of legal and social recognition of same-sex families over time and across countries possible, and enhancing a deeper understanding of social inclusion related to sexual orientation (ibid, chapters 1 and 2).
Diversity also includes an ethnic dimension. As the number of immigrants and their descendants has significantly increased in Europe (even before the most recent waves of refugees), the project has also examined family trajectories of the larger ethnic groups compared to the native population in selected European countries with high levels of immigration over longer periods. Addressing the research gap in the literature, partnership dynamics (i.e. union formation and dissolution) among immigrants and their descendants, fertility behaviour and patterns of inter-marriage were addressed (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Papers 13(2014), 14(2014), 39(2015), 40(2015), 56(2016), 57(2016)). The findings have indicated that immigrants and their descendants are over-represented in non-standard families, but there is also a remarkable diversity of partnership patterns and family forms among them, distinguishing broadly between three groups: one with traditional family patterns (comprising immigrants from countries with conservative family views and values), another featuring both traditional and modern family behaviours (with origin in countries with less traditional family patterns), and the third following similar patterns as the natives in the ‘host’ societies (comprising immigrants from other European countries and their descendants and also Latin Americans). Partnership and childbearing patterns of the descendants were found to fall in-between those of immigrants and natives, although they varied across groups. Both the mainstream society and the minority subculture shape the family patterns of immigrants although the role of the minority subculture seems to prevail more strongly among certain groups, related to large group sizes with high levels of residential and spatial segregation. The country context matters in shaping family patterns of minorities and differences across population subgroups (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 67(2017)). In any case, with appropriate policy support, the diversity of family forms can co-exist with a successful labour market and social integration of immigrant minorities and native majorities alike.
2. Linked lives and interdependencies: continuity and change
2.1 Linked lives and changing gender roles and the doing of family
Changes in gender roles of women have been mainly attributed to their increasing contribution to the economic provision and decision-making in the family that until not long ago belonged to men. More recently, men’s gender role is not only defined by breadwinning but also by their involvement in care. Both of these dimensions of changing gender roles, highlighted in the discussion above on the gender revolution, have led to a flowering of research that focuses on dual-earner families and the daily practices in paid and unpaid work in families. The concept of doing gender has been applied to interactions at micro-level between men and women, assuming reproduction of unequal gendered patterns in everyday practices. In the FamiliesAndSocieties project doing family is linked to doing gender. By recognising the institutional contextual factors that structure these relationships in everyday life as well as the policies that sustain them or seek to alter the persistence of gender inequalities in care, breadwinning and parenting, the research in FamiliesAndSocieties has added new dimensions to this micro-level interactive framework.
2.1.1 Women’s breadwinning and new fatherhood
For the past decades, the traditional family in which men are the sole breadwinner and women responsible for care and domestic tasks has been undergoing change, reflecting both macro processes and new norms of parenting. First there are fewer and fewer jobs offering lifetime security for the single male breadwinner in traditional masculine sectors while at the same time, there has been an expansion in sectors where women dominate. These structural factors in themselves do not explain changing gender roles in the family. Other factors need to be considered, importantly, women’s aspirations beyond family responsibilities and the emergence of new norms and ideals of fatherhood alongside the work-life balance policies at the European and national levels that encourage men to become more involved fathers. Several studies in the project have addressed factors promoting changes in gender roles and the extent to which women are becoming breadwinners and men more engaged in the daily activities of care.
Women’s investment in education and career is one crucial dimension shaping the increased contribution of women to the family economy and the growing importance of the female breadwinner role. In addition, the gender imbalance in educational attainment observed in many countries in Europe is reflected in the growing number of couples in which women have a higher educational attainment than their partners. Nowadays employed women are increasingly likely to contribute a large share to the family income and can be considered as breadwinners. Still, in societies with a strong male breadwinner model, such as Italy, Greece, Germany and Austria, men remain the principal breadwinner, even when women are highly educated. Female breadwinner families are still not very common in European countries, but may become more so in the future which may further strengthen women’s influence to alter the doing of gender in the division of unpaid work within the family (FamiliesAndsocieties Working Paper 71(2017)).
In the project non-traditional role arrangements were addressed via in-depth qualitative studies of couples with breadwinning mothers and involved fathers in Germany and Hungary ((FamiliesAndsocieties Deliverable 3.8) by analysing what these arrangements looked like; why and how they were chosen; and what effects they had on families’ daily lives. The role of female breadwinner implies not only counter-normative behaviour by the mother, but demands for such behaviour also by the father as he relinquishes the ideal of a male breadwinner. The arrangement can carry a significant risk of conflict among partners. In many cases, egalitarian gender role identities and a strong career orientation by the women seemed to have preceded the choice of this role arrangement. The male partners of the female breadwinners had often left a successful career behind them, so that their gender identity may have partly been grounded in achievements of the past. At the same time, the women still took a strong lead in managing their family’s lives, which may have contributed to satisfying their own gender role identity. Oftentimes these high earning women could afford to outsource domestic services instead of greater demands for more involvement of their partners in domestic chores.
In contrast, the active father concept is defined more broadly than women’s breadwinning, accommodating a wide range of paternal behaviour including the pursuit of career-oriented, full-time employment. Hence, there is more flexibility in realising diverse gender self-concepts in an active father family set-up than there is in female breadwinner constellations; more scope for negotiating gender roles; and less potential for conflict. Rational-pragmatic approaches to arranging parental roles, such as financial gains that could be made by granting the breadwinner role to the female partner, or the man’s disappointing personal experiences at work, especially with the employer, dominated over idealistic-aspirational goals of a commitment to gender equality or ideals of new fatherhood in the interviewed caring father families, although having a close relationship with their children was highly valued by all these men (ibid.). In any case, in both types of non-traditional role arrangements, an endurance of traditional gender roles and associated norms was seen. It appeared that mothers and fathers had adopted certain aspects of the role traditionally ascribed to the other gender, resulting in an ‘own role enrichment’, that is a form of motherhood enhanced by strong emphasis on employment, and a type of fatherhood with a relatively strong childcare component.
2.1.2 Parenting practices
Doing gender cannot be decoupled from doing family as was highlighted in the project by qualitative studies on gendered practices in the transition to parenthood in Austria, Sweden and Switzerland, which often results in a re-traditionalisation of family roles, and by quantitative analysis of fathers’ involvement in parenting tasks in France, Italy, Sweden and the UK based on time-use surveys’ data. Hence, this critical phase of gender formation was analysed in countries which differ greatly by gender regimes, family policies and workplace culture. In addition, by focusing on the effects of childcare choices on both family time allocation and child development, the interplay between children’s and parents’ characteristics in shaping child well-being and development was addressed.
In the multi-methods study on Austria (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D3.7) the analysis relying on qualitative longitudinal design highlighted how participation in care and employment of both partners within couples changed during pregnancy to six months after childbirth. In addition, based on data from two waves of the GGS, couples who had and those who did not have a first child during the inter-survey period of four years were matched and their outcomes were compared. This analysis confirmed previous knowledge that this transition goes along with an increase in inequality. In terms of earnings, gender inequality rises among parents but not among their childless counterparts. Childless couples and fathers(-to-be) keep up their working hours across both waves, whereas mothers reduce their time in paid work to about one third of the prior level. In contrast to fathers who decided by themselves about the time they spent on paid work, such a decision was taken jointly with the partner among one-third of mothers. Moreover, the dynamics in the distribution of housework are stronger for parents(-to-be). The share of couples in which women perform most of the housework increased to two-thirds across the GGS waves. 60 per cent of couples who distributed housework in an egalitarian way in the first wave shifted to a more traditional division confirming that the transition to parenthood leads to a much greater specialisation of roles even in the most egalitarian couples. Regarding parental care, the qualitative part of the study showed that a child’s birth was but one among many turning points that led to changes in the distribution of care work, and the gendering of parenting roles. Six different types of interrelated parenting practices were identified reflecting different manifestations of parents’ relationality in doing care work. A complex continuum of parental gender relations that includes more than the mere polarity of equality and inequality has been revealed, including gender relations that are characterised by inequality (the exclusive caring–absent type), dichotomy (managing–conducting), ambiguity (main caring–co-recognising and key caring–helping) and equality (equal caring and being absent). Correspondingly, one cannot speak of the transition to parenthood when focusing on parental involvement in care work; rather, there are several transitions taking place within the transition process.
Motivations and consequences of parents’ leave use to care for their children were highlighted in a Swedish study (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 27(2015)). The quantitative analysis of data from the Swedish Young Adult Panel Study showed most equal division of parental leave for couples who wanted to share the leave with each other and where the man’s will to stay home determined how the leave was divided. The most unequal division was found for couples where the mother wanted to stay home for a long period, where the father did not want to stay at home, where work-related reasons for the father determined the (limited) division of leave and where the family economy was the most important reason for the division. Mothers’ satisfaction with the division seemed to be positively related to the length of leave used by the father, as well as the mothers’ paid work hours, the latter increasing fathers’ childcare input. Qualitative interviews with couples provided further insights, indicating that ideals of equal parenting, engaged fatherhood and gender equality can lead a couple to an equal division of parental leave. With respect to the economic argument governing more traditional leave division between the parents, both couples in which the woman earned more as well as couples with the man as the main earner used that justification, but adjusting the argument to their own circumstances. Sharing parental leave was shown to further an understanding between the parents, in addition to being considered beneficial for children as having two parents to turn to for comfort and facilitating for them to develop a long-term relationship with both the mother and the father.
Whether gendered representations and practices of parenthood can be challenged via specific leave policies for fathers at the company level was addressed in a study on Switzerland, a country with no statutory leave for fathers (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D3.5). Interviews with fathers and managers at a specific public employer implementing a one-month paid paternity leave indicated that men’s leave patterns are the result of individual preferences and couple-level negotiations, but also of workplace influences. The workplace indeed appeared as a crucial site for the promoting or inhibiting the change of gender roles and paternal involvement in family life. In the family however, the mother remained the main parent responsible for the child while fathers were temporary and secondary helpers in childcare and household tasks. At the individual level, the paternity leave use modified men’s identities as fathers to a certain extent, strengthening their sense of competence and appropriation of fatherhood, and their feeling as part of the family. Nevertheless, the few gender equality effects observed were subtle and entwined with persisting differentiations between motherhood and fatherhood, underpinned by gendered norms and unequal labour market opportunities for men and women, and substantial differences in the leave entitlements for fathers and mothers.
Time spent by fathers with children, in particular time spent alone with children as well as time allocated to childcare, might be used to describe how involved fathers perform their role. Since fathers’ family engagement differs across European countries and over time, cross-country comparisons of fathers’ time use can provide empirical evidence of this on-going evolution of fathers’ role from a breadwinner towards a dual role of an earner-carer, that is, towards reconciling economic provision with childcare responsibilities. In the project fathers’ involvement with parenting tasks and activities with respect to allocation of time on childcare alone and with a partner on weekdays and weekends was studied based on time use survey data on four countries: France, Italy, Sweden and Spain, with different policies, levels of maternal employment and gender equality norms (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D3.10). The results illustrate how much the specific institutional policy context can affect men’s involvement in daily care activities. Irrespective of the time indicators used, such as the total time with children, the total time spent alone with children, time spent in childcare activities alone and with a partner, the highest values were observed for Sweden. Fathers’ time allocation in Italy, France, UK reveals a very different pattern; childcare activities and activities carried out by the father alone with children represented a fraction of the total time fathers devoted to their children, most of which involved non-care activities, often carried out together with the mother. Hence fathers’ increased time in childcare activities did not necessarily reflect a more equal division of childcare.
