The New Roles of Men and Women
and Implications for Families
Livia Sz. Oláh, Irena E. Kotowska and Rudolf Richter
The major trends in family structures and their shifts across the industrialized world
over the past decades are well known: fertility rates have declined below the level
sufﬁcient for the replacement of the population and childbearing occurs later and
more often outside marriage. Marriage, too, is being postponed and is more often
foregone, and couple relationships—both marital and non-marital ones—have
become more fragile. These changes have led to increasingly complex family
compositions and to a previously unprecedented diversity of family forms and
relationships over the life course. The new family trends and patterns have been
paralleled by changes in gender roles, especially an expansion of the female role to
an economic provider for a family, and lately also transformation of men’s role with
more extensive involvement in family responsibilities, mainly care for children. In
contemporary family scholarship there is an increasing awareness of gender and
family changes being interconnected, and conceptualization of the gender revolu-
tion has gained terrain (Goldscheider 1990; Puur et al. 2008; Esping-Andersen
2009; England 2010). Developments related to women’s new role are seen as
weakening the family and have been attributed to the ﬁrst phase of the gender
Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
I. E. Kotowska
Institute of Statistics and Demography, Warsaw School of Economics,
Department of Sociology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
©The Author(s) 2018
G. Doblhammer and J. Gumà(eds.), A Demographic Perspective on Gender,
Family and Health in Europe, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72356-3_4
revolution, while more recent family changes and the emerging caring male role
have been linked to the second phase (Goldscheider et al. 2015).
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 processes 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 (Morgan 2011), and
inﬂuenced by macro structures of 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 the labour market
developments with speciﬁc skill demands, together with 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. Also, different policy contexts affect
new constructions of gender in doing family in various ways, impeding conver-
gence to a singular pattern of family life courses across countries.
In this chapter we seek to shed more light on these complex developments in the
European context. First we present the changes in family patterns over the past ﬁfty
years, before addressing the transition of gender roles and views on their interplay
with the demographic developments. Next, we discuss new challenges related to
transitions in and organizations of contemporary family life based on an overview
of theoretical as well as empirical advances of research. A brief conclusion ends this
Increasingly Diverse Family Biographies
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”
(Skolnick 1978; Sobotka 2011), with high marriage and birth rates at relatively
young ages, few divorces, and a low prevalence of non-traditional 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 (Frejka et al. 2008). People are increasingly refraining
from long-term commitments in respect of partnership formation and childbearing,
which indicates a de-standardization of the family life course (Bruckner and Mayer
2005; Elzinga and Liefbroer 2007), but in the long run may lead to a
re-standardization of family patterns (Huinink 2013). In any case, there is a con-
siderable diversity in the extent of and the pace at which these new patterns
emerged across Europe (Neyer 2013).
42 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
Acknowledging the importance of the social context for family dynamics as
suggested in the literature (see e.g. Frejka et al. 2008; OECD 2011), we display the
trends by welfare regime/policy conﬁguration types (Esping-Andersen 1990; Korpi
2000), highlighting the details of changes in family patterns. We distinguish among
the Dual-Earner policy conﬁguration type or Social Democratic welfare regime
with extensive policy provisions facilitating a 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 dif-
ferentiation; 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 (Hobson and Oláh
2006; Saraceno 2008; Cerami and Vanhuysse 2009; Neyer 2013).
The de-standardization of the family life course in Europe that has led to
increasingly diverse family biographies started with the decline in childbearing
(Van de Kaa 1987; Lesthaeghe 2010). As shown in Fig. 1, 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 (McDonald 2006). 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
increase has stopped and/or reversed in recent years, with childbearing at or
somewhat below the critical level in the majority of European countries.
Period rates are, however, not seen as an optimal measure of fertility, as they are
highly inﬂuenced by variations in timing and spacing of births (Sobotka and Lutz
2010); cohort fertility or completed family size is considered to be more reliable. As
seen in Fig. 2, cohort fertility varies across countries as well as over female birth
cohorts, that is, women born in the mid-1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (the
latter based on predicted cohort fertility). In all countries we ﬁnd higher fertility
levels for the older cohorts, in line with the decline seen for period fertility rates.
Focusing on women born in the second half of the 20th century, the picture is more
diverse. For the mid-1960 and -70 cohorts, fertility did not decline for countries of
The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families …43
the Dual-Earner cluster, nor for France, Belgium, or the UK, where even the
youngest cohorts display fertility levels of about two children per woman on
average, unlike in other countries and clusters. In contrast, we see completed family
sizes at or slightly above 1.5 for the 1965 and 1975 cohorts for Switzerland and the
German-speaking countries, and for the 1975 cohort for the Familialistic cluster,
along with Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania, and only somewhat higher levels for
other countries in the Transition Post-Socialist cluster. Taken together, Figs. 1and
2thus indicate that the European policy agenda should continue to be concerned
about demographic sustainability given these low fertility levels (see also Oláh and
Fahlén2013, for a more detailed discussion).
