Patterns of Family Life Courses in Europe – between Standardisation and Diversity
A Cross-national Comparison of Family Trajectories and Life Course Norms in European Countries

Dirk Hofäcker, Jana Chaloupková

Abstract


Throughout recent decades, a gradual shift away from an early contracted and simple life course pattern which dominated in the 1950s and 1960s to late protracted and more complex patterns could be observed within European countries. Yet, despite multiple cross-national similarities in the changes of individual life course patterns, there exist considerable differences in the form and frequency of these changes. We argue that one possible way of better understanding these variations is to examine the connection between family formation choices and value orientations. Using data from the European Social Survey 2006 we empirically investigate to what extent the family trajectories have changed across generations and how these practiced family trajectories correspond to cross-cohort changes in socially established norms about family transitions. Our results corroborate the assumption of an increasing restandardisation of family lives: Even though family trajectories have become more turbulent involving more stages and stage changes for the younger generation, “deviations” from traditional family patterns (such as unmarried cohabitation) are turning into majority behaviour, i.e. into a “new standard”. Contrasting these trends with developments in family-related norms reveals that the liberalisation in norms appears to precede such changes in actual demographic behaviour, even though European countries differ in the degree and pace to which such normative and behavioural changes have yet taken place.

Keywords


Family trajectories; Norms; Cross-national comparison; European Social Survey; Sequence analysis

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DOI (PDF): http://dx.doi.org/10.12765/CPoS-2014-11en

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