Relying on new data for the UK on the period 2000-2015, an increase over time was seen for fathers’ childcare activities without the partner, but less time was allocated to non-care activities together with the mother. Also, a statistically not significant decline for the total time spent by fathers with their children was noted over time ((FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 70(2017)). The association between father involvement and their partners working full-time has strengthened and mothers having a university degree were positively related to fathers’ total time with their children as well as childcare time. The results indicate inequalities in family environments for children not only in financial and material terms but also by differences in fathering, even among two-parent families with own biological children. Those with well-educated parents profit not only from the family’s economic resources but also from time spent with fathers compared to children from less educated backgrounds.
The links between childcare choices, maternal employment, parental time allocation and child development are crucial aspects to enhance the knowledge on the implications of family change for child well-being and the reproduction of inequality. The project addressed the incentive structures of parents’ use of particular childcare forms in diverse institutional contexts, based on interviews with parents and parenting associations, combined with analysis of data on childcare use (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 35(2015)). The results suggest that families across countries face similar problems of simultaneously coordinating space and time components to match work and care. Diversity among family circumstances and a persistent need for flexibility to deal with changing circumstances and unexpected events makes sole reliance on institutional care services infeasible for many families. Relying (partially) on private arrangements, including paid home-based carers and informal support from friends and family, may increase the complexity of care arrangements and can lead to stress or attempts to relieve the burden by limiting labour force participation. This suggests that the concept of childcare availability is more complex than is commonly acknowledged, not properly accounted for in frequently used availability indicators which can lead to potentially misleading conclusions about the effects of childcare provision on maternal employment, for example.
Results of studies in work package 6 in the project informed about the effects of different types of care on child development. They highlighted the differing of parental roles with mothers’ role being especially significant during early years in a child’s life, while that of fathers is more influential at later years, and parents’ time investments in producing child quality being more important than financial investments (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 17(2014)). Children of low educated mothers and from disadvantaged background in general were shown to greatly benefit from centre-based care compared to home-based care but less so the children of highly educated mothers (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Papers 29(2015) and 30(2015)). Disparities in child outcomes according to household structures (better in two-parent than in single-parent families) were found to be related to differences in the type of care and activities performed (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 21(2014)). Positive association was shown between maternal education/socioeconomic status and childcare usage and child outcomes, maternal employment reducing the likelihood of good school grades but the use of public childcare offsetting that effect (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 63(2016)). Social context matters however, as in Finland there were no significant differences in school performance of six-year-olds cared for at home compared to those in public day-care, but among disadvantaged families the home care group more often had poor grades (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 42(2015)).
2.2 Linked lives: Divorce and families
Linked lives viewed from the lens of divorce and well-being of children relate to the broader issue of non-intact families contributing to the intergenerational reproduction of inequality. Much attention has been paid in the FamiliesAndSocieties project to the effects on child outcomes of the increasing diversity and complexity of family arrangements and family transitions. Previous studies addressing this issue have been mainly based on US research in which the point of departure is the ‘diverging destinies’ thesis with the core argument that increases in non-intact families are leading to widening differences in child outcomes. As children’s family life courses are becoming increasingly complex, there is growing need to address, in addition to parental divorce or experience of single-parenthood, the effects of family reconstitution and multiple family transitions in European contexts. Assessment of the causal effects of family transitions brings additional challenges as the transitions should often be regarded as processes rather than clean-cut events. In research of especially the work package 5 in the project a range of issues were considered, including economic and psychological effects, the contacts of non-custodial parents with children, father involvement and residential custody, and stepfamilies.
During the 20th century, the proportion of children and adolescents who have experienced a divorce or separation between their parents has steadily increased. At the same time, severe family conflict and economic difficulties are to a lesser extent than previously characterising children’s experiences of parental divorce, and social acceptance of divorce increased. Social relationships in the family have major implications for child development and well-being. Family dynamics can disrupt these relationships and activities, and by affecting children’s adjustment and development, changes in parenting and family relationships are seen as a major explanation of the often adverse effects of these events. Based on data from Sweden, one of the few countries where appropriate data are available, covering one hundred birth cohorts (born 1892-1991) it was shown that parental divorces over time have become more likely among parents with lower class status, they are more likely to involve residential moves, stepparents and stepsiblings, but the negative effects on children’s psychological well-being and educational attainment remained unchanged (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 15(2014)). Using Swedish population register data it was also shown that the association between parents’ divorce and the dissolution of children’s own relationships in adulthood has remained very stable (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 19(2014)). These studies strengthen the general conclusion of stability in the effects of parental separation, despite the sweeping social changes and the character of parental break-ups.
A central question addressed in the project was whether family change really matters for child wellbeing and educational attainment. Through comparisons of children in stable non-traditional households, that is non-standard families, with those in stable two-parent households, the results challenge a core assumption that changes in family structure is the main determinant for negative outcomes for children, with respect to cognitive skill development, educational attainment and general well-being (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 68(2017)). Rather, there are other factors that can underlie the association between negative child outcomes in divorced and single-parent families, including socio-economic conditions such as parents’ social class, education, and economic difficulties. Today, parental separation is a more common experience among children with low rather than high educated parents and family dissolution is also related to lower levels of living.
Whether and how effects of childhood family structure differ across socioeconomic and ethnic groups received much attention in the project. Surprisingly, analysis of data from the UK, and from 14 European countries showed a more pronounced negative association between parental separation and children’s educational attainment for children with more advantaged backgrounds. The explanation put forward is that children from disadvantaged backgrounds have less to lose in terms of parental resources. In advantaged stable two-parent families, parents are likely to have the resources to invest in the educational attainment of their children and perform intensive parenting. Although parental separation poses additional challenges for children from disadvantaged families, this does not affect parental investments to a large extent because these are low to begin with (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 68(2017)). Focusing on children’s school performance for natives and various immigrant groups in Sweden, it was shown that parental separation penalties are weaker when family dissolutions are more accepted and less stigmatised, when single parenthood is a more institutionalised living arrangement, and when parents and others in the community have better skills to handle family dissolutions (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 51(2016)). This suggests that certain institutionalisation of family dissolution and greater acceptance of parental break-up may mitigate its negative impact. In contrast, a study on Italy with parental divorce being extremely rare until quite recently, did not find pronounced negative consequences for children of divorced parents (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D5.7).
Since many children experience not only parental separation but also family reconstitution and stepfamily living, and/or two parental regimes due to shared custody, the concept of family in which children grow up following a divorce should be reconsidered. A study on Sweden, where shared legal custody has been the norm for several decades, and shared physical custody has risen dramatically from 1 per cent of children with separated parents in the 1980s to 35 per cent in 2013, has shown that children can benefit from shared physical custody in both continuity in parental involvement and resources. Children in equally shared physical custody reported similarly low levels of stress as children in intact two-parent families, whereas children living with a single parent experienced significantly higher stress levels (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 24(2015)).This may be related to differences in parenting, seen as a probable mediator regarding the effect of post-divorce family structures and children’s well-being.
A study in Belgium revealed that parenting of both fathers and mothers matter for child well-being, since it can function as a protective factor after parental break-up, but should be considered from a family system perspective taking into account both family structures and trajectories (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D5.6). After a divorce, support of the non-residential parent was shown to decrease, except for residential mother families with a new partner. Father involvement appeared to be a crucial dimension in the different outcomes for children with respect to self-esteem and life satisfaction after parental break-up. The results indicated that not only is the parenting of the residential parent a protective factor, but also that the parenting of the non-residential parent functions both as a risk and or a protective factor for children’s well-being, depending on the post-divorce family structure. Another study on Italy showed that when neither parent repartners, non-resident mothers have similar levels of contact with their children as those observed for the non-resident fathers (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 22(2014)). Repartnering has however a gendered impact on parent-child contact. In the case of non-resident father, both his repartnering and that of the resident mother reduced his contacts with the non-resident children, but this was not true when both parents had a new union. In the case of non-resident mother, her repartnering (independently from father’s repartnering) increased the contact with the children.
Recognising the importance of doing family on child well-being, stepfamilies were specifically addressed in a study on Germany combining psychological and sociological perspectives and qualitative and quantitative methods in work package 3 in the project. Stepfamilies involve multiple actors in different households and a complex web of relationships between biological and social parents, grandparents and step-grandparents, step-siblings and half siblings, shaping child well-being. In the quantitative part of the study children from diverse family types, including nuclear families, single parent families, families with stepchildren only, and families with stepchildren and partners’ joint children (half siblings) were compared (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D3.9). The results revealed that children growing up in a complex stepfamily, that is, with half siblings, displayed lowest levels of well-being compared to other family structures. The qualitative part of the study showed that children’s perception of how family members relate to each other, including sibling relationships, perception of how residential parents manage to cooperate and resolve conflict, and how each parent relates to the different children living in the family plays a role in child well-being and self-esteem. The very complexity of such stepfamilies may trigger conflict and affect well-being, as children in simple stepfamilies (not involving half-siblings) did not report significantly reduced cohesion or higher conflict compared to children in intact two-parent families. Furthermore, it is important to see the stepfamily within the larger context of the multigenerational family. Step-grandparents are part of the complex web of negotiated family relationships in stepfamilies, acting as mediators between biological grandchildren, step-grandchildren and their biological and stepparents. A complementary qualitative study of step-grandparents revealed the importance of their ‘being there’ for their biological as well as their step-grandchildren, compensating for adverse effects of the parents’ divorce or separation.
Whether it can be claimed that growing up in a non-traditional family causes worse child outcomes is a complex issue. As family transitions are not randomly distributed across society, and parental break-up is more common among socioeconomically disadvantaged families, associations between family transitions and child outcomes may be due to pre-existing circumstances affecting both family behaviour and child outcomes, rather than due to a causal relationship. In work package 5, different methods were used to deal with the endogeneity problem, and revealed small but not trivial causal effects of parental separation on children’s outcomes, such as increased risk of becoming overweight and obesity, but not on their cognitive ability (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 68(2017)). The research also suggested the actual physical separation of parents not having an effect on children’s school performance, unlike their educational attainment. A conclusion was to bear in mind that the associations of non-traditional family forms with child outcomes are relatively modest compared to other characteristics such as parental education and income. Hence even though the negative effects may be difficult to avoid but will not be large compared with certain other childhood disadvantages (ibid).
2.3 Linked lives: Intergenerational dependencies
The new demographic circumstances in which members of multiple family generations share several decades together compel us to recognise critical interdependencies between family generations and between men and women in families which are constructed in the daily interactions between family members, and are built and reinforced by social policies. In line with the emphasis on linked lives in the FamiliesAndSocities project, the young and old in families have been considered jointly. Considering micro and macro factors, policy and normative context, the solidarity between generations with respect to patterns in care and financial support, and co-residence were analysed in work package 7, as influencing well-being in families. Intergenerational ties continue in importance for families and across welfare states, and perhaps even more so in our era of welfare state restructuring and economic uncertainties resulting from global financial crisis. Hence, particular attention was paid also to the matter of vulnerability and its future development.
2.3.1 Intergenerational linkages in families
Intergenerational co-residence is the first aspect of intergenerational ties considered in the project. The aim was to determine the conditions under which intergenerational co-residence is the preferred living arrangement and those under which it is the default living arrangement. Intergenerational co-residence has been seen as a strategy to organise support, as exchanges between co-residing parents and adult children are the highest. Two studies addressed the issue in the project (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D7.2). The first study focused on the determinants of parent-child distance in Germany. It extended the literature by assessing whether the association between the presence of a sibling and parent-child distance varies as a function of parent and offspring characteristics. The results showed that the sibling effect is particularly strong for adult children of parents coping with severe health limitations, and for children of parents living in less urbanised regions, but no effect for birth order was found. The second study focused on two Eastern European countries—Romania and Bulgaria, where high levels of co-residence have been associated with a historical pattern of family formation, a high incidence of multigenerational households, and the availability and affordability of housing. The study distinguished between different life course trajectories of co-residential arrangements: i) co-residence in the parental home when a child has never left the parental home or when a child has left but moved back, and ii) co-residence in the child’s home when a parent moved in with a child. These different trajectories into intergenerational co-residence were shown to have different determinants. Co-residence in the parental home is associated with both the child’s and parents’ needs, such as the frail health of a parent and being a never-married child. Co-residence in the child’s home is least likely to occur with children with the lowest resources, while financial and time resources of the parents increase the likelihood of co-residence in a child’s household.