The decline of period fertility rates has been accompanied by the ageing of
fertility, that is, a rising mean age at ﬁrst birth (Frejka et al. 2008). 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. The postponement of ﬁrst births started during the
1980s in all but the Transition Post-Socialist policy conﬁguration type, where such
a trend ﬁrst emerged in the early/mid-1990s. 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, as Figs. 1and 2suggest, early entry into parenthood, as in the Transition
Dual-Earner Liberal General Family Support
Familialistic Transition Post-Socialist
Fig. 1 Period total fertility rates (average number of children per woman) in different welfare
regimes/policy conﬁguration types, 1960–2013.
Source INED (2013) for the years 1960–2008; Eurostat (2015) for the years 2009–2013.
Note Means for each group. Countries are grouped as follows: Dual-Earner: Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Norway, and Sweden; Liberal: United Kingdom, Ireland, and Switzerland; General
Family Support: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany [for the years 1960–1989 West Germany
only], Luxembourg, and the Netherlands; Familialistic: Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain;
Transition Post-Socialist: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, East-Germany (1960–1989);
Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia
44 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
Post-Socialist cluster, is not necessarily accompanied by high fertility levels,
whereas a late start of childbearing may not be a hindrance for achieving reasonably
high fertility rates, the latter seen in the Dual-Earner and the Liberal regimes.
When discussing changes in fertility behavior, an important dimension to be
addressed is the upsurge of extramarital childbearing in connection with new part-
nership 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. In these latter groups,
the decline in marriage rates was suggested to be strongly related to growing eco-
nomic uncertainty and housing shortages (Sardon 1993; Philipov and Dorbritz 2003).
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 (Frejka et al. 2008). 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. A similar pattern
has also emerged lately in the Liberal and the General Family Support clusters.
As the propensity to marry declined, births have increasingly occurred in con-
sensual relationships. In the early 1960s, when marriage rates were still high, the
proportion of out-of-wedlock births was around 10% or less in European countries.
1935 1945 1955 1965 1975
Fig. 2 Total completed cohort fertility (average number of children per woman) of selected birth
Source INED (2013) for cohorts: 1935–1965; Myrskyläet al. (2013) for cohort 1975.
Note For Belgium the cohort 1960 is displayed instead of 1965, for Lithuania the cohort 1940 is
displayed instead of 1935; for Poland the cohorts 1950 and 1960are displayed instead of 1955 and 1965
The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families …45
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 (Oláh2015).
In addition to inﬂuencing fertility, the new partnership patterns have 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 during the last decade (Spijker and
Solsona 2012). Declining relationship stability can also affect childbearing. On the
one hand, it can reduce fertility as the time people spend in couple relationships
shortens, and as women and men may choose to have fewer children because of the
prospect of either having to raise their children alone or not being able to be
involved with the children because of separation or divorce (Lillard and Waite
1993). On the other hand, high rates of family dissolution can raise fertility rates as
second and higher-order partnerships are increasingly formed during the repro-
ductive ages, and couples may opt for joint offspring even if they already have
children from previous relationships (Thomson 2004). In any case, the high and/or
rising instability of partnerships contributes to the increasing diversity of family
biographies in Europe.
Changing Gender Roles
The changes in family patterns outlined in the previous section, especially the
decline of fertility rates to (far) below the replacement level, have been paralleled by
a substantial increase in female labour force participation over time (Bernhardt
1993; OECD 2012). In Central-East European countries (i.e. the Transition
Post-Socialist cluster), high female and maternal employment levels were common
in the state-socialist period. In Western Europe, the upsurge of female economic
activity and mothers’employment occurred ﬁrst in the Nordic countries (i.e. the
Dual-Earner cluster), where the new family patterns emerged ﬁrst. These countries
were also the ﬁrst to experience a change in women’s employment aspirations
resulting in the new female work pattern, according to which women do not
withdraw from the labour market upon marriage or motherhood, but remain
employed until reaching retirement age (Gornick and Meyers 2003;Oláh and
Fahlén2013). Countries of the Liberal and the General Family Support clusters
joined the trend during the late 1980s, followed by the Familialistic cluster in the
mid-/late 1990s. Anomalously, the end of the state-socialist era brought a
46 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
substantial decline in female labour force participation in the Transition
Post-Socialist cluster imposed by the economic restructuring, followed by some
increase in female economic activity as the countries’economic performance
gradually improved. Nevertheless, cuts in family policy provisions, especially
regarding childcare for the very youngest (i.e. children below age three), along with
rigid labour market structures increased the difﬁculties with respect to work-family
reconciliation (Matysiak 2011).
In any case, by the early 21st century gender differences in labour force par-
ticipation in Europe had greatly diminished (see Fig. 3). The gender gap is rather
small in the Dual-Earner cluster and has been quite limited in the Transition
Post-Socialist regimes, even though there are lower activity rates for both men and
women. More recently, the gender gap has also diminished greatly in the Liberal
and the General Family Support regimes. The Familialistic cluster has been char-
acterized by the largest activity gap, as gender role differentiation has been most
pronounced there and traditional gender norms have had a strong hold (Lewis 2006;
Plantenga et al. 2009). Women’s increasing economic activities have also boosted
their engagement in higher education (Blossfeld 1995). By the mid-1990s, female
educational attainment surpassed that of men in the main childbearing ages in all
regime clusters, and it reached the same level as men in the broader working age
population (Oláh2015). The new female educational advantage has been most
Dual-Earner Liberal General Family Support
Familialistic Transition Post-Socialist
Fig. 3 Gender differences in labour market activity [women’s activity rate in proportion of men’s
rate; ages 20–64] in different welfare regimes/policy conﬁguration types, 1992–2014.
