Handbook on Gender and Social Policy
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Handbook on Gender and Social Policy

Edited by Sheila Shaver

Providing a state of the art overview, this comprehensive Handbook is an essential introduction to the subject of Gender and Social Policy. Bringing together original contributions and research from leading researchers it covers the theoretical perspectives of the field, the central policy terrain of gender inequalities of income, employment and care, and family policy. Examining gender and social policy at both the regional and national level, the Handbook is an excellent resource for advanced students and scholars of sociology, political science, women’s studies, policy studies as well as practitioners seeking to understand how gender shapes the contours of social policy and politics.
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Chapter 16: Making and unmaking families

Belinda Hewitt and Michelle Brady


Family life has changed dramatically over the past several decades in most developed western countries. There have been substantial changes in the cultural meaning of marriage and family, gender roles, the demographic trends and transitions that make up the family life course and policy and legislative frameworks that govern family life. The role of policy and government in family life is extensive and pervasive. Most countries across the world have policies and legal structures in place that regulate relationships between intimate partners and their children. The emergence and persistence of more diverse family structures and the restructuring of the family life course at the societal level have thrown up significant challenges for governments and social policy. Both historically and in contemporary times, these policies often work in gendered ways that shape the roles and entitlements that men and women can expect when relationships are formed and dissolved. Few contemporary policies explicitly discriminate against men or women but, in practice, they continue to have gendered outcomes in part owing to the gendered structures of family life. In this chapter we present a synthesis of recent, international research in five key areas of family policy.

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