Prolonged transition to adulthood was also shown to contribute to intergenerational co-residence, with possibly different patterns for migrants who face additional cultural and economic constraints in their transition. A study on the descendants of migrants in France addressed the issue comparing trajectories of youth of North African origin and descendants of Southern Europeans to the native-born French, also looking at the gender pattern and socioeconomic characteristics (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 50(2016). While the paths to adulthood were quite similar across groups, specific patterns emerged for second generation young people. They stay significantly longer in the parental home, partly because their parents come from societies characterised by strong family ties, and partly because they have greater difficulties becoming self-sufficient related to their own and their parents’ lower educational levels. The parents’ lower socio-economic status prevents them from providing their children with financial set-up support. High unemployment levels among migrants is another factor that hinders their possibilities for reaching self-sufficiency, reflected in their longer periods of unemployment, especially for descendants of North African origin and particularly men. For women, the prolonged transition is linked mainly to their lower probability of entering cohabiting union. The descendants of immigrants from Southern Europe behave more like native French people.
Intergenerational support refers also to active involvement in caring responsibilities for old and young, even when family members do not co-reside. Here, the issue of how the sandwich generation, especially late-middle age women are coping with the double burden of support responsibilities towards younger and older generations, that is elderly parents and adult but still partly dependent children or grandchildren, is of particular interest. Despite the often-voiced suggestions that ‘generational squeezes’ are to intensify due to ageing, shrinking of the family care resources and longer stay in the labour market, the research in the project suggested that simultaneous support flows both up and down family lines are rare (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D7.3). In Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, the sandwich generation tends to assist the old more than in countries with a high-level of de-familialisation of care such as France. With regard to the well-being of the caretakers the divide between North-Western and South-Eastern Europe countries was revealed in the higher levels of well-being in the former. Those offering support to older adults reported lower levels of well-being in comparison to those not engaged in caregiving at all, whereas care of grandchildren increased the well-being of care givers. Employed members of the sandwich generation are more likely to be engaged in support of the elderly than those who do not work, but employment reduces their care provision for grandchildren. In any case, increasing labour force participation at these ages, especially of women, which is demanded to overcome the negative effects of population ageing, will induce more tensions between paid work and care.
Intergenerational links have been also examined from a normative perspective, where the focus was on the relationship between norms of family obligation and actual giving and receipt of financial support and care. Analysing GGS data for seven Central and Eastern European countries and two Western European countries (France and Norway), it was shown that norms of filial obligations are stronger in the former group of countries as compared to Western Europe (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D7.4). Also, the relationship between norms and offering instrumental (personal care), financial and emotional support was examined. Adult children in Eastern European countries are more likely to provide personal care. This support is partly a response to a lack of publicly funded care arrangements, which forces adult children to act upon the needs of their ageing parents. No connection between norms of filial obligation and the offering of emotional support was found. Care and emotional support are gendered in all countries as daughters are more likely to provide support, while financial support is not.
Another study focused on the care ideals in the Netherlands and assessed their stability over time (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 61(2016)). Four care ideals were distinguished: warm-modern (family and state jointly responsible for caring, egalitarian gender roles), cold-modern (large state responsibility, restricted family responsibility, egalitarian gender roles), traditional (restricted state responsibility, large family responsibility, moderately traditional gender roles), and cold-traditional (large state responsibility, restricted family responsibility, traditional gender roles). Between 2002 and 2011, there was a shift away from warm-modern care ideals and towards cold-modern care ideals, even though Dutch policy makers have increasingly encouraged family members to take on an active role in caring for dependent relatives. However, this may have led the Dutch to emphasise the value of state involvement in care provision more strongly to underline limits to what can be demanded from family members. Further analysis has shown that being able to rely on residential care undermines adult children’s sense of urgency to step in and provide care to their parents. In such case support to parents becomes more secondary and consists mainly of organising, managing, and supervising care.
The effect of the financial crisis on the dependencies in the families was also addressed, showing how families mediate the effects of economic hardship on the lives of individuals ((FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D7.6). The length and severity of the economic crisis in Southern Europe caused an increasing interest in understanding the mechanisms that cushion the impact of the economic impoverishment of large segments of the population. In the scholarly literature, Familialistic regimes are expected to activate family solidarity in times of crisis, that is, families tend to function as ‘shock absorbers’. However, comparative SHARE data on help and money exchanges between generations seem to cast some shadows on the narrative about the strength of familialism in Spain during the crisis. Although there has been a general increase in economic transfers to younger generations across Europe in the early 2010s compared to 2006, this increase was not particularly noticeable in Spain (or Italy) when compared to other European countries. Also, help is much more likely when parents are well off. This evidence does not necessarily rule out the possibility that family assistance did indeed function as a shock absorber. The young benefited clearly from the opportunity to remain with their parents when they were unable to find affordable home for their own, and some of them returned to the parental home when their project to live autonomously failed. Closer analysis of Spanish Survey of Living Conditions (EU-SILC) data revealed that intergenerational households were increasingly characterised by low work intensity, suggesting a strategy of resource-pooling in the family network. In Spain, intergenerational co-residential arrangements rather than financial transfers between households appear to be the avenue by which vulnerable individuals have been protected from hardship. However, accepting ‘room and board’ solidarity is against the primary preferences of young adults, and violates socially shared expectations about the appropriate age for leaving the parental home.
2.3.2 Reproduction of vulnerability
Following the Futures task force workshop organised by work package 10 in the project which turned attention to the question of vulnerability as a key issue for family development and the well-being of families and children (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 18(2014)), focus group discussions were conducted with stakeholders and policy-makers in five European cities (Madrid, Stockholm, Vienna, Warsaw and Brussels), where family configurations ‘at risk’ of vulnerability were identified, in particular single parents and large families. These family types are more likely to be vulnerable themselves, and the members of such families may face a higher risk of poverty, because the reconciliation of paid work and family life, considered decisive for family well-being, is particularly challenging for such families (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 49(2015)). Thus, in addition to a high risk of the intergenerational transmission of vulnerability within such families (for example empirical studies showed that children of large families are also more likely to have large families themselves as adults than others), these family types which are also more prevalent among some immigrant groups compared to native-born individuals in Europe, also stand for much of the reproduction of vulnerability within and across societies. Even when no ethnic dimension is involved, single parents, in particular single mothers seem to face growing employment disadvantages over time as a study on Finland demonstrated, related to changes in the educational gradient of single motherhood from positive to negative (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 58(2016)).
In the focus group discussions, the link between paid work and family life appeared central for the concept of vulnerability as it conveys economic, social as well as emotional dimensions. The inability to reconcile the two spheres of life is likely to lead to serious economic problems. Parents can get trapped in precarious jobs or they may feel forced to limit their working hours which, in turn, substantially reduces their income. In extreme cases, they might need to leave the labour market altogether. Consequently, they would no longer be able to meet the financial needs of their family. Being out of the labour market can also reduce the social contacts parents have, limiting their social embeddedness (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 49(2015)).). Facing substantial difficulties regarding the reconciliation of work and family, parents might also choose to greatly reduce quality time with their offspring for the sake of economic safety but this may have a negative impact on the relations with their children and on the children’s emotional well-being. One key challenge is to help vulnerable families not only temporarily (by mitigating the most urgent needs) but to improve their situation in a sustainable manner. Focus group participants strongly emphasised the importance of education in this respect. Early childhood education in formal childcare empowers children from vulnerable families, providing them with the skills necessary for breaking the ‘cycle of reproduction of vulnerability’ as it also improves their position in the labour market when they enter adulthood. Also parents should be ‘educated’, that is informed, to understand the importance of schooling for their children’s future, and to improve their parenting styles. Finally, employers need to be ‘educated’ about the importance of family-friendly working environment.
In the project also an online expert questionnaire study was carried out in order to assess future trends of vulnerability (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 65(2017)). The experts were pessimistic predicting both short-term and long-term increase of vulnerability with respect to its economic, psychological and social dimensions. They considered economic development, in particular unemployment and (in)equality of earnings, to be most relevant for the vulnerability of families with children in the future, affecting all three dimensions of vulnerability. Also family policies were considered important with respect to future trends of vulnerability, especially availability of public childcare and financial transfers, though the latter is expected to decrease over time in line with continuing welfare state retrenchment. Changes in gender roles were evaluated with some ambivalence: while a further increase or high female labour force participation was seen to increase the future share of families affected by psychological vulnerability, more involvement of men in childcare was seen to decrease it. Experts were also asked to assess the relevance of ten selected policy measures to mitigate or even stop the reproduction of vulnerability within families. They ranked public childcare provision, assistance for children with special needs, and raising employer awareness on employees’ work-life balance highest. These results are in line with that of the focus group discussions (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 49(2015)) in that reconciliation of paid work and family life is of crucial importance for the well-being of families and children, as enabling societies to counteract the reproduction of vulnerability.
3. Social contexts and policies matter
Policy/institutional context is reflected in the differences across societies highlighted in the above discussions of outcomes in linked lives, including gendered parenting practices and intergenerational norms and exchanges in support, and the effects of divorce and separation on child well-being. This section addresses how context matters focusing on specific policies and laws that influence the situations of vulnerable groups and vulnerable families and how they promote or hinder gender equality and equity, and social inclusion. To grasp if and how policies matter involves embedding them into layers of institutional normative context: family, workplace, welfare regime configurations and broader economic and global processes, as well as in the context of legal frameworks and specific policy design.
3.1 Vulnerable groups and families
3.1.1 Youth: Economic self-sufficiency and transition to adulthood
Young people face multiple challenges as they attempt to complete their education, move from education to employment and become economically independent and start a family. These are considered to be the main criteria of entering adulthood, but the young face many obstacles on that road, hence they enter adulthood in contemporary Europe much later than previous cohorts. However, there is no common pattern within, nor across countries which implies that the way young people structure their life-course is strongly dependent on norms but also on institutions (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D2.3). A significant proportion of young people remains unable to support themselves, much less a family, before their mid to late 20s, and need to rely on their parents and/or the welfare state. Moreover, the recent Great Recession hit youth particularly hard since the recovery has not produced job growth in many countries and young people have not seen their situation improving. As a consequence, young people today struggle to establish themselves in the labour market in spite of being the most highly educated generation in history.
How European countries enable young adults to leave the parental home and become economically self-sufficient varies according to the types of public benefits and supports with respect to education, housing, employment, and social and child benefits. A study based on OECD data, shows more comprehensive support in the Nordic countries, limited support in the Anglophone countries and a strong familialisation in support in Western (except France), Southern, and Eastern European countries (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 34(2015)). In the Nordic countries supporting the Dual-Earner model, the transition to adulthood is approached in a holistic manner, as policies take into account the multi-faceted aspects involved in transitions to adult life. This integrated model of social supports enables young people to balance their transitions to employment, family, and an independent household with investments in education. Except for the Dual-Earner and Liberal regime countries, the ‘familialisation’ of support persists, and parents benefit from family allowances or tax benefits for young adults. The configurations across welfare regimes also differ in the extent to which benefits are targeted to the most vulnerable young adults. Social benefits in countries such as Ireland and the UK provide modest coverage for young adults, though they do provide social support for young people who have left the education system but were unable to get a job. The role played by social assistance is much more limited in Mediterranean countries. These variations are key to understand the differences in entry into adult life in advanced economies, in terms of which order and when transitions occur across European countries. When social supports are linked to different phases of life transitions (complementarity), rather than separating them into well-ordered sequences, youth are less likely to remain dependent on their parents. This policy design offers young adults a sense of stability for the future, ensuring them support regardless of their decisions on their education, job market integration, and family life. It explains why young people in Nordic countries leave their parental home at a relatively early age to set up an independent household, a move that exposes them to the risk of poverty – but a risk that they are willing to assume.