Source Eurostat (2016).
Note Means for each group. Countries are grouped as follows (years for missing data listed in
brackets): Dual-Earner: Denmark, Finland, Iceland (1992–2002), Norway (1992–1999), and
Sweden; Liberal: United Kingdom, Ireland, and Switzerland (1992–1995); General Family
Support: Austria (1992–1993), Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands;
Familialistic: Greece, Italy (1992), Portugal, and Spain; Transition Post-Socialist: Bulgaria (1992–
1998), Czech Republic (1992–1997), Estonia (1992–1997), Hungary (1992–1995), Latvia (1992–
1997), Lithuania (1992–1997), Poland (1992–1996), Romania (1992–1996), Slovakia (1992–
1997), and Slovenia (1992–1995)
The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families …47
pronounced for the Familialistic cluster, despite female employment rates being
The substantially reduced gender employment gap notwithstanding, women earn
on average 16% less than men, and this difference is even larger among top earners,
about 21% (OECD 2012). The female wage disadvantage is strongly related to their
weaker position in the labour market, as women have continued to bear a dispro-
portionately large share of family responsibilities despite their growing involvement
in paid work. Hence, part-time work is much more common among women than
men and is increasingly used. Currently, about 45% of employed women work
part-time in the Liberal and the General Family Support clusters, and one-third in
the Dual-Earner cluster, compared to 20 and 10% in the Familialistic regime and the
Transition Post-Socialist countries, respectively (Oláh2015), given more rigid
labour market structures in the latter clusters. The share of male part-time work
varies between 5 and 15% across regime types.
Gender differences are more modest for unemployment levels, which vary
between 5 and 20%, with the highest rates displayed in the Familialistic and the
Transition Post-Socialist clusters where economic problems have been pronounced
since long before the recent economic crisis. Youth unemployment levels have been
much higher though, which can hamper family building, especially among the less
educated, men and women alike (Mills et al. 2005;Oláh and Fratczak 2013).
Taken together the trends suggest that the new female gender role has increas-
ingly incorporated dimensions of economic independence and support responsi-
bilities that until quite recently belonged to the male domain, and has promoted a
redistribution of responsibilities for the economic provision to a family between
men and women. However, this transformation has hardly been accompanied by
new patterns in the gender distribution of housework and care, given the rather
limited changes in sharing unpaid work among women and men in most countries
(Bianchi et al. 2000; Anxo et al. 2011). Much of the decrease in the gender gap for
unpaid work is due to women investing less time in domestic duties because of their
greater involvement in paid work, than due to a substantial increase in men’s
household- and/or care work contribution (Sayer et al. 2004; Craig and Mullan
2011). It has resulted in a double burden for women and increasing tensions
between work and family life.
Among younger cohorts, more and more fathers seem to embrace the idea of active
parenting (Seward et al. 2006; Hobson and Fahlén2009; Smith Koslowski 2011).
Their efforts have received increasing policy support at both the national and
European levels (Hobson 2002; Moss 2014). However, the company level, especially
employers’and co-workers’attitude towards active fathers, is likely to be of par-
ticular importance for the transformation of the male gender role (Brandt and Kvande
2002; Haas and Hwang 2009; Behnke and Meuser 2012). Moreover, mothers need to
accept fathers as their equals when it comes to parental care for children in order for
the new male role to become established (Allen and Hawkins 1999). Until men’s
contribution to domestic tasks and care work can match that of women in paid
work, the gender revolution will remain incomplete (Esping-Andersen 2009;
Goldscheider et al. 2010).
48 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
Making Sense of the Interplay Between Family Complexity
and Gender Role Changes
Contemporary scholarship of economics, demography, sociology, and gender
studies has recognized for a long time that new family patterns and evolving gender
roles are interlinked. Given declining fertility and nuptiality, increasing instability
of couple relationships and a nearly simultaneous growth of female labour force
participation, women’s increasing economic independence has been seen as a main
cause of family changes in economic theorizing, which identiﬁes gender role spe-
cialization as one of its main paradigms (see Becker 1991). Labour market
developments in the 1980s and 1990s, especially rising educational demands and
greater ﬂexibility along with higher levels of job uncertainty, made this paradigm
increasingly contested. An inﬂuential argument, presented by Oppenheimer (1994,
1997), pointed out the beneﬁts of collaboration among spouses/partners with
respect to economic contributions to the family, as by pooling resources couples
can better adapt to new challenges in the labour market. As women’s educational
attainment approaches that of men, they are also better prepared to share with their
male partner the responsibilities of providing for the family (Blossfeld 1995;
Blossfeld and Drobnic 2001).
