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Jean-Michel Bonvin, Benoît Beuret and Stephan Dahmen

This chapter emphasizes the various possible ways to conceive inequality and disadvantage, as well as the multiplicity of individual, social, economic, cultural, institutional, and so on, dimensions involved. The challenge in terms of public policies is then to select one informational basis of inequality, that is, to identify which dimensions of inequality are to be tackled via public policies and which ones can be discarded as less significant. In this selection process, the participation of vulnerable people, directly affected by disadvantage, makes a huge difference, as it can allow a more adequate identification of the inequalities to be tackled. The chapter sheds light on the complex intricacies between inequality and participation, and emphasizes the prerequisites for a full and effective participation of vulnerable people in the design and implementation of public policies struggling against inequality and disadvantage.

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Niels Rosendal Jensen and Anna Kathrine Frørup

This chapter presents how young people's possibilities, aspirations and demands are raised, strengthened, transformed or put aside and how they feel about participating within different local programmes. The research shows that integration is an overall goal defined and carried out very differently among young people, but young people do not feel that they have equal and workable possibilities to participate and be included on a local, as well as societal, level. In the perspective of Sen’s and Nussbaum’s concept of capability, the results of this research are analysed and discussed in terms of the question of whose willpower is behind the young people’s voices and aspirations, similarly what are ‘real rights’, ‘free choices’ or ‘real freedom’ to participate and make choices. The conclusion is that local innovative procedures and programmes mainly support the development of new instruments, measures and their realization; and to a much lesser extent support young people’s capability to participate and to perform practical reasoning as well as real freedom.

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Sergio Belda-Miquel, Alejandra Boni Aristizábal and Aurora López-Fogués

New frameworks seem to be needed to readdress public policies so that they consider the perspectives of citizens and place human flourishing at the core. This is especially important in the case of youth policies in Spain, which have been erratic, designed from the top-down and unable to capture the multiple disadvantages that youth face in these times of crisis. The chapter draws on the Capability Approach in order to propose a framework that may allow the complexities of policy processes and outcomes to be captured, and place the construction of opportunities for people to lead the kind of life they value at the forefront. We use this framework to address a specific case: youth policies in the municipality of Quart de Poblet (Valencia, Spain). The case not only shows the impact and relevance of a participatory approach to youth policies, but also the tensions and contradictions of participatory policy making and outcomes.

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Evelyne Baillergeau and Jan Willem Duyvendak

This chapter presents a reflection on how social sciences approach the ways young people conceptualize a desirable future, a critical element of how they relate to society as actors. Though we acknowledge that aspirations draw upon the personal preferences of young people, we emphasize that their aspirations are also socially constrained. Taking this socially embedded nature of aspirations seriously leads us to argue that a thorough understanding of the social roles of aspirations entails an appreciation of the opportunities young people have to develop their views on a desirable future: their capacity to aspire. In addition, we contend that the capacity to aspire of young people living in disadvantaged circumstances can only be comprehensively understood if aspirations are analysed from a multidimensional perspective

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Véronique Simon and Thierry Berthet

The aim of this chapter is to show how the use of a specific participative research method allows us to highlight how some public programmes aiming at tackling ‘dropout’ amongst young people can miss their target and objectives. To unpack this research perspective, we have adapted the sociological intervention to analyse young people’s experience of these programmes. Lightened, reframed and renamed as the CCAPPA (for Contradictory, Collective and Participative Policy Analysis), this method has been used as a powerful tool to enable young people to be reflexive with regards to their own situation. CCAPPA, with its participative dimension giving a full place to the young people in the research process, has allowed us to shed light on questions that a traditional methodology will not have been able to capture.

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Yan Ruth Xia and Anqi Xu

Chapter 3 discusses the changing family system in urban China. It shows connectedness and interactions between Chinese urban family structure and different levels of the social contexts and explains cultural, social, and economic forces directly or indirectly influencing the Chinese family. Family structure is viewed as flexible and interactive with its environment. Culture, policy, economy, and housing reform all play a role in shaping the experience of urban Chinese families. The social changes in housing, education, and the job market have brought opportunities, choices, and wealth, but at the same time posed stress to Chinese families during the social transition. Contemporary Chinese family structure is fluid and dynamic, and Chinese family structure has become more diverse with the occurrence of single-person families, single-parent families, as well as families with double income but no children and cohabitant households as living arrangements of choice. These changes both strengthen and challenge the families. The support from the extended family has served as a buffer.