3.1.2 Single mothers: Policies compensating for disadvantage
Single mothers are a vulnerable group in that they face a high risk of poverty as a single-earner in gendered labour markets where women earn less than men. As single parents, they experience time poverty taking on the main breadwinner role as well as the caring role. The intersections in class and gender are evident for child well-being in single mother families when parenting is combined with low education and low incomes. A point underscored in the discussion above, related to research in work package 5 especially, on the effects of divorce on child well-being is that family structure per se does not explain the differences between single parent families compared to two-parent households. Rather it is the socio-economic resources of single mothers that can adversely affect their children’s well-being and opportunities, their low education and weak attachment to the labour force. As single mothers increasingly tend to be concentrated among the lower educated, they have a ‘double disadvantage’ in the labour market that offers fewer unskilled jobs and higher unemployment. As single mothers may not be able to accept jobs with long hours or unpredictable hours, their double disadvantage increases their dependence on state support.
Accessible and affordable childcare is essential for single mothers’ capabilities to be earners contributing to the economic well-being of their family. High-quality external childcare also helps to compensate disadvantages in child development and cognitive skills among vulnerable families, as studies in work package 6 showed. Policies that support reconciliation of employment with family, such as childcare, parental leave and paid sick days, are indispensable for single mothers and their children since having employment reduces their risk of poverty. Furthermore, policies encouraging involvement of fathers in (daily) care of their children through residential custody and shared parental leave can weaken the disadvantages of children from low-educated low-income families where the mother is breadwinner and the sole caregiver. Indeed, countries that encourage women’s caregiving at home display higher rates of poverty for single mothers, and the cash for care schemes in Finland may be a contributing factor to the increase in single mother poverty there (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 58(2016)). However, as earnings from employment for low-educated single mothers are insufficient, social supports targeted at single mothers or more generally for vulnerable families are decisive for the well-being of these families and the children living in them, as research in work package 10 underscored.
3.1.3 Same-sex families: Legal recognition and social inclusion
Over the past decades, there have been significant changes in the way same-sex couple unions are regulated in European countries, although they remain a vulnerable group. Since the 1970s, a growing number of countries have started to recognise cohabitation of same-sex couples for a number of legal issues. In 1989, Denmark became the first country to offer a legal framework for the recognition of same-sex couples in the form of registered partnership, and other European countries have followed suit. The opening up of marriage started in 2001 in the Netherlands and has become a remarkably fast trend. Legal recognition of same-sex families still varies greatly across Europe, nevertheless, there is a clear trend among the majority of European countries to offer same-sex couples the opportunity to formalise their relationship as marriage and/or as registered partnership (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 75(2017)). To enhance a systematic overview of legal aspects of same-sex and different-sex families, the LawsAndFamilies Database has been established in the project based on responses to a questionnaire of selected legal experts in over 20 European countries (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 64(2016)). Legal recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships implies similar rights to heterosexual marriages with some disparities in parenting rights and consequences upon the death of a partner. Moreover, disparities in policies remain in these legal forms of recognition in access to care leaves, income tax rules, or surnames.
This is a period of transition in the legal recognition of same-sex families, which is still highly contested in public debates in many countries across Europe. In addition to the legal database, a qualitative study conducted in four countries with different social contexts and legal frameworks for same sex partnerships addressed whether the absence or presence of formal laws recognising same sex couples have an impact on life course transitions, including coupling and parenting and coming out (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 75(2017) chapter 8). The conclusion, based upon 128 narratives of lesbian and gay informants, was that enactment of laws recognising same sex couples was an initial and crucial step for the social inclusion of LGBT families and removal of stigma. Formal recognition not only provides legal protections but also has symbolic content, expressed in the feeling of being treated equally even though existing laws still favour heteronormativity. Interviewees cited administrative constraints for three- and four-parent families, where the non-biological parents have no legal recognition. In addition, in some countries lesbians are denied access to Assisted Reproduction Technologies. Being legally recognised as equals provided access to family benefits and reduced economic, social, and personal vulnerability. Among LGBT individuals there is an awareness that the extension of rights to non-heterosexual couples cannot be taken for granted.
3.1.4 The involuntary childless: Access to Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART)
Involuntary childlessness reflects broader societal changes in marriage markets, influenced by gender differences and structural shifts in employment and education. Delay of first birth is also linked to the constraints in balancing work with children (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Papers 69(2017) and 71(2017)). The research in work package 4 addressed the issue of childlessness, and related to that the demographic, regulatory and economic aspects of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), as well as their societal consequences. Based on the findings the ARPNoVA database was established in the project. The results showed that Europe not only has highest initial ART cycle treatments globally, but it also is the most regulated. Major ‘consumer’ countries outside Europe, such as the US and India rely largely on guidelines, proposed by professional organisations, to be voluntarily followed by practitioners. As alternatives, access to ART can be regulated by government legislation and/or by insurance coverage which can produce barriers, hence revealing a range of discriminatory practices. Differences exist across European countries in terms of groups that are excluded because of their sexual orientation and partnership status (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverables D4.5 and D4.6). Although many countries have liberalised partnership requirements, single and lesbian women are still often barred from access to ART. Large inter-country variations exist in affordability, based on whether ART is included in the public health care system or reliant upon private insurance. In Europe where many countries have very low fertility, ART is seen as a potential policy lever to raise fertility rates, which is not supported by empirical evidence. Nonetheless, eliminating the inequality in access affects utilisation and should be a goal. Infertility is now defined as a condition leading to disability by the World Health Organization and World Bank, both of which assert that infertile people should have a right to treatment.
The ‘myth’ of the highly-educated and career-oriented childless women in Europe no longer holds. Rather, childlessness is complex and differentiated across Europe and in many cases, is increasingly situated in the lower educated and precarious economic groups in society (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Papers 69(2017), which reveals the need to place ART within the public healthcare system. Discriminatory treatment by partner status and sexual orientation can be overcome with changes in policy guidelines at the European level. This could in turn result in changes in norms regarding equal treatment for all individuals. Other factors underlying delay in the transition to parenthood which eventually leads to the usage of ART are bound up with policy issues that need to be addressed, such as those discussed above in terms of transition to adulthood and reconciliation policies. In countries with active welfare policies for families, women with higher education levels are those less likely to remain childless given the policy support against the opportunity cost of having children. Conversely, countries where such policies have not been implemented, and where there has not been much change in traditional values on gender roles, have the highest percentages of highly educated childless women.
3.2 Policy Context Matters
There is a vast literature on how policies shape the organization of care in the family and its gender dimensions, including various indices on family friendly policies and their effects on mother’s possibilities for reconciling care with employment, and more recently on father’s participation and engagement in childcare. Parental leave has been seen as a policy instrument with the transformative potential to alter gender relations within the family and gender equality in other domains; particularly employment and career trajectories. The EU has been crucial actor in promoting parental leave policies in many countries and has introduced guidelines for encouraging more equal sharing. In the FamiliesAndSocieties project a number of comparative studies have been conducted addressing the impact of policies more broadly, which may offer valuable insights for policy formation.
3.2.1 Family policy initiatives in the European Union
During the past decades the scope of the political agenda of the European Union has broadened substantially. Its policy activities have expanded beyond the founding core to create a common market. The expansion was not only driven by the aim to further internal market efficiency and economic performance, but it was also driven by two additional factors. First, there has been an increasing awareness of how relevant non-economic aspects of the market, such as the health and social protection of workers, are for the creation and the growth of an internal market with free movement of workers, goods and services. Second, there has been an increasing awareness that developments outside the market, such as demographic change or gender (in)equality in the family, may affect the enhancement of the market in the short or long run. These developments have also opened up space for family-related issues to come onto the European Union’s policy agenda. The expansion of the European Union policy portfolio has also strengthened the normative power of the European Union beyond its power to set legally binding norms in areas defined by the Treaties and led to an increase in non-legal documents outlining, for example, common goals to be achieved or policy directions to be taken.
In the FamiliesAndSocieties project the policy initiatives taken by the European Union in family related issues were specifically studied. A European Union database on family related issues (EUFamPol) that covers binding and non-binding documents has been established to provide a systematic overview. The focus is on policy issues that cut across diverse aspects of family lives and lie at the intersection of employment, social affairs, gender equality and family development. The analysis of the initiatives over time showed that family related initiatives by the European Union have increased, both with respect to the number of initiatives taken as well as with respect to the topics covered (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 72(2017). An increase in legally binding as well as legally non-binding initiatives was shown. Family related initiatives also cumulate at specific times, mostly due to internal or external events or to policy activities in areas to which the respective family-related aspect belongs. Not surprisingly, family relevant issues in which the European Union has the competency to legislate or which have been aims of the European Union since its onset, such as employment related issues or gender equality, occur earlier and are more consistently on the agenda than more distant issues. Overall, the findings show that the framing and activity radius of the European Union with regard to family related policies have expanded over the years and that moreover the European Union has addressed family issues far longer than commonly assumed.
3.2.2 National level policies: Shaping generational interdependence
The implications of different policy arrangements for inequalities in and between families, with focus on both younger and older generations and on men and women were also examined in the project (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D7.5). The family policies analysed come in a variety of forms: leaves, financial compensation, and care services. Some of these measures aim at compensating the direct costs of caring (tax breaks, allowances), others aim at reducing the opportunity costs of cutting back on paid work hours to provide care to family members (leaves, personal budgets, services). The impact of three different policy types on the EU-28 countries, Norway, Switzerland, the United States and Canada were considered. First, generational interdependence in families, such as legal obligations to provide financial support or care to family members, policies aimed to support families in keeping up their financial and caring responsibilities (cash benefits, (paid) leaves, and care services), and ‘positive’ generational policies aiming to reduce inequality by explicit intervention (e.g. daddy quotas) were examined. Second, policies regarding those with no or limited family ties: childless older adults were described. The primacy of family members in legal arrangements (e.g. medical decisions, care, inheritance, taxation) blocks interdependence between the childless and their network members. Third, inequalities between men and women in family roles: roles limited to one gender (e.g. care leaves), gender differences in age borders (e.g. pensionable age), and gender differences in credits for family role engagement (e.g. survivor’s benefits) were considered.
In a study elaborating the matter (see: Dykstra P.A. & Hagestad, G.O. 2017. How demographic patterns and social policies shape interdependence among lives in the family realm. Population Horizons, forthcoming), it was pointed out that interdependence is not only social-psychological, but is also structured at a macro-level. More specifically, ways in which demographic change such as increased co-longevity creates different opportunities for independence for men and women were addressed. In addition, the role of national policies were underscored, distinguishing ways in which legislation mandates generational interdependence (for example, legal obligations to provide financial support), blocks generational interdependence (e.g. grandparents not granted the right to raise grandchildren when parents cannot provide adequate care; migration laws not granting temporary visits to enable the provision of care), generates generational interdependence (e.g. daddy quota), and lightens generational interdependence (e.g. less reliance on grandparental care in Northern and Western Europe due to public support to parents of young children). Gender received consistent consideration throughout the study. The importance of distinguishing cash for care policies (which strengthen gender and socioeconomic inequities in and between families) and services such as day-care, meals on wheels, home help (which reduce gender and socioeconomic inequities in and between families) was emphasised, as the former (cash transfers) strengthen a gendered division of tasks more often than services, hence the type of public provision offered has consequences for gender and socio-economic inequality. Although there is a convergence between her and his age boundaries, rights and duties, there are strong contrasts between men’s and women’s actual family roles, underscoring the difference between de jure and de facto practices. One issue requiring attention is gender-bias in the implementation of policies.