In sociology in contrast, it has been argued that ideational changes, such as the
spread of individualism and thus the greater emphasis on self-realization, together
with changing aspirations for paid work, are the main driving forces behind the
postponement of family formation (both marriage and childbearing) and the
increasing fragility of couple relationships in modern societies (Bengtson et al.
2005; Steel et al. 2012). In this respect, the Second Demographic Transition
(SDT) theory is of particular importance (Van de Kaa 1994; Lesthaeghe 2010).
According to the SDT theory, the weakening of normative constraints in advanced
societies in combination with access to effective contraception led to fundamental
changes in sexual relations, loosening the links between marriage and childbearing.
This in turn resulted in delayed marriage and births, rising childlessness,
non-marital cohabitation, and partnership instability. Critics pointed out that even
though the SDT conceptual framework included structural components of market
economy and improving living conditions, labour market developments and the
related increase in economic uncertainties were largely ignored when explaining
family changes (Perelli-Harris et al. 2010). Moreover, the SDT lacks an explicit
gender perspective, notwithstanding its acknowledgement of women’s increasing
educational attainment and economic activity as part of societal changes (Bernhardt
2004). These latter aspects seem to be crucial for contesting the explanatory power
of the SDT framework, especially with respect to family changes of the last decades
and their interplay with labour market developments, in particular women’s
Indeed, in more recent studies increasing attention has been paid to gender
equality in the public sphere and gender equity with respect to family life seen as
the main drivers of family change (McDonald 2000,2006; Esping-Andersen 2009,
The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families …49
Neyer et al. 2013), linking back to the hypothesis on work-family incompatibility
(Liefbroer and Corijn 1999; Brewster and Rindfuss 2000). These dimensions have
been synthesized in new theoretical frameworks on multiple equilibrium
(Esping-Andersen and Billari 2015) and the gender revolution (Goldscheider et al.
2015) aimed at explaining past trends as well as recent family changes from the
point of view of the ongoing transformation of gender roles. Both concepts focus on
the interplay between family related behaviour and shifts in women’s and men’s
social roles reﬂected in their gendered responsibilities for economic provision and
care in a family.
The multiple equilibrium framework addresses the evolution of the family from
the male breadwinner model to the dual-earner—dual-carer model with special focus
on the female revolution, following the transformation of gender roles on the path
towards gender egalitarianism. Family related demographic behaviours are seen as
strictly associated with transitions across family equilibria, aiming for consistency
between people’s evolving preferences and behaviours (Esping-Andersen and Billari
2015). In contrast, Goldscheider et al. (2015) distinguish between two phases of the
transformation of gender roles. The ﬁrst phase of the gender revolution is charac-
terised by a strong rise in women’s labor force participation and a gradual adaptation
of the public sphere to this change towards increasing gender equality, while gender
roles within the family remain unchanged. This stage includes transitions from the
male breadwinner model to the modernised male breadwinner or dual earner-
women’s double burden model. The second phase of the gender revolution starts
with increasing involvement of men in the family chores, marking the transition
towards the dual-earner—dual-carer model. Both conceptual frameworks highlight
the relevance of the transformation of gender roles outside and within the family, in
line with McDonald’s views on the importance of gender equality and gender equity
for fertility change (McDonald 2000,2006). In addition, they call for attention to
men’s situation, which until relatively recently has been quite neglected (for
exceptions see Goldscheider and Kaufman 1996; Puur et al. 2008; Goldscheider
et al. 2010), even though the decline in male wages and men’s labour force activity
along with growing labour market uncertainty have been recognized (Oppenheimer
et al. 1997; Booth et al. 1999; Mills et al. 2005).
The role of social context in the interplay of gender and family changes has been
addressed in the Capabilities approach, originated in Amartya Sen’s(1993)
framework of capabilities and their relation to the institutional environment. The
approach has been applied focusing on gendered agency and capabilities to form
and maintain stable relationships and have and care for children (Hobson and Oláh
2006; Hobson 2011). Studies on fertility and partnership changes and women’s
increasing labor market activities frequently rely on the policy regime framework,
ﬁrst presented by Esping-Andersen (1990), addressing the constraints and oppor-
tunities for individuals and families that affect the organization of paid and unpaid
work and family formation. More recent welfare regime typologies (Lewis 2009;
Thévenon 2011) and policy conﬁguration approaches (Korpi 2000; Korpi et al.
2013) also highlight the linkages between variations of family, fertility and rec-
50 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
In addition to theorizing about transitions over the family life course and their
interlinkages with gender role changes, another major topic of scholarly attention
has been the organization of family life. Studies of families and the division of work
within households show that family members do gender as they do housework and
childcare (Berk 1985; West and Fenstermaker 1995). Acts are performative in the
sense that they construct, corroborate, and reconstruct identities in relation to jointly
agreed-upon deﬁnitions. The performativity makes it possible to create and main-
tain an illusion of two essential and polar gender identities, at the same time
enabling the reconstructions of gender (Butler 1990). This ‘doing gender’approach
emphasizes that we are assessed by and held accountable for based on gender in
nearly everything we do (West and Zimmerman 1987; Jurczyk et al. 2014). This
accountability, in turn, inﬂuences the social constructions of roles such as husbands
and wives, mothers and fathers. Rooted in the concept of doing gender, the ‘doing
family’approach, looking at practices resulting in gender differences (Morgan
1999,2011; Smart 2000; Nelson 2006), takes into account the fact that social habits
are reproduced through everyday interactions. It argues that family life is not a
given per se, but rather a social construction, because families embed their everyday
family lives in internal daily routines, practices, and external social activities
interlinked with changes in gender roles and family relationships.