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Jane Ribbens McCarthy, Ann Phoenix, Guo Yu and Xiaoli Xu

Chapter 18 regards childhood as a structural feature of Chinese society that both shapes and is shaped by children’s everyday family lives. It discusses filial piety as a key cultural theme underpinning children’s family lives and their intergenerational relationships. This chapter also examines particular aspects of contemporary parenting that might be said to relate to the theme of filial piety, namely empirical work on obedience and discipline. Next, it studies autonomy and independence as features of parenting that might be said to resonate with recent social policies and discourses of children’s rights, and reviews empirical work relevant to these themes. This chapter concludes by pointing to the need to move beyond any straightforward dichotomy of themes and practices associated with filial piety as opposed to those associated with children’s rights.

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Weiguo Zhang

Chapter 15 argues that familial relationships between adult children and their older parents are crucial to the well-being of older adults worldwide. In Chinese society, as elsewhere, adult children are the most important sources of emotional, instrumental, and financial support for elderly parents. With longer life expectancy and smaller family size in contemporary China, the Chinese population has been experiencing a rapid aging process. There is evidence that the rate of infertility is rising, as more and more couples choose not to have children, millions may never be able to marry, and millions of parents have lost their single child. As a result, the number of Chinese childless seniors is on the rise. Further, individual pathways toward childlessness also vary. Their psychological and physiological health has become a serious concern for scholars and practitioners alike. Nevertheless, the author points out, research on childlessness and the well-being of childless seniors in China is limited. For example, we do not know how non-marriage and the adoption of children has contributed to the prevalence of childlessness. Nor do we know how childless elders _ be they infertile, unmarried, voluntarily childless, or having lost their children _ differ in their physical and psychological well-being. Nor do we have a ready set of tools to improve the well-being of childless seniors. To narrow these knowledge gaps, this chapter reviews the scholarly literature on childlessness in China, focusing on the demography of childlessness and pathways toward childlessness, physical and psychological well-being of childless seniors and individual coping strategies and social policy development in this chapter.

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Arianne M. Gaetano

Chapter 8 studies shengnu (剩女), which is a derogatory label to describe educated, successful, unmarried urban women in their late twenties to forties in China. Public attention to shengnu is conditioned by state regulatory power along with the market-driven media and commercial wedding industry. Shengnu is a discursive construct that simultaneously produces the social phenomenon it purports to describe. It is also indicative of a general malaise and a conservative, patriarchal backlash wrought by recent challenges and changes to institutions of marriage, such as divorce and adultery, and of family, such as the one-child structure and aging population, as well as in gender roles, particularly due to the increasing proportion of women in higher education and white-collar professions. The institutional or/and ideological influences on shengnu include state development policies and programs; the marriage market rules of spouse selection and marital gift exchange; patterns and perceptions of marriage; family structure, gender and intergenerational relations therein, and filial piety; gender role conflict between household and workplace; and reconfigured gender norms. These in turn relate to broader socioeconomic and cultural transformations of post-socialism, including ideologies of neoliberalism, privatization, and individualism; rising incomes and consumerism; urbanization and migration; and increasing social stratification.

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Xiaotian Feng, Dudley L. Poston and Xiaotao Wang

Chapter 11 discusses China’s one-child policy and its effect on the changes in the Chinese family institution. They argue that since 1979, nearly 150 million single children have been born in China due to the ‘one child per family’ policy. It is believed that this generation of only children has dramatically changed the family structure, family relationships, and family lifestyle in China. It has also resulted in problems and issues not previously present in Chinese families, such as smaller families, a simplification of family structure, a shift from parent-centered families to child-centered families, changes in living patterns, and changes in family lifestyle. Also, there has been a decreased base of support for the elderly.