3.2.3 National level policies: Care for children and implications of father’s leave use
Parental leave is a policy measure of major relevance for gender equality and social equality, and its consequences are paid much attention to in policy formation at both the European and the national level. In the project impacts of father’s leave uptake on various outcomes were addressed with a focus on the Nordic countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland) as these were among the first to implement leave policies that aimed at de-gendering care, and creating a more gender equal division of childcare and economic responsibility. Moreover, high quality register data covering the entire population over the past decades are available in these countries, providing ideal conditions for sophisticated analyses.
Addressing the effect of father’s leave on the gender division of care for sick children and on the gender pay gap with a focus on Sweden, it was shown that the introduction of the ‘daddy-quota’ of one month, on use-it-or-lose-it basis, in 1995 has indeed led to a more equal sharing of the care for sick children, but the extension of the quota to two months in 2002 had no such effect. However, this latter extension of the father quota was found to have a favourable influence on the income development of low-income mothers with one child due to their increased labour supply (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 72(2017)).
Analysing data from Iceland, Norway and Sweden, another study revealed that if the father takes parental leave with the first child, couples in all three countries were more inclined to have a second child, irrespective of the length of his leave, or whether it exceeded the legal quota (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D9.7). However, no such impact has been found for having a third child. Further studies on Iceland suggested that the introduction of a father’s leave policy may have contributed to maintaining the two-child norm and the comparatively high fertility levels in the Nordic countries (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 60(2016)). The latter analyses provided deeper insight about the relationship between gender equality, father’s leave and economics: although father’s leave taking has become a norm, his leave-taking is still subject to ‘breadwinner sensitivity’ and to broader economic development, as the economic crisis had the consequence of decreasing the number of parental leave days taken by fathers. Whether father’s uptake of parental leave contributes to the stability of partnerships was also examined for the three countries. The results showed that if the father takes leave up to or above the quota, after the birth of the first child, couples in all three countries were less likely to separate. While these results cannot be interpreted as causal effects, they provide support to the argument that gender inequality within the family may increasingly strain the relationship between partners and lead to lower fertility and higher separation risks (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 72(2017)).
As family policies of the Nordic countries aim to promote social equality and gender equality in order to contribute to establishing an inclusive society, an important indicator of success or failure is immigrant father’s uptake of parental leave compared to that of native-born. A study on Finland and Sweden (ibid.), both offering leave for fathers but with differing conditions, Finland relying on a ‘bonus system’ (giving two extra weeks of leave if fathers took some parental leave) while Sweden puts store on the father’s quota, showed that immigrant fathers use fewer leave days than native fathers do. The uptake of leave by immigrant fathers increases with the duration of their stay in the country, which is mainly attributable to their integration into the labour market and their increasing wages. Importantly, there is huge difference in the rate of lower usage of parental leave between immigrant fathers in Sweden (12 percent less) and in Finland (26 percent less). These findings underline the significant role that policies, their aim, and their design may play in promoting gender and social equality and in creating an inclusive and sustainable society. Although further analysis needs to examine the links between policy design and usage in more detail, these findings suggest that in addition to the level of benefit paid during parental leave, fathers’ quota may have a greater integrative effect than gender-neutral parental-leave regulations. Legal quotas provide a stronger protection of parental rights to use the leave entitlement than optional systems do, and they ease negotiations with the employer and with the partner.
New norms for fatherhood and care can be fostered also through pro-active policies at the workplace as the study on Switzerland mentioned above, a country with no statutory leave for fathers showed (FamiliesAndSocieties Deliverable D3.5). Implementation of a one-month paid paternity leave in a specific public administration body resulted in new norms at the workplace as the leave entitlement guaranteed time off work for fathers for care. This had a two-fold effect. First it undercut the pressures from colleagues or supervisors and enhanced the status of being a father in the work environment, which in turn enabled fathers to become more involved with the daily care of their children. The results thus highlighted the importance of the workplace for the promoting or inhibiting the change of gender roles and paternal involvement in family life.
3.2.4 Institutional configurations and the intersection of migration and domestic care services
The increase in women’s labour force participation in the aging societies of Europe and the deficits in childcare and elderly care have given rise to different forms of private markets of care and domestic services. These private markets, subsidised in many countries, are advocated at the European level and by national governments as the policy of choice for families to accommodate their care needs and time pressures felt by dual earner couples, as well as to provide an alternative that does not require an expansion in public services. Here, the intersections in socio-economic resources, gender and migration all come into play with respect to who can afford to use these services and their effects on the low-wage female migrant population who comprise the main source of labour for these markets in care/domestic services.
The issue was addressed in the project by a study of Sweden and Spain. These are countries with different forms of service markets, that is (small) firm-based in Sweden along the large institutionalised state/community-based care system but household-based employment in Spain where it constitutes a much larger sector of the economy. Also their (im)migration policies differ with undocumented work being less common and tolerated in Sweden but there are better possibilities for family unification than in Spain. Their economic situations are also different as Spain was hit hard by the economic crisis unlike Sweden. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used in the research. Despite institutional differences, many similarities were found between the two countries, concerning the employment conditions and the well-being of migrants as well as the economic status of the users of the private care/domestic services (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper (46(2015)). Migrants working in the sector in both countries experienced precarious work situations with underemployment, low wages and unpaid hours. Working conditions deteriorated in Spain in particular due to the economic crisis. In both countries, the income level of the household is the crucial divide between users and non-users of the services, especially in Spain, but also in Sweden despite tax subsidies there. Private care/domestic services are mostly used by households of higher income levels. The most vulnerable and those with the most need, like single parents or low-income elderly can often not afford these services.
The crisis in care also has raised the question of choice and agency in intergenerational dependencies. Filial obligations to care for family members in Familialistic countries remained relatively strong: mothers and grandmothers are the mainstay of caregiving, but at the costs of these societies displaying among the lowest maternal employment rates and female labour force participation. During a period when gender roles are changing and two earners in the family are needed, private markets do not provide a solution to the acute care needs for the elderly and the lack of care for children under three. Even in countries where there has been extensive coverage for the elderly, families are providing complementary care as the state reduces its commitment in this respect, highlighted above in the discussion. The findings on migrant care work indicated that private markets are not solving the care deficit in Familialist regimes or the time deficit in Dual-Earner societies, since only the most advantaged (those in the highest income quartiles) benefit from private services.
3.2.5 Coping strategies in family and work reconciliation under conditions of uncertainty
Global competitive markets, and the neoliberal turn in discourse and policy are reflected in the rising levels of jobs with fixed contracts and precarious employment across European countries. These macro structures are mirrored in perceptions of insecurity in employment and unstable futures that shape individuals’ decisions to start a family. When men are included in the analysis of childbearing decisions, the salience of the employment situation and economic security becomes even more apparent. In the project the impacts of economic uncertainty on childbearing intentions as well as on fertility behaviour have been analysed. A Swiss study (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 12(2014)) showed tensions between high job prestige and traditional gender attitudes for men on intentions of first and second births, but perceived job instability influenced childless women only (negatively).
A comparison of countries across welfare regimes revealed interdependencies between economic uncertainty and short-term childbearing intentions and institutional context. Using data from the European Social Survey for shortly before the crisis and in the aftermath, short-term birth intentions for women and men without children and with one child were analysed in ten countries representing five welfare state regimes. The results indicated that societal-level economic uncertainty, with respect to unemployment and employment protection, affected fertility intentions. The proportion of persons intending to have a child within three years decreased over the period in countries with higher unemployment rates, although less so for childless women and one-child mothers than for childless men and one-child fathers. Childbearing intentions decreased also where employment protection weakened, especially among one-child mothers and childless men (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 36(2015)). Perceived economic uncertainty at the individual level seen in job and income insecurities also mattered, but there were variations by gender, age, parenthood status and institutional contexts. The findings highlighted the continued importance of men’s labour market position for first- and second-birth intentions independent of welfare regime type, with reduced intentions in the event of job instability or economic uncertainty. Younger women’s motherhood intentions were similarly affected, while mothers’ second-birth intentions were influenced by economic uncertainty in Conservative regime countries in particular.
Studying couples’ educational attainment across Europe possible implications for how various educational pairings cope with labour market uncertainties were revealed. Couples with two highly educated partners delayed parenthood more than other couples, given their longer stay in education and later labour market establishment (FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 38(2015)). Where only one or neither of the partners are highly educated, parenthood is entered at younger ages as a delay would not improve the couple’s joint ability to cope with economic uncertainties. However, couples with two highly educated partners are the most likely to have second and third births given their economic situation being stronger than that of other educational pairings who are more vulnerable to economic uncertainty if extending their families. There were no variations in these impacts by institutional context. The findings of these studies suggest a widening gap in capabilities and agency for starting a family and achieving desired family size between those with high and low education and between those with protected and unprotected jobs (the insider and outsider effect), posing challenges for creating sustainable societies.
4. Implications of the project findings for policy frameworks
Policies can promote inequality or equality between men and women in family roles: gender differences in age borders (e.g. pensionable age), and in credits for family role engagement (e.g. survivor’s benefits) are two such examples of inequality. The type of public provision offered often has consequences for gender and socio-economic inequality; cash for care payments strengthen the gendered division of tasks more than actual care services. Targeted daddy leaves epitomise a positive life course policy that can have spin off effects: fathers’ involvement at an early age of the child can lead towards men’s increased share in daily domestic tasks and greater likelihood to share residential custody at break-up. Grandparental care in Southern Europe is an example of a ‘negative’ life course policy shaping interdependence between family generations as grandmothers’ care enables daughters to adopt modern gender roles while grandmothers are taking on the traditional roles for themselves. Although gender roles have changed dramatically in the past decades, the dual-earner and dual-carer model can only be achieved by strengthening men’s contribution to care and domestic tasks and women’s position in paid work, requiring policies beyond the daddy quota. In addition the work organisational culture in combination with the mediating role of managers is a crucial dimension for altering gendered norms at the workplace.
Co-residence and family support offer youth a safety net in light of their difficulty in establishing themselves in the labour market. However, living in the family home when young adults are in their mid-/late 20s and 30s is often not a choice but the result of barriers standing in the way of their transition to adulthood. Specific policies are needed targeting youth to reach self-sufficiency. This can be achieved through policies that prevent early school leaving by promoting a wider and better combination of work experience during studies, and through welfare policies that support youths directly rather than via their families (social assistance, housing, and education subsidies). Providing youths who lack education or employment with a second chance to obtain qualifications later in life is also a key measure that would ensure a stable income. With regard to immigrant families, rather than cultural/ethnic differences, more important is their weak position in the labour market. Policies for integration of migrants should be focusing on strategies for social inclusion that address educational disadvantage and discrimination in the labour market.
A lack of recognition in policy of diversity in families is evident in the heterosexual nuclear two-parent family being the norm, as seen in the denial of family benefits to other types of families, such as cohabitating couples, single mothers, lesbian and gay couples. Same-sex couples as well as single women and mothers can lack access to ART treatment. Gay and lesbian couples can be denied family benefits that heterosexual couples receive. That same-sex marriage in one EU country is not recognised in another reveals the necessity of a European policy framework on the recognition of diversity in couple relationships. A European framework that addresses these forms of discrimination against non-traditional families should be incorporated into equal treatment law.