Following upon the logic of the interplay between demographic changes and
transformation of gender roles as outlined above, we will now address both tran-
sitions as well as the organization of family life. These are interpreted in the context
of the de-standardized family life course and the growing complexity of family
forms and relationships. In our overview of research, we focus ﬁrst on women’s
new role and its implications for family dynamics, considering both women and
men as main actors. Next we turn to the topic of gendered transition to parenthood,
a borderline issue between family transitions and family life organization. The latter
aspect is more thoroughly addressed in the discussion of new gender roles in doing
families. Finally, we focus on coping strategies in family and work reconciliation
under conditions of uncertainty and precariousness, an issue of growing importance
for understanding transitions in family life.
New Challenges of Transitions in and Organization
of Family Life
In this section we discuss recent research outcomes of family dynamics in a
comparative perspective, especially regarding partnership transitions and parent-
hood and the organization of family life, and their association with changing gender
roles. The results we present here refer to the main outcomes of Work Package 3 of
the FamiliesAndSocieties project: The new roles of men and women and impli-
cations for families and societies. First, we focus on the reversal of the gender gap
in education, a main driver of the transformation of gender roles, and its impacts on
The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families …51
family patterns, especially on couple formation and fertility. New conceptual
approaches are needed in order to study these processes. It is important to take into
account both the more diverse ways of starting a family in modern societies
compared to that of previous decades and the education-speciﬁc mating squeeze,
resulting from the expansion of higher education, affecting women in particular.
Next, we focus on the gendered transition to parenthood in Sweden, Switzerland,
and Austria, countries with different institutional and gender systems and
advancements in transformation of the family regarding economic provision and
Men’s involvement in family life can also be approached from the perspective of
its organization. To illustrate how evolving gender roles are reﬂected in doing
family, outcomes of two comparative studies are discussed addressing time spent by
fathers with children and the gender gap in household work in different family types
across Europe. Finally, coping strategies in family and work reconciliation under
conditions of uncertainty and precariousness will be discussed.
Women’s New Role and Its Implications for Family Dynamics
Women’s new social role is closely connected to their educational attainment.
Aggregated data show that women have outperformed men in formal education in
the past decades, and consequently they now have increasingly as much or more
education as their partners, unlike in the past. The reversal of the gender gap in
education has far-reaching implications for family dynamics and needs to be taken
into account not only in studying behaviours relevant for demographic development
and social relations but also in applying an adequate analytical approach. Moreover,
to account for the increasing importance of non-marital cohabitation as well as a
growing proportion of children born in consensual unions instead of marriage, the
conventional concept of the “marriage squeeze”should be extended to include this
partnership type. Van Bavel (2012) proposed to address imbalances on the “mating
market”instead of the “marriage market”only, and to pay attention to education
accounting for an education-speciﬁc mating squeeze. Relying on data from the
European Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Eurostat ofﬁcial statistics on population,
his co-authored study demonstrates the importance of the mating squeeze for family
formation in modern societies (De Hauw et al. 2014).
Indeed, the expansion of higher education among women and resulting patterns
of assortative mating affect family formation, fertility, and divorce (Schwartz and
Han 2014; Grow and Van Bavel 2015). Contrary to expectations, highly educated
women are not more likely to remain single. Rather, they appear to partner more
often with men with less education than themselves. How exactly this is related to
the timing instead of the likelihood of partnership formation is, however, still an
open question (De Hauw and Van Bavel 2016). The reversal of gender inequality
has also resulted in remarkable shifts in educational pairing: educational hypergamy
(women marrying up) is declining while homogamy and hypogamy (women
52 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
marrying down) are becoming more prevalent (Esteve et al. 2012). In a study of
Klesment and Van Bavel (2015), based on EU-SILC data, educationally homog-
amous couples constitute more than half of the sample and the share of hypoga-
mous couples exceeds that of hypergamous couples (except for Austria, Germany,
the Czech Republic, and Romania). Between 2007 and 2011 the proportion of
highly educated homogamous couples increased similarly to the share of hypoga-
mous partnerships with highly educated woman.
New patterns of educational pairings affect the decision-making processes related
to fertility, as a comparative study based on the EU-SILC panel data on 17 countries
reveals (Nitsche et al. 2015). Homogamous highly educated couples show a distinct
childbearing behaviour in most societies studied. They tend to postpone the ﬁrst birth
longest, while transition rates to subsequent (second and third) births are highest for
them compared to other educational pairings, especially to couples with a highly
educated woman and a lower educated man. This suggests that homogamous highly
educated couples recuperate their postponed transition to the ﬁrst birth by progressing
to second and/or third births faster. Moreover, differences in childbearing behaviour
within the group of highly educated men are in contrast to what may be expected based
on the conventional economic models of the family. Hypergamous couples with a
highly educated man and a lower educated woman display signiﬁcantly lower second
and third birth transition rates than homogamous highly educated couples across the
majority of countries. There is no country in which second or third birth transitions
rates among this type of couples are higher than rates of homogamous highly educated
couples. These ﬁndings are in line with Oppenheimer’s(1994) hypothesis on pooling
resources in a couple instead of Becker’s(1991) economic model.
