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Edited by Daniela Grunow and Marie Evertsson

Why do European couples living fairly egalitarian lives adopt a traditional division of labour at the transition to parenthood? Based on in-depth interviews with 33 parents-to-be in eight European countries, this book explores the implications of family policies and gender culture from the perspective of individual couples who are expecting their first child. Couples’ Transitions to Parenthood: Analysing Gender and Work in Europe is the first comparative, qualitative study which explicitly locates couples’ parenting ideals and plans in the wider context of national institutional structures. These structures embody different degrees of congruence between national family policies, employment protection, care provision and the dominant gender culture in the early twenty-first century. The book applies a novel analytical framework to detect these policy-culture gaps which serve as points of reference for the parents-to-be studied in this volume. The book shows how the parents’ agency varied along with the policy-culture gaps in their own countries and provides evidence of their struggle to adapt to, or resist, socially desired paths and patterns of change during the transition to parenthood. Evidence of a misfit between family policy and gender culture is widespread in the interviews in serval of the countries, thus weakening expectant parents’ potential to share paid and unpaid work more equally. The eight country studies in this volume provide novel insights into how dual-earner couples in Europe planned for the division of paid work and care during the transition to parenthood. In addition, three comparative chapters illuminate why transitions to parenthood differed in distinct institutional and situational contexts and why even egalitarian-minded couples often experienced this transition as gendered. The ways in which institutional structures limit possible choices and beliefs about ‘how to do things right’ are linked in ways that often go unnoticed by social scientists, policy makers, and by parents themselves. To elucidate these links is what the editors consider the main contribution of this book. Couples’ Transitions to Parenthood: Analysing Gender and Work in Europe provides: • A unique, comparative and in-depth analysis of transitions to parenthood in contemporary Europe, focusing on Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Poland • Cutting edge comparative qualitative methodology and innovative combination of macro and micro data • New theoretical insights into the link between structure and agency • Analysis of social policies and their impact on individual parents-to-be

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Maria Reimann

Poland is a country in transition, and so are Polish ideals of parenthood. Most of the interviewed couples seemed to lack a consistent ideal of what good mothers and fathers should be like. Instead, they were somewhere between believing in the special role of the mother and the ‘natural mother-child bond’, and the emerging ideal of the ‘new father’ as a capable carer. Another conflicting ideal was the fulfilled career woman, constructed in opposition to the overburdened woman combining paid employment with doing all the housework and childcare, i.e. the “Matka Polka” (“Polish-mother”). The interviewed Polish couples found themselves in a situation where the institutional context did not satisfy the parents’ needs. Mothers were entitled to six months of maternity leave and fathers were entitled to two weeks of “daddy leave”, while the three year-long parental leave was unpaid. This meant that neither the full-time mother-care ideal, nor the career women ideal could be easily fulfilled. In particular, the lack of institutional trustworthy childcare facilities and a normative reluctance towards sending children under the age of three to childcare centres lead to conflicts for the mothers who wanted or had to go back to work. At the same time, the situation in the labour market and the lack of part-time jobs made it difficult for men to be equally involved carers. Couples in this study were trying their best to navigate in these circumstances. Their plans for the period after the maternity leave included reducing paid work hours, relying on grandparents’ help with the childcare and hiring babysitters. Even though salaries in Poland were comparatively low and job competition fierce at the time of the interviews, the couples did not explicitly refer to economic reasoning when motivating their plans concerning the mothers’ comparatively quick return to employment. Rather, they spoke about values and ideals and emphasized that the women should go back to work because they considered their jobs important and satisfying.