Another example of how policies fail to recognise diversity in families can be seen in the ways in which policies are organised around biological ties that ignore the increasing number of adults who are childless. Older adults often turn to different sources of support when in need, including non-kin, neighbours and friends as well as professionals. Nevertheless, the primacy of (immediate) family members as ‘self-evident’ sources of support, is strongly reflected in many legal provisions across national contexts concerning, medical decisions, care, inheritance, taxation, blocking the interdependence between the individuals and their chosen network members. There are some signs of change: For instance, in the Netherlands, individuals are entitled to a sick leave in order to provide care for a non-relative (yet, the taxation of inheritance left to non-kin has remained the same – substantially higher than that for kin). There is need for more attention in policy frameworks acknowledging this and other forms of discrimination, being more inclusive of family diversity and non-standard family arrangements.
The potential impact
The potential impact of the FamiliesAndSocieties project must be seen as residing on two levels, specific and general impacts. The six distinct impacts are first addressed below; scientific, policy, engaging civil society actors in research and policy formation, improving the availability of data for family-relevant policy research, methodology and research strategy, as well as a contribution to innovation dialogue. The general impact, the socio-economic impact and wider societal implications, is then addressed.
The Six Specific Impacts
With respect to the first, its scientific impact, the FamiliesAndSocieties project was designed to generate comparative, in-depth, and scientifically grounded knowledge about family changes in Europe, their causes and consequences. The project aimed at improving the understanding of the complexity, pace, range and direction of these changes, and at distinguishing and explaining the differences and similarities in family development and life-course transitions across Europe and within European nations. It furthermore sought to elicit linkages between policies and family dynamics, family diversity, and family trajectories, nationally and cross-nationally. The knowledge and insights within each of the main research issues identified within the FamiliesAndSocieties project have been illuminated and enhanced through several different work packages:
- the complexity of European families and the diversity of family configurations through work packages on family configurations (WP2), new gender roles (WP3), new role of children and ART (WP4), inequalities in children’s life chances (WP5), intergenerational links (WP7), migrants (WP8), and policies (WP9);
- the individual goals, attitudes, decisions, and underlying life-course trajectories through the work packages mentioned above (2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9) as well as the work packages on childcare arrangements (WP6), and foresight (WP10);
- the varieties of doing family, gender, and generations, of the new roles of women and men and their implications for families and societies through research in all the work packages (listed above);
- the new meaning of children and the societal implications of late childbearing, childlessness, and assisted reproductive technology in especially the work package 4 on new role of children and ART, with the findings in the work packages on new gender roles (WP3) and intergenerational links (WP7) also relevant;
- a better understanding of the implications of family changes on social relationships, on care, and well-being and to determine the consequences of care arrangements for families and for children’s development and well-being has been created through all the research work packages (listed above);
- the intergenerational linkages of family organisation and responsibilities, and the inequalities and insecurities across generations and families through the work packages on new gender roles (WP3), inequalities in children’s life chances (WP5), intergenerational links (WP7), policies (WP9) and foresight (WP10);
- family issues in the course of migration and the social inclusion of migrants and ethnic minority families in Europe through the work packages on family configurations (WP2), migrants (WP8), policies (WP9) and foresight (WP10); and
- the interlinkages between economic development, work- and family life-courses through the work packages on family configurations (WP2), new gender roles (WP3), new role of children and ART (WP4), inequalities in children’s life chances (WP5), intergenerational links (WP7), and policies (WP9), and contributed to foresight analyses of family trajectories in Europe in the foresight work package (WP10).
The second impact concerns policies at the European and at the national level. The research premises and objectives of the FamiliesAndSocieties project have been geared towards optimising the knowledge base for policy recommendations. To that end, the project has pursued several strategies: the impacts of policies on families have been analysed from a life-course perspective, with a special focus on crucial life-course transitions in all the research work packages intertwined with respect to the scientific impact of the project. Going beyond the conventional approaches, the effects of a variety of family policies (public aid to youth, parental leave, care leave, care arrangements, etc.) on family, gender, and intergenerational dynamics were investigated. Second, policies at essential life-course transitions were analysed, such as policies supporting youth in their transition to adulthood or policies surrounding partnership formation, childbearing and separation/divorce. Third, the linkages between the legal issues of partnership formation, parenting, assisted reproductive technology, and European patterns of family dynamics were examined. The impacts of policies on essential family outcomes and family behaviour were assessed in the project studies from a comparative perspective, often in direct comparisons including a larger number of countries, but also via country case studies on the same main issue. For example, the gendered transition to parenthood and its results were assessed comparatively so that conclusions could be drawn about the policy set-ups and the family dynamics in Europe. The project has also underscored policy perceptions and implementations and their consequences for families. Throughout the project, key stakeholders and policy actors have been directly engaged in the research, as elaborated in the discussion below regarding the impact of engaging civil society actors. This comprehensive approach has allowed for the project to provide deeper insights into European policy perspectives as well as policy approaches in European countries, comparing the impact of both different and similar policies in similar contextual and family situations to determine commonalities and differences in policy approaches between nations and across Europe. This facilitated the identification of best policy options and European policy strategies accounting for family diversity and well-being. The FamiliesAndSocieties “Policy recommendations” report, produced in the work package on synthesis (WP11) has been printed in 2,500 copies and distributed across Europe to policy-makers, the European Commission, members of the European Parliament, a variety of stakeholder organizations and the scientific community as well as the UN Focal Point on the Family, can be considered the culmination linked to this impact.
The third impact is engaging civil society actors in research and policy formation: As mentioned above, key stakeholders and policy actors have been directly engaged in the FamiliesAndSocieties project. This group was asked to assess the research results produced from their perspective as civil-society actors and as policy makers. Their assessments in turn were taken into account in the interpretation of the results from a policy perspective and in the delineation of policy recommendations. In addition to their direct engagement in the research, particularly via the foresight (WP10) and the synthesis (WP11) work packages, the transnational civil-society partners in the consortium and the stakeholders linked to the project provided input to the design of research by indicating key aspects of family issues identified via their own work, in particular for the work packages on ART (WP4), childcare arrangements (WP6), intergenerational links (WP7), and policies (WP9). The project started out with five international and about 50 national stakeholders, but during the four years of the project lifetime many more stakeholders joined, including members and stakeholders of the former FAMILYPLATFORM. By the last project year, nine international and 70 national stakeholder organizations from 20 countries were linked to FamiliesAndSocieties. Many of these have regularly participated at the project’s annual meetings (at each meeting representatives of 25-30 stakeholder organizations participated, the number reaching 40 organizations including external stakeholder representatives at the Final Conference in Brussels in October 2016), contributing to the discussions linked to the plenary sessions where the latest and most important results of the project were presented, as well as at the annual stakeholder seminars held in Brussels. The foresight work package (WP10) involved the civil society partners and stakeholders as key actors in several of their research activities: the Futures task force workshop held in Tallinn in connection to the First Annual Meeting in January 2014, through which vulnerability was identified as a key issue for family development and child well-being, shaping further research in WP10; the focus group discussions with stakeholders and policy makers in altogether six European cities (and countries) on family configurations “at risk” of vulnerability and policy measures and strategies to counteract vulnerability, and the assessments of future vulnerability development collected from experts and parents across Europe based on online surveys. Special stakeholder workshops took place at the Second Annual Meeting in Madrid in January 2015 (on legal issues of same-sex and different-sex families, organized by WP9), and a half-day Stakeholder workshop providing an overview of the findings of all the work packages, inviting feedbacks from and intensive discussions with the stakeholders at the Third Annual Meeting in Vienna in January 2016. At the Annual Stakeholder Seminars in Brussels (in January 2014, 2015, 2016 and September 2016), stakeholders were invited not only as part of the audience, but representatives of various stakeholder organizations taking part in the panel debates, and members of the European Parliament and/or representatives from the European Commission providing keynotes at each meeting. In the synthesis work package (WP11), the civil society partners also collected best-practice examples of family policies and their implementation at the supra-national and national as well as regional, municipal, and individual (civil-society) level, several of which as provided by the stakeholders linked to the project. A compendium of good practice examples has been prepared by the civil society partners and published at the project website to promote civil-society information exchange and learning-from each-other. This inclusion of civil-society actors in research design, practice and interpretation has been a unique approach of the FamiliesAndSocieties project to guarantee mutual exchange and inspiration in a dynamic and continual way, expected to impact both on the research, its outcome and its policy transformation, as well as on the work of the civil-society actors.
The fourth impact is on improving the availability of data for family-relevant policy research: the FamiliesAndSocieties project has contributed to broadening and improving the availability of comparative indicators of family-related policies. Existing databases on family policies (and accompanying demographic and contextual data) have been complemented and family-policy indicators not collected systematically before have now been collected in the project. Databases on family policies have so far mostly focused on indicators of parental leave, maternity leave, care, and family benefits. Given their cross-sectional character, most of these databases did not allow for either comparing developments over time or assessing the impact of policies over the life-course. Indicators relating to other crucial aspects of family life, such as partnership formation and parenting (with respect to same-sex and different-sex families), and the legal aspects of assisted reproductive technology, have been collected in the project. Existing time-series of family-policy development, naturalisation and migrant-relevant policies, and care policies have been complemented by extending them to additional countries and including further topics. A database of EU-level family-policy initiatives allowing for better linkages between family-policy developments at the national and supra-national level has also been established. These databases are:
- the PERFAR database, developed by the Max-Planck Institute for Demographic Research originally in the framework of the Population and Policy Database, has been updated in the FamiliesAndSocieties project with respect to family policies for Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK, and data for Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland have been added, as well as three new fields (marriage, registered partnership and divorce);
- the ARPNoVA dataset on assisted reproductive technologies in Europe has been established in the FamiliesAndSocieties project by the University of Oxford, comprising policy information and information about norms and values regarding partnership, family and childbearing with a special focus on assisted reproduction for forty countries including nearly all European countries;
- the LawsAndFamilies database, established by Leiden Law School at Leiden University together with INED (the Institut national d’études démographiques) in the project, on various aspects of legal formats (marriage, registered partnership, cohabitation) for same-sex and different-sex couples, and statistical and sociological data and analyses about same-sex families with information on 21 European countries for all years since 1965; and
- the EUFamPol dataset established in the project by Stockholm University Demography Unit (including a team member from INED), comprising family-policy related preparatory acts and legislation at the European Union level with emphasis on the period from 1974 to 2015.
Short descriptions of these databases and links to the websites where they are stored have been provided at the FamiliesAndSocieties project website. Making these databases available to the research community will greatly improve the possibilities for investigating the policy/ family-dynamics nexus from a comparative perspective.
The fifth impact relates to methodology and research strategy: the FamiliesAndSocieties project has employed methodological strategies that have greatly improved the quality of scientific knowledge and the assessment of the impacts of policies on family dynamics and family life-courses. Methods best suited to generate solid scientific evidence of the researched issues were invoked within each investigation. In particular, changes in family behaviour and family dynamics and the influence of contextual and normative aspects on them were investigated, relying on methods allowing for capturing dynamics over the life-course and over time. Thus a variety of analytical approaches were used, such as event-history analysis [in work packages on family configurations (WP2), new gender roles (WP3), migrants (WP8) and policies (WP9)], OLS, Poisson and logistic regression analyses [in all research work packages], multi-level analysis [in work packages on new gender roles (WP3), inequalities in children’s life chances (WP5) and childcare arrangements (WP6)], sequence and cluster analysis [in the work package on new gender roles (WP3)], micro-simulation and agent-based modelling [in the work packages on childcare arrangements (WP6) and foresight (WP10)], in-depth interviews [in work packages on family configurations (WP2), new gender roles (WP3), new role of children and ART (WP4), childcare arrangements (WP6), and policies (WP9)], qualitative panel interviews, and ethnographic and anthropological methods [in the work package on new gender roles (WP3)], psychological approaches [in the work package on childcare arrangements (WP6)], focus-groups and expert survey and expert consultation approach [in the work package on foresight (WP10)], and mixed-methods or multi-methods approaches combining different quantitative and qualitative methods [in work packages on new gender roles (WP3) and childcare arrangements (WP6)].
