Couples' Transitions to Parenthood
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Couples' Transitions to Parenthood

Analysing Gender and Work in Europe

Edited by Daniela Grunow and Marie Evertsson

It is common for European couples living fairly egalitarian lives to adopt a traditional division of labour at the transition to parenthood. Based on in-depth interviews with 334 parents-to-be in eight European countries, this book explores the implications of family policies and gender culture from the perspective of couples who are expecting their first child. Couples’ Transitions to Parenthood: Analysing Gender and Work in Europe is the first comparative, qualitative study that explicitly locates couples’ parenting ideals and plans in the wider context of national institutions.
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Chapter 2: Institutional context, family policies and women’s and men’s work outcomes in eight European welfare states

Marie Evertsson


This chapter provides an institutional and contextual background to the plans, expectations and ideals that the interviewed parents-to-be expressed in the country chapters. Organized in two sections, the first is devoted to a description of the welfare states and the gender regimes where the interviewed couples lived. When trying to make informed decisions regarding, for example, the division of family leave or when to introduce the child to non-parental care, parents-to-be consider factors such as employment security, the availability and affordability of childcare and mothers’, and less often fathers’, ability to work part-time. We therefore discuss employment and unemployment rates, the incidence of part-time work and the proportion of children in formal childcare in the countries studied in the first part of the chapter. In the second part, the focus shifts to the micro-level and the couples’ everyday lives at the time of the interviews. Here, the discussion departs from the stories of one couple from each country, in order to give the reader a sense of the context and the family policy setting that framed these couples’ plans and decisions. The latter part of this section includes a description of the maternity, paternity and parental leave policies in place at the time of the interviews in each country. The summaries of the plans and expectations expressed by the interviewed couples indicate that the norms, ideals and strategies for how to practice ‘good’ – or good enough – mothering and fathering vary, not only between couples within a country, but also between countries. As the first part of this chapter indicates, variation between countries is strengthened by differences in welfare state regimes, family policy frameworks and labour market institutions.

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