The Gendered Transition to Parenthood
In our research on the gendered transition to parenthood, country-speciﬁc studies
based on both qualitative and quantitative approaches provide in-depth insights into
combining parenthood with working careers. Leaves for child care are considered a
crucial policy measure to support reconciliation of work and caring responsibilities.
Especially fathers’entitlements and use of leave play an important role in reversing
the asymmetry in the gendered impacts of parenthood on work performance of men
and women. When becoming a father, men tend to strengthen their economic pro-
vision to the family, also by increasing their working hours, while women take leave
from employment to care for a child and quite often either stay at home or switch to
part-time work until the child starts day care. Below we discuss two country speciﬁc
studies on leave practices in Sweden and Switzerland, countries with contrasting
leave systems, different stages of family change and transformation of gender roles.
The study on Sweden, a Dual-Earner cluster country, explores how both men’s
and women’s“new”roles are related to their time spent in paid work and in care,
taking into account children-parents ties (Evertsson et al. 2015). By combining
analyses of quantitative survey data (YAPS—Young Adult Panel Study, Sweden)
The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families …53
and qualitative interviews conducted with middle-class ﬁrst-time parents, new
insights into the division of parental leave in Sweden are provided. The ﬁndings
suggest that fathers’family orientation and willingness to share caring responsi-
bilities are the main determinants of longer leaves of fathers. Reasons for couple’s
unequal leave use vary from mothers’preferences to stay home for a long period, and
fathers’refusal to take leave, or work-related reasons, to the economic situation of
the family. Father’s work conditions are more important for his leave duration than
the work conditions of mother for her leave length; and income difference is
sometimes used as a motive for a father to take a short leave irrespective of who
earns the most. In any case, the duration of the father’s parental leave signiﬁcantly
affects his contribution to child care even when both parents resume paid work, i.e.
the longer the father’s leave, the more likely child care is to be equally divided in the
long-term. These qualitative ﬁndings indicate that traditional norms and ideals about
the mother as primary care taker hinder an equal sharing of the leave during the
child’sﬁrst year, despite ideals of gender equality and equal parenting being highly
regarded by the parents interviewed. Thus family income and factors related to the
parents’work conditions seem to interact with norms and ideals, and they produce
different outcomes across couples. The study also suggests several mechanisms
through which fathers’parental leave uptake may causally inﬂuence the share of care
between parents when a child is older. Fathers’parental leave uptake is linked to a
closer relationship between the father and the child and also contributes to a greater
understanding between the parents, both when it comes to sharing home tasks when
a child is small and to combining paid work with unpaid work, including care.
The institutional context in Switzerland, a Liberal regime country, is completely
different from that of Sweden: employed men do not have access to any statutory
leave when they become fathers. However, companies may implement their own
regulations on leaves. The case study of a public administration organization that
implemented a one-month paternity leave to be taken over one year, based also on
mixed methods, shows limited gender equality effects in terms of gender roles
perceptions and participation in care and domestic duties and uptake of paternity
leave (Valarino 2014; Valarino and Gauthier 2016). The opportunity of a
one-month paid paternity leave did not substantially change men’s employment
patterns or a division of family work but it did enable fathers to strengthen their
sense of competence regarding care obligations and appropriation of their new
father identity. However, the traditional idea of different abilities of men and
women in relation to the newborn prevailed. Also, the important role of the
workplace and job characteristics was conﬁrmed. The limited effects of imple-
mentation of paternity leave at the company level in Switzerland seem to strengthen
arguments that national efforts are necessary for progress in transformation of
gender roles at both societal and family levels.
A crucial role of men’s perception about parenting in relation to take-up of
parental leave was also conﬁrmed by the in-depth analysis of the transition to
parenthood in Austria, a country of the General Family Support cluster. The decision
for sharing parental leave, even if displayed as a joint decision, was father-centred as
the decision was oriented towards the father’s wish and willingness, in close
54 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
connection to the perceived organizational necessities. The decision for the father’s
leave was expected to be as beneﬁcial as possible for him, and both partners valued
the father’s leave higher than the mother’s (Schmidt et al. 2015). More attention was
given to his work situation, while mothers’leave seemed rather to be self-evident.
Regardless of the parental leave arrangement, masculinity remained hegemonic in
being superior to femininity, even if feminine aspects of caring were incorporated
due to following ﬁndings: (i) only the man was deemed to be in the position to agree
to the interruption of his career; (ii) the woman supported her partner‘s claims for
external recognition or gratefully presented him as an exceptional example of a good
father; (iii) as taking up parental leave and doing care work contradict hegemonic
masculinity, this was compensated for by the construction of a father’s leave taking
as a highly masculine act of being courageous.