A wide range of data sources was used in the FamiliesAndSocieties project. Comparative datasets have been utilized in several work packages, such as the large scale micro-level data panel survey Generations and Gender Surveys (GGS) in all research work packages; the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) in work packages on family configurations (WP2), new gender roles (WP3), and intergenerational links (WP7); the European Labour Force Survey (ELFS) in work packages on family configurations (WP2), new gender roles (WP3) and policies (WP9); the European Social Survey (ESS) in work packages on family configurations (WP2) and new gender roles (WP3); the Time Use Survey (TUS) in work packages on new gender roles (WP3) and childcare arrangements (WP6); the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in the work package on childcare arrangements (WP6); the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement (SHARE) in the work package on intergenerational links (WP7); the International Social Survey programme (ISSP) in the work package on policies (WP9). In addition, various national surveys were employed in all research work packages, either to complement the comparative datasets or to study issues not addressed in those surveys. Such national surveys included, among others: British Household Panel, Swiss Household Panel, PairFam, Growing up in Germany (AID:A), UK Millenium Cohort Study, Understanding Society Study, Trajectories and Origin Survey, National Survey of Immigrants in Spain, Swedish Level of Living Survey, Divorce in Flanders dataset. The work packages also made use, beside census data, of register data and their excellent coverage of family life-course transitions of the entire population for countries for which such data are available. Macro-level data have also been used from various sources (OECD, Eurostat, World Bank, etc.) to model the contextual and policy impacts on family behaviour and family dynamics. Some studies in the project, in particular in work packages on new gender roles (WP3), new role of children and ART (WP4) and childcare arrangements (WP6), combined qualitative, survey- and/or register data from national sources in a way that their analyses allowed to draw transferable conclusions about family issues in Europe.
The comprehensive research strategy in the FamiliesAndSocieties project aimed explicitly at providing an enhanced understanding of family challenges and family dynamics in Europe from comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives. The approach to provide comparative and transferable information applied also to the qualitative studies; these have been set up in a comparative manner to render knowledge that can be extended to other contexts. The research team of the project combined expertise from different disciplines and methodological approaches, providing a unique opportunity of bringing together perspectives from demography, sociology, social policy, family research, life-course research, migration studies, political science, history, gender studies, psychology, anthropology, law, geography and spatial research, and economics. The project consequently also sought to contribute to the advancement of approaches, methods, and insights within and across each of the involved disciplines.
The sixth impact is the contribution to innovation dialogue. The ongoing discussion in Europe, e.g. about the persistence of new family forms and how policy measures can be tailored to address these in a more effective manner, has been enriched through the knowledge transfer within the FamiliesAndSocieties project, drawn from cutting-edge research results produced in the project and the evidence of new and validated data. Collaboration beyond the traditional disciplinary boundaries as discussed above, and cross-country comparisons allowed learning from different methodological approaches and practical experiences under various socio-economic settings, facilitated by the in-depth knowledge on four major European regions (Northern, Western, Southern and Central-Eastern Europe) and the variety of welfare state and care regimes (Universal, Liberal, Conservative, Mediterranean Familistic, Transition Post-Socialist regimes) represented by the consortium members. Moreover, the stakeholder engagement at each project stage helped particularly to link scientific findings with practical knowledge, and vice versa. The elaborated set of the various dissemination activities and the broadness of the FamiliesAndSocieties network as a consortium comprising 25 research organisations (from 15 European countries), three transnational civil society organisations (IFFD, AGE and ELFAC, each covering a large number of countries and organisations in themselves), an Advisory Board (consisting of distinguished scholars of research on the family in Europe and the US, the coordinator of the former FAMILYPLATFORM, EU-politicians, policy-makers, NGO-representatives), in addition to the large and during the project lifetime constantly growing network of stakeholder organisations attached to the project, ensured that the new knowledge generated within the project has been transferred to wider audiences on a European as well as on the member state level.
Particular focus was placed on addressing decision-makers in the field of policy, economy, and civil society as well as the media to stimulate a discussion about new and innovative concepts of family policies and family support strategies. This was ensured through coordinated dissemination activities via the “FamiliesAndSocieties Forum” (WP12), especially the FamiliesAndSocieties Annual Stakeholder Seminars(the final one held in the European Parliament), stakeholder workshops attached to the FamiliesAndSocieties three Annual Meetings, and the plenary session of the Final Conference open for policy makers and stakeholders, invitation to which was published via the EC, Population Europe and the project website as well as presented via direct email messages from the coordinator. Moreover, as mentioned above, the FamiliesAndSocieties “Policy recommendations” report was published in 2,500 copies and distributed widely to EU-level, national and local community decision-makers and stakeholder organisations. With a main focus on the local level, a report of good practices as a civil society contribution was also prepared by the FamiliesAndSocieties civil society partner IFFD based on contributions from ELFAC and the stakeholder organisations, and published at the project website as FamiliesAndSocieties Working Paper 74 (2017).
With respect to the media, press releases were published by all members of the consortium in a coordinated manner at the launch of the project informing about the objectives of the project, the organization of the research and the new databases to be established. During the project, flyers, press releases and blog posts were produced by consortium members to inform the public of important new findings, in addition to the popular-scientific summaries from Population Europe available at the project website. These and diverse other social media contacts initiated by Population Europe and the transnational civil society partners resulted in a number of media requests to consortium members about the work carried out in the project. The written and/or broadcasted interviews and invitations generated to provide presentations even to non-scientific audiences facilitated the involvement of the general public in a dialogue with the researchers involved in the project, enhancing the understanding of broad issues related to the family and societal well-being.
The General Socio-economic impact and wider societal implications
Based on a questionnaire inspired by the IMPACT-EV FP7 project, the partner representatives in the consortium as well as stakeholder organisations attached to FamiliesAndSocieties were asked for feedback regarding the project’s impact on their work, in the mid-term of the project and at the end. The detailed responses were included in the related half-year activity reports sent to the Project Officer at EC, a brief extract of which is presented here.
The FamiliesAndSocieties project provided broad opportunities to establish and/or widen professional networks and establish close contacts with civil society actors and stakeholders for both advanced- and early-career researchers as well as the civil society partners. All consortium members reported about subsequent research generated by FamiliesAndSocieties findings, methodology and theoretical developments, often in new collaborations of certain research organizations in the consortium and/or involving external collaborative partners. Such new collaborations have been built upon FamiliesAndSocieties research regarding the effects of parental separation on child well-being, the reproduction of vulnerability at societal and population level, the impact of policy and civil society on family transitions and their consequences, couple negotiations on the division of paid and unpaid work after parental leave, families with disabled children, the effect of preschool enrolment on child outcomes, family solidarity in the context of migration, new fathers’ work-place experiences, and further studies on childlessness, infertility and genetics.
With respect to direct policy impacts, consortium members have contributed in several ways:
- Project coordinator Livia Sz. Oláh and WP9 co-leader Olivier Thévenon have been involved in the EC Expert Round Table consultation in 2016 on “New start for working parents”, and together with WP7 co-leader Pearl Dykstra contributed also to the follow-up meeting in 2017;
- studies by WP2 co-leader Dimitri Mortelmans and his team on divorce arrangements for children and formal parenting agreements resulted in a Belgian bill, an invitation by the Minister of Justice to present results on new family constellations related to a reform of the Belgian inheritance law, and participation in the network group “Research on children and adolescents in Flanders” of the Flemish Government;
- WP2 co-leader Ariane Pailhé was asked for hearings by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, ESEC (France), a constitutional consultative assembly, regarding the effect of unemployment on fertility, and on men and women’s daily practices in sharing duties and organizing working life; and other INED members were invited for hearing on shared custody by the European Council, as well as contributed to French government report on the need of statistics related to marital disruption;
- findings related to the work with the Collegio Carlo Alberto team in charge were cited in a law proposal to the senate in Italy on extension of mandatory paternity leave, as well as in a new policy to fight long-term child poverty, and based on their results the Transatlantic Forum for early Young Year (TFIEY), Compagnia de San Paolo and Save the Children Italia have developed programs for early child care; WP6 co-leader Daniela del Boca has been a member of the Committee for the Evaluation of Work and the Family, Ministry of Labor, the Save the Children Educational Poverty Committee and the Advisory Board of TFIEY;
- civil society partner IFFD contributed to briefing sessions on family diversity, child well-being, new gender roles, work-life balance, intergenerational links, inclusion of immigrant families, etc. with civil society actors, politicians, UN representatives and academics across the world;
- civil society partner AGE Platform Europe contributed to public consultations regarding EU-level policy initiatives, especially in the field of long-term care and reconciliation of work and family life referring to FamiliesAndSocieties findings on care arrangements;
- local entities of civil society partner ELFAC have contributed to the political and social dialogues related to family support and fiscal reform by the Spanish government, a local government proposal to personal income tax reform in Portugal, and the introduction of the Polish National Large Family Card;
- Tallinn University (Estonian Inst. for Population Studies) team members contributed via consultations to the preparation of a national policy document in Estonia (Green paper on family allowances, services and parental leave);
- Deutsches Jugendinstitut team members have participated in the Advisory Board of the Bundesforum Familie, provided presentations on new gender roles and family changes to political parties of the federal government in Germany, participated in the scientific board advising the government’s strategy on quality of life in Germany;
- the University of Lausanne team members have participated in the Executive Committee of the Swiss Federal association of Single Parent and Step Families contributing to governmental consultations on family and welfare policies in Switzerland;
- Prof. Kees Waaldijk, Leiden Law School, presented his article on making family law fully gender-neutral and orientation neutral to the Dutch Governments’ Committee of Experts on the Reassessment of Parenthood, which may contribute to make the ways of establishing legal parenthood the same for children born to a lesbian couple and children born to a heterosexual couple;
- University of Padova team members contributed with a study on request of the National Association of Italian Municipalities and CITTALIA on population in bad housing conditions, and participated in the Evaluation Committee for Social Policies of Provincia Autonoma di Trento;
- WP3 co-leader Irena Kotowska has cooperated with the Parliamentary Commission on Social Policy and Family in Poland;
- the most recent findings of the University of Oxford team and the ART policy database (ARPNoVA) established in the project are expected to impact on infertility regulations, for example the National Dutch state committee on Reassessment Parenthood requested all their ART-related reports.