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Marta Seiz, Irene Lapuerta, Teresa Martín- García, Jordi Monferrer, Teresa Jurado-Guerrero and María José González

The experience of the transition to parenthood in Spain in this edited volume is strongly influenced by the economic crisis, 2008-2014. The vast majority of the couples interviewed for this study spoke about the precariousness of the labour market, job insecurity and not being able to make ends meet on just one pay-check. When the interviewed Spanish parents-to-be added all the leaves they were entitled to – 16 weeks of maternity leave, two weeks of paternity leave, two to four weeks of breastfeeding leave and holiday leave – they ended up with approximately 6 months of paid leave. After that, in most cases, both parents had to return to paid work because of economic reasons. Despite most couples expressing reluctance to send under 1-year-olds to childcare centres, the interviewed parents-to-be planned to combine different kinds of care in the second half of the first year of their child’s life. Mothers planned to take part-time parental leave while using childcare services and asking grandparents for help with the child during their paid work hours. Spanish ideals about good motherhood and fatherhood were still rather traditional. In the interviews, mothers were considered ‘by nature’ closer to the child and responsible for childcare. Yet, we also saw signs of the ‘new fatherhood’ ideal, constructed in opposition to previous generations of distanced fathers. Some men were willing to become very involved in childcare and planned to adapt their jobs. In addition, the economic crisis was mirrored in the emergence of a group of ‘crisis dads’, consisting of unemployed men who envisioned themselves as the main carer in response to not being able to be the main provider.

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Nadia Girardin, Felix Bühlmann, Doris Hanappi, Jean-Marie Le Goff and Isabel Valarino

The transition to parenthood in Switzerland is shaped by different trends of modernization and traditionalism. The predominant family organisation is one where men work full-time while women work part-time and take on the majority of the childcare and housework. Institutional structures are characterised by limited leave policies (Switzerland has maternity leave but neither paternity nor parental leave) and complex, scarce and expensive childcare solutions. These structures are intertwined and partly influenced by rather traditional gender norms. The study is based on qualitative interviews conducted with 36 parents-to-be between 2006 and 2007 within the project ‘Devenir Parent’ (Becoming a Parent). Results show that parenting roles were often seen as divided into maternal nurturing and paternal educational roles. This also led to the interviewees having difficulties picturing the fathers as carers of the new-born child. Instead the father’s role was viewed as transmitting values and principles after early childhood and fathering was much more discussed as a role of transmission between generations. Interviewees, for example, highlighted the importance of the male lineage. These results reveal the lack of a blueprint for caring fathers in the Swiss context and the taken-for-granted dominance of the maternal role during the early stages of parenthood. In the interviews, we found a general agreement among the mothers-to-be that breastfeeding was part of their future role and that it was perceived as desirable to breastfeed the child for several months and up to one year. However, the length of maternity leave (14 weeks) was considered an obstacle to fulfilling this ideal and interviewees had doubts about the practical possibilities of breastfeeding after returning to work. More generally, the analyses indicate the creation of tensions for women between their identities as workers and as mothers. To decrease this tension, a reduction of work hours was often envisaged. Similar tensions were not observed among men. They were still attributed the provider role and rarely envisaged reducing their work hours.

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Frank F. Furstenberg

The chapter discusses how and why the United Stes went from a relatively undifferentiated family system in the middle of the last century to the present system of diverse family forms. Even conceding that the family system was always less simple than it now appears in hindsight, it began to depart from the dominant model of the nuclear family household in the late 1960s. The chapter first examines how this change is a result of adaptation by individuals and family members to change economic, demographic, technological and cultural conditions. The breakdown of the gender based division of labour was the prime mover. Next, the chapter examines family complexity in the United States as largely a product of growing stratification. It shows how family formation processes associated with low human capital produce complexity over time in family systems. The chapter then examines complexity in a changing global context.

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Edited by Dimitri Mortelmans, Koenraad Matthijs, Elisabeth Alofs and Barbara Segaert

Whether considered from an American or a European perspective, the past four decades have seen family life become increasingly complex. Changing Family Dynamics and Demographic Evolution examines the various stages of change through the image of a kaleidoscope, providing new insights into the field of family dynamics and diversity.
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Jacqueline Scott

