Thematic Panel 1 – Family transitions: rethinking care in the face of changing household constellations

Dr. Marie-Kristin Döbler, Institute for sociology, University of Tübingen
Prof. Dr. Marion Müller, Institute for sociology, University of Tübingen

Changes to the degree or nature of care have the potential to shape life courses as the transition into parenthood depicts vividly: a child’s birth comes with quite fundamental care responsibilities. However, it not only entails effects on parents’ present day, e.g. the organisation of (everyday) life and the current division of gainful employment and care work. Instead, it seems to set the course for future developments, decisions and options. Despite processes of emancipation and fights for equality, care arrangements and their long-term effects still seem to be highly gendered: the majority of (private) care in families is still performed by women. Thus, the transition to parenthood appears to involve different implications for mothers and fathers. What does that mean for subsequent transitions in the family life-cycle? 

With a focus on the dissolution of domestic family communities due to children’s departure or parents’ separation, we would like to discuss these and related questions:

  • What are the effects of divisions of care and paid employment set on track when a child is born for later family biographical transitions, primarily when entering the so-called empty nest or in the face of parental separation?
  • How does the experience of changing forms and intensities of care relate to care given or received previously? 
  • In which ways do heterosexual parents’ experiences of care differ across family life courses and how do parents explain these (gender) differences? 
  • What roles do age differences play in parental couples or the experience of one’s own ageing?
  • What kind of political, administrative, infrastructural or discursive influences are acknowledged by parents or can be reconstructed from an observer’s point of view?
  • In which ways do social contexts (political, religious and economic systems, institutional infrastructures, expectations and ideals about family life etc.) frame (re)negotiations about care arrangements on a personal basis (e.g. within couples, families) and the experiences of care? 

We welcome qualitative and quantitative research that address aforementioned questions.