Furthermore, project results presented at the FamiliesAndSocieties Annual Stakeholder Seminars have resulted in four European Policy Briefs, available at the project website, on topics of family dissolution and child well-being, intergenerational links, societal inclusion of migrants, and policies for families. Consortium members have also presented project findings in political forums, among others:
- Project coordinator Livia Sz. Oláh, WP4 co-leaders Melinda Mills, Maria-Letizia Tanturri and team member Tomas Sobotka, WP9 co-leader Olivier Thévenon at UN Expert Group Meetings in New York;
- WP5 co-leader Juho Härkönen, WP3 co-leader Irena Kotowska, WP7 co-leader Pearl Dykstra, WP9 co-leader Gerda Neyer and WP11 co-leader Barbara Hobson at international conferences organized by COFACE in Dublin, Amsterdam and Helsinki;
- Project coordinator Livia Sz. Oláh, WP5 co-leader Juho Härkönen, and WP9 co-leader Olivier Thévenon at the Third Child Well-being Expert Group Consultation organized by OECD, European Commission, UNICEF and Children’s Worlds in Paris;
- WP2 co-leader Dimitri Mortelmans at the Justice Commission of the Belgian Federal Parliament;
- Collegio Carlo Alberto team members at an Italian Ministry of Labour conference, Municipal Council of Venezia public seminar, InGRID Expert Seminar in the UK;
- WP8 co-leader Hill Kulu at the Horasis Global Meeting in Liverpool;
- civil society partner IFFD at wide variety of meetings and conferences among others at United Nations, European Parliament, World Family Organization, ELISAN (European Local Inclusion and Social Action Network), European Economic and Social Committee, Committee of the Regions, Forum European des Femmes;
- civil society partner ELFAC at meetings and conferences such as the European Seminar of Experts on Family Policies in Madrid, the European Federation of Parents and Carers at Home (FEFAF) in Budapest, the European Forum on the Rights of Children in Brussels, World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City;
- Teresa Castro-Martín (CSIC) at the Health and Family Association and the Barcelona City Council, the Dept. of Employment and Social Policies – Government of the Basque Country, and the Demographic Dynamization Plan - Government of Galicia;
- Tallinn University (Estonian Inst. for Population Studies) team members at Estonian Parliament;
- Finnish Family Federation team members to several political parties in Finland;
- University of Edinburgh team members to the Childcare Partnership Commission in Scotland, the Scottish Cross-Party Group on Children and Young People, the Scottish Trade Union Congress General Council, Scottish Government Fathers Advisory Board Meeting;
- WP3 co-leader Irena Kotowska to the Expert Group on Family Policy at the Office of the President of Poland.
In addition, a number of stakeholders confirmed having relied on FamiliesAndSocieties project findings, which informed and gave validation to the practice-based arguments in their work, such as:
- United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) (in recommendations to national statistical offices about UNECE development on measuring the gendered power and decision-making relationships in the household);
- One Family Ireland (in their report to the Irish government regarding the Children’s and Family Relationships Bill, to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in review of childcare and out-of-school care policy and practice, in their campaign of share-parenting, their core messages, advocacy on the recognition of family diversity, and in the development of Migrant Families Support Service as well as the development of the Parent Mentoring and the Family Mediation services);
- Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (in project findings considered as impetus and quality assurance in the preparation of new policy reforms);
- Hungarian Women’s Lobby and the JOL-LET (well-being) Foundation in Hungary (in their counselling the government and the media in particular on parental leave and fatherhood, and the development of a new service for women with disabled children);
- WOMEN FOR WOMEN, Czech Republic (in policy work with their expert group on maintenance arrangements after separation and divorce, on beneficial effects of childcare services, their guidance notes for parents, development of a family resilience initiative, advocacy work with government);
- Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Menschenrechte (BIM), Austria (in discussions with the Ministry of Family and Youth Affairs, and meetings with the Austrian National Coalition for Children’s Rights);
- Arbeiterkammer (Chamber of Labour, Dept. for Women and Family), Austria (in their work related to a recent revision of the Austrian parental leave policy, and to social inclusion of migrant and ethnic minority families);
- Famiglia Arcobaleno, Italy (in their work on challenging stereotypes on individual and family patterns, referring to the research results in legal and social discourse to undermine discriminatory assumptions);
- Regional Center of public health Iasi in Romania (in their awareness raising campaign on parents’ responsibility for their children’s development and well-being; information on families with disabled children and further issues to organisations such as Bethany Social Services Romania, Save the Children Romania, and the Authority of child protection and community assistance Romania).
Main dissemination activities and exploitation of results
The FamiliesAndSocieties project dissemination activities have aimed at approaching various audiences (the research community, stakeholders, policy makers, civil society and the media) in form of academic dissemination, dissemination of databases established (or extended) in the project, research-based interaction with stakeholders and policy-makers, and knowledge transfer and stakeholder dialogue.
Altogether 87 deliverables have been produced in the project lifetime in work packages 2-11 (not including the management and dissemination WPs). FamiliesAndSocieties research findings were presented at international scientific conferences (European Population Conference, European Sociological Association Conference, International Sociological Association Conference, IUSSP International Population Conference, European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Congress of the Spanish Economic Association, Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, etc.) as well as national research workshops (complete list is provided in the eight half-year activity reports submitted to the Project Officer at EC). Based on the deliverables and conference presentations, 75 working papers have been published at the project website (and new working papers are being added during 2017), rendering the research findings publicly available. Also, 95 articles have been published and/or forthcoming in highly ranked peer-reviewed academic journals, and many others are still under review given lengthy peer-review processes, or being prepared for publication. In line with the project publication strategy adopted at the Stockholm 2013 kick-off meeting, a number of articles are included in Special Issues of high-quality international journals – four of these have materialized to date, even if they all are not yet published. Three Special Collections, one of which (“Partnership dynamics among immigrants and their descendants in Europe” related to the topic of social inclusion) published already, have been accepted by the Open Access online journal Demographic Research (published by the Max Planck Inst. for Demographic Research). A forthcoming special issue in the European Journal of Population - Springer (on “Family Dynamics and Children’s Well-Being and Life Chances in Europe”, May 2017, related to topics new/emerging family forms and social and economic aspects of family life and well-being) will also be published Open Access, financed by the project grant. Another special collection on gender issues is currently being negotiated. Given the multidisciplinary nature of the project, the articles have been published in different prestigious journals representing different academic fields, such as demography (Demographic Research, European Journal of Population, Population and Development Review, etc.), sociology (European Sociological Review, Journal of Marriage and Family, Social Forces, Advances in Life Course Research, etc.), social policy (Social Politics, Journal of European Social Policy, etc.), economics (Journal of Labor Economics, Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economics of the Household, etc.), genetics (Behavior Genetics, Human Nature, Nature Genetics, etc.), gerontology (Journal of Gerontology, Aging and Society, Canadian Journal of Aging, etc.), and health (Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, Social Science and Medicine, etc.). Nearly half of the articles have been published Open Access, while the others are publicly available in the FamiliesAndSocieties working paper series although not in their final published form. Moreover, two PhD Theses, two books (one of which is forthcoming later this year) and the FamiliesAndSocieties “Policy recommendations report”, four pieces in Open Access conference proceedings, and twelve chapters in edited volumes (books) have been published so far, the latter ones by well-known publishers such as Springer, Edward Elgar, NIDI, John Wiley & Sons, Blackwell, Policy Press.
The Dissemination of databases
Open Access is one of the basic principles of FamiliesAndSocieties, hence the databases established (or extended) in the project and the accompanying documentations are publicly available. As discussed above under the fourth impact, on improving the availability of data for family-relevant policy research, these sources will be valuable for further research and other non-commercial use beyond the project. The project website provides the most relevant information regarding the databases as well as the direct link to the repositories storing them.
Dissemination of results through research-based interaction with stakeholders and policy-makers
Throughout the project, as elaborated above at the third and sixth impacts, research results have been communicated to the civil-society actors in the consortium and to stakeholders, many of whom also participated in the former FAMILYPLATFORM. Within the FamiliesAndSocieties project, policy-makers and stakeholders were directly involved in the activities of the foresight work package (WP10) addressing family development, challenges and strategies for short-term (up to 2020) and long-term (beyond 2020) alike. This research-immanent dissemination of results to policy-makers and stakeholders fed back into the research promoting interpretation of the results’ policy implications. The project benefited from the participation of two transnational civil society actors (IFFD, ELFAC) channeling feedbacks from stakeholders, in the synthesis work package (WP11), contributing in particular to the synthesis of key findings, policy recommendations based on the project results and informed assessment of existing policies, and to the identification of (innovative) good practices.
Knowledge transfer and stakeholder dialogue
The FamilyAndSocieties Forum (WP12) has served as a platform for the communication of research results and a research-driven and evidence-based stakeholder dialogue with Population Europe, the collaborative network of leading demographic research institutes, in charge of the outreach activities. Both scientific and non-scientific audiences (researchers, policy-makers, journalists, teachers, students, civil-society actors and the general public) were addressed, relaying on an elaborate set of tools, developed by Population Europe to efficiently disseminate research outcomes to policy-makers, civil society actors, the media, and lay audiences. Through the activities of the Forum the FamiliesAndSocieties project has gained strong visibility not only in Europe, but worldwide.
- The website www.familiesandsocieties.eu established at the end of May 2013 and maintained by the project coordinator Stockholm University, has served as the project’s website and online repository ensuring accessibility and visibility of the project results also beyond the duration of the project. The most frequently visited sections of the website are i) ‘Publications’ where research progress and findings of the project are made publicly available via free-to-download working papers, articles (many of which Open Access), abstract of books, book chapters, and information on and links to databases established (extended) in the project (also discussed above at the fourth impact), and ii) ‘News’ displaying dissemination products by Population Europe, such as newsletters, digests, policy briefs and stakeholder seminars (discussed below) with related links, and a subsite of ‘Events’ with information on the FamilyAndSocieties project kick-off and annual meetings as well as the final conference. The website also offered registration to subscribe for updates regarding the two sections (the currently 362 subscribers were informed that only the ‘Publications’ site will be updated after the project’s end date). The dissemination of project news and results have also been promoted by Population Europe through its social media channels (blog, Twitter, Facebook), and the civil society partners IFFD, AGE and ELFAC using similar channels of digital communication towards their own networks. Google Analytics, attached to the project website, informed about over 40,000 visits since the launch of the website from all over the world except Greenland and a few countries in Africa (the global impact map of the project is included in the interim report submitted to the Project Officer). The website has consequently become an authentic information tool for any audience interested in family issues and related policies in Europe.
- The eight half-yearly FamiliesAndSocieties Newsletters informed policy audiences and the press of recently launched material in the project and on the research progress, in addition to interviews in each issue with different work package co-leaders on recent results produced under their supervision.
- To make policy-relevant findings produced in the project easy accessible to non-scientific audiences, Digests, i.e. short summaries of published research findings, were written in an easily understandable manner by the experienced science writers of Population Europe. In the period from 2013-2016, a total of 42 Digests were published at the project website as well as Population Europe website with direct link to the original publication if published Open Access.
- In the project lifetime four FamiliesAndSocieties stakeholder seminars were organised by Population Europe in Brussels addressing EU policy-makers, governmental representatives, stakeholders and civil-society actors for the dynamic exchange of knowledge between research and policy making about the results of the project, as discussed above at the third and sixth impacts. The last seminar was held in the European Parliament in Brussels, sponsored by and with the active contribution of two members of the European Parliament. Population Europe secretariat provided a summary of the outcomes of each stakeholder seminar displayed at the project website.
- The outcomes of the stakeholder seminars were also informed about via European Policy briefs produced by Population Europe, displayed at the project website and in the EU Policy brief series. Moreover a separate policy brief, also displayed at the project website, was written by Population Europe on the main results of the foresight (WP10) focus group discussions with stakeholders and policy makers about vulnerability.
- After the project enddate, Population Europe in collaboration with the Project coordinator produced a FamiliesAndSocieties Discussion Paper, displayed at the project website and in their Discussion Paper series, on selected main results and policy recommendations making these easy accessible for a wider audience interested in family issues in relation to societal sustainability.
List of Websites:
Project website address: www.familiesandsocieties.eu
Contact details for the project coordinator:
Livia Sz. Olah, Ph.D.
Dept. of Sociology, Stockholm University
106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-8-16 28 76
Grant agreement ID: 320116
1 February 2013
31 January 2017
€ 8 365 754,68
€ 6 495 142,31
Deliverables not available
Grant agreement ID: 320116
1 February 2013
31 January 2017
€ 8 365 754,68
€ 6 495 142,31
Grant agreement ID: 320116
1 February 2013
31 January 2017
€ 8 365 754,68
€ 6 495 142,31