This chapter has three aims: the first is to examine the social processes that underpin children’s experience of families; the second is to investigate how transitions to parenthood exacerbate gender inequalities; and the third is to explore how different approaches concerning parental leave and childcare can help to inform policies concerned with work–family balance in Europe. The overarching goal is to consider the conflicting family interests that become apparent in considering intergenerational and intergender perspectives on partnerships and parenting. This area of family research is rife with ideologies, which often shape the questions asked and the answers found. It is no surprise therefore that there is little consensus about the effects for children of family disruption, family diversity, changing work–family balance, and different cultures of care. In order to get a good evidence base to inform family policy, policy objectives must be made explicit. Policy makers face a minefield of competing family and societal interests in tackling issues such as childcare, child poverty, parental leave and work–family balance. The chapter gives examples of how such conflicting interests affect partnerships and parenting and considers the diverse consequences for children’s lives and gender equality.

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David De Wachter, Karel Neels, Jonas Wood and Jorik Vergauwen

Maternal employment rates vary considerably among countries and this variation hides important educational differentials both in labour market attachment and selection into full-time and part-time employment. This chapter investigates the educational gradient of maternal employment patterns in 11 European countries. It further considers the association with formal and informal childcare. The authors use micro-data from the first round of the Generations and Gender Survey, supplemented with macro-data from EU-SILC. The analysis makes use of multilevel multinomial logit models. The results show that more highly educated women less often leave the labour force after childbirth, predominantly remaining employed full-time. Low-educated women more often leave the labour force after childbirth and more frequently work part-time. The main exceptions are Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, where mothers more often work part-time, particularly among highly educated groups. Full-time employment is highest among mothers living in countries with strong and weak public support for families with children. However, in countries with weak support, period fertility is quite low, suggesting high levels of work–family conflict. Childcare is positively associated with female employment and the association is more articulated for formal than for informal childcare. In sum, childbirth is strongly associated with female employment, but the magnitude and sign of the association differs for full-time and part-time work, interacts with education and varies between countries. This pattern is likely to show increasing diversity given that the recent economic downturn has reduced public spending on family policies and raised economic insecurities, particularly among vulnerable socio-economic groups.

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L'via Murink— and Ivett Szalma

Changes in partnership behaviour of the past decades – increasing divorce rates, the growing instability of unions and the diffusion of unmarried cohabitation – have made re-partnering a more common experience for parents and non-parents alike. This chapter investigates the changing influence of fatherhood on the re-partnering of men in three European countries, building hypotheses for different subgroups of men on the three general arguments of need, attractiveness and opportunity. Data from the first wave of the Generations and Gender Survey for France (2005), Norway (2007–2008) and Hungary (2004–2005) are analysed using piecewise exponential event history models. The analysis complements earlier literature by focusing on men, taking a comparative perspective, looking at change over time, considering both cohabiting and marital unions, and also differentiating between (part- or full-time) residential and non-residential fatherhood. Findings show that the probability of re-partnering has not changed for childless men since the 1980s but it has increased among men with co-resident children in France and Hungary and for all fathers in Norway. In the new millennium, fathers who live with their children either full-time or part-time find a new partner faster than any other group of men. The results show no negative effect of fatherhood in the new millennium. This lack of negative impact contrasts with findings regarding the re-partnering of single mothers and also some of the results on men. Results are discussed in view of country-specific childcare policies, custody arrangements, parenting practices and family-related attitudes.

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Laurent Toulemon

The increase in female labour force participation, as well as the availability of effective contraceptive methods and legal access to abortion, have led to the growing empowerment of women in Europe. Marriage as an institution has been dramatically weakened, both as a way to enter a union and as a bond which can be broken only by the death of a partner. Unmarried cohabitation has become frequent and is now seen as a long-term option for couples, especially in countries where the legal situation of children is only marginally dependent on the parents' marital status. At the same time, the increase in divorce and in dissolution of non-marital unions is leading to an increasing diversity of life courses. Moreover, new forms of union have emerged – such as stepfamilies, ‘living apart together’ and same-sex unions – in which partners are assuming new family roles. These new forms of union are challenging the usual typologies of couples and families, our standard tools for describing and understanding the conjugal situations of adults. These trends have spread across Europe in the last 50 years, but large differences remain between countries, each following a path that reflects its specific cultural, social and political identity.