New Gender Roles in Doing Families
As discussed earlier, on-going transformation of gender roles, reﬂected predomi-
nantly in shifts of women’s position in the social sphere and within the family,
imposed changes in the gendered economic provision for a family and organization of
family life. Women’s increasing employment was not accompanied by a reduction in
women’s household chores and care responsibilities, nor by substantial engagement
of men in household duties or care. More and more scholars indicate that a redeﬁnition
of men’s role within the family is crucial for progressing in transformation of gender
roles (see e.g. Esping-Andersen and Billari 2015; Goldscheider et al. 2015). Along
with empowering mothers as economic providers, the new role of fathers should be
strengthened. New fatherhood is generally deﬁned as a present, more involved and
caring father (Tanturri et al. 2016). There is some evidence that fatherhood is in
transition in Europe in terms of both social norms and practices, however that process
is strongly diversiﬁed across countries (Goldscheider et al. 2015). The transition from
the male breadwinner model to the dual-earner—dual-carer model is more advanced
in the Dual-Earner cluster (i.e. Nordic countries), while more traditional perception of
fatherhood still prevails in the Familialistic and Transition Post-Socialist clusters (i.e.
the Mediterranean and in Central-Eastern Europe).
Assuming that fathers’time with children reﬂects how the country is progressing
in new fatherhood, Tanturri et al. (2016) relied on Time Use Survey data to examine
fathers’involvement in the family in Sweden, Italy, France, and the United
Kingdom, that is in countries of various welfare regimes and with a range of
policies on work-family reconciliation. Three indicators were used: the total time of
fathers spent with their children, the time spent alone with children, and the time
fathers allocated to childcare. The results show that the Dual-Earner cluster
(Sweden) progressed most in the transition to involved fatherhood, followed by the
Liberal cluster (United Kingdom). Fewer advances were seen for the Familialistic
and the General Family Support clusters, respectively. Italian fathers spend more
total time with children than did fathers in France, while the opposite holds for the
The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families …55
time spent alone with children. French fathers allocate a similar quantity of time to
child care as fathers in the UK and in Italy, however the share of time for caring
alone is visibly higher in France. In searching for factors that matter most for
fathers’involvement with children, it was found that the most involved fathers are
those with a high school certiﬁcate. Hence, the increasing number of more highly
educated men may strengthen the progress of new fatherhood. Another stimulating
factor seems to be the growing prevalence of dual earner couples—men are more
engaged with their children especially when their partner works full time, compared
to male breadwinner families. Also, more favourable working conditions (being a
clerk or working less than 35 hours a week) increase fathers’involvement in family
life, while working long hours diminished fathers’time dedicated to children.
Another aspect of the interrelationship between changing gender roles and doing
families refers to patterns of housework division between men and women in dif-
ferent family models by their labour market involvement. A comparative study of ten
European countries, relying on data from the European Social Survey, investigated
how housework is divided between men and women across various family models
and how the patterns vary across welfare regimes with different work-family rec-
onciliation policies and gender norms (Fahlén2015). The results suggest the
importance of occupational position within the couple to understand how time is
allocated to cope with work and home demands: dual-career couples (both partners
are at the higher occupational levels), female-career couples and female
single-earner couples divide the housework more equally than do dual-earner cou-
ples. However, this result can be attributed to the fact that women do less housework
when being more engaged in paid work but not to increased housework by their
partner. Moreover, outcomes on men’s and women’s actual housework hours sug-
gest that occupational position matters more for women than for men. Smaller
gender differences in the division of housework were shown in Dual-Earner cluster
countries, with more institutional support for work-family reconciliation and less
traditional gender norms. Moreover, the results suggest that dual-earner families and
dual-career families are confronted with different challenges to combine work and
home duties. They also have different capabilities to cope with these challenges,
especially in countries with weaker support for work-family reconciliation. The
gender gap in doing housework is largest in countries with more traditional gender
norms for both dual-earner and dual-career couples, especially so in the Transition
Post-Socialist cluster (i.e. Central-Eastern Europe).
Coping Strategies in Family and Work Reconciliation Under
Conditions of Uncertainty and Precariousness, and Impacts
Low fertility is a major concern in Europe, strongly inﬂuenced by career expec-
tations, couples’education, and possibilities of combining work and family life.
56 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
The labour market prospects, especially job uncertainty and instability are being
broadly voiced as crucial factors for becoming a parent and/or having subsequent
children, despite signiﬁcant cross-country differences with respect to fertility and
the labour market situation. Hence, we focus here on coping strategies of families as
expressed in the fertility intentions of both women and men, reducing the knowl-
edge gap of especially men’s responses to economic uncertainty.
The comparative study by Fahlén and Oláh(2015) on the interplay between
societal economic conditions, individual economic uncertainty, and short-term
childbearing intentions in ten European countries representing different welfare
regimes made use of the data from the European Social Survey (2004/05 and 2010/
11). The aggregated short-term childbearing intentions of childless people and of
one-child parents were analysed in relation to changes in unemployment and
employment protection. In addition, the micro-level association between child-
bearing intentions and perceived economic uncertainty was addressed. The study
reveals that economic uncertainty impacts short-term childbearing intentions across
welfare states, but the association varies by gender and parity. Childless men and
one-child fathers are those responding most to changes in unemployment risks,
while job protection is important mainly for the childbearing plans of one-child
mothers and childless men. Also the micro-level ﬁndings conﬁrm that perceived
economic uncertainty is an important factor for childbearing plans, however this
impact again varies by gender, age, parenthood status, and the institutional context.
Especially, the low intentions among fathers in the Transition Post-Socialist cluster
(Central-Eastern Europe) indicate that in institutional contexts that promote a more
traditional gender division of work and care, a highly uncertain economic situation
in terms of employment-, income security and unemployment risks substantially
reduces fathers’intentions to have a second child. This offers additional arguments
in favour of supporting women’s employment and gender equality to counteract
negative impacts of economic uncertainty on the family economic situation and
consequently, on fathers’plans to have more children.
Research on childbearing decisions seen as outcomes of coping strategies in
work and family reconciliation under economic uncertainty and precariousness in
Switzerland, a Liberal cluster country, goes beyond the approach usually applied to
examine the relationship between employment and fertility, in which only women’s
job characteristics (e.g. employment status, work hours) are focused on (Hanappi
et al. 2014). To understand more clearly the linkages between the institutional
context, employment uncertainty, and fertility of men and women this study
investigates how subjective perceptions about job stability and job prestige inﬂu-
ence fertility intentions of both women and men living in a partnership. In addition,
a mediating role of gender attitudes, deﬁned as approval/disapproval of maternal
employment, is taken into account. The results of the analyses of data from the
Swiss Household Panel conﬁrm gendered impacts of stability and prestige of jobs
on fertility intentions, moderated for men by gender attitudes. Perceived job
instability reduces women’s intentions for a ﬁrst child but motherhood sets off any
employment-related effects. Contrary to expectations, job instability increases fer-
tility intentions of men who disapprove of maternal employment. The job prestige
The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families …57
matters only for men—its direct effect on ﬁrst and subsequent child intentions is
positive. However, this effect turns negative for men who do not approve of
maternal employment. In searching for possible explanations, references have been
made to the Liberal welfare regime promoting the family with male breadwinning,
the labour market being unsupportive of reconciliation of employment and chil-
drearing, and the gender system being at the early stage of transformation. In
general, these outcomes conﬁrm that impacts of the job instability on fertility
intentions vary by gender and parity and are strongly associated with gender
Because the interplay between family changes and transformation of gender roles is
increasingly recognized in contemporary scholarship of the family, in this chapter
we addressed both processes in Europe. We acknowledged their context depen-
dence focusing on groups of countries by welfare regime/policy conﬁguration types
in our discussion on the evolution of family patterns and gender roles. Within this
general conceptual framework we presented new evidence on implications for
family dynamics generated by women’s new role and changes in men’s role
enforced by women’s emancipation. Hence, the main research outcomes discussed
either from a comparative perspective or based on country-speciﬁc studies depict
gendered patterns of partnership formation and transitions to parenthood as well as
of the organization of family life with emphasis on involved fatherhood. As family
life is increasingly inﬂuenced by labour market developments, coping strategies in
family and work reconciliation under conditions of uncertainty and precariousness
have been addressed as well.
Changing family patterns resulted in increasingly diverse family biographies
even though originating in common trends. In addition, in most societies in Europe,
transformation of gender roles in the public sphere has progressed much further
than in the family. Differences in timing and intensity of gender and family changes
produced differences in outcomes, especially comparing Dual-Earner regime
countries with societies of the Familialistic and the Transition Post-Socialist clus-
ters. However, within-cluster diversity cannot be neglected either. Both types of
differences reﬂect the importance of the institutional settings, economic structures,
and culture for the evolution of family patterns and gender roles alike.
As discussed, new research ﬁndings highlight the crucial role of the gender gap
reversal in education for partnership formation and fertility. However, women’s
increasing importance as economic providers to the family is challenged by the
gendered transition to parenthood. Especially fathers’entitlements to and use of
leave, inﬂuenced also by workplace and job characteristics, are crucial for men’s
58 L. Sz. Oláh et al.
family involvement and sharing childrearing. Societal and institutional support
varies across clusters, impacting family life. Similarly, patterns of housework
division between women and men differ by family models based on the labour
market participation of partners, and across welfare regimes.
Changes in doing family have been more affected by women’s paid work
engagement than by men’s job characteristics. Transitions towards dual earning, in
turn, may counteract negative impacts of economic uncertainty on fertility inten-
tions, in particular on men’s plans to have children. This new research evidence
presented here, based predominantly on microlevel data and integrating qualitative
and quantitative approaches, extends existing knowledge on new gender roles and
their implications for families and societies.
Acknowledgements The research leading to these results has received funding from the
European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no.
320116 for the research project FamiliesAndSocieties. In addition, ﬁnancial support for Livia Sz.
Oláh via the Swedish Research Council grant to the Linnaeus Center on Social Policy and Family
Dynamics in Europe, SPADE (grant number 349-2007-8701), and for Irena E. Kotowska from the
Ministry of Science and High Education in Poland (grant agreement no. 2886/7.PR/2013/2) are
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