Family ties in Europe: regional family cultures, intergenerational support and childcare by grandparents

Maaike Jappens, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Jan Van Bavel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Europe has been and continues to be characterized by a great international diversity of beliefs, norms, attitudes as well as practices in family life. Since the seminal work of Hajnal about family formation, a number of typologies have been devised to summarize the big picture and describe some of the "persistent contrasts" (to borrow David Reher's phrase) that have been observed across Europe. These typologies have inspired a lot of comparative work in social demography but have now encountered a number of important limitations. First, very often it is hard to classify some of the regions or countries in one of the categories. Second, doing the classification on the country level misses essential intra-national heterogeneity in some cases. Third, existing typologies seem to be having a hard time to handle the post-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe; they appear to be tried and tested basically with Western Europe in mind, including North and South. Rather than classifying countries in a limited number of categories, this paper scores subnational regions of Europe on a number of dimensions underlying family culture. To this end, we apply Principal Components Analysis to a range of variables about gendered family norms and intergenerational exchange of support within the family and the state on the level of the NUTS1 regions of Europe. The chief source of data is different rounds of the European Social Survey. We calculate principal component scores for NUTS1 regions to give a more nuanced view while at the same time allowing to give a model-based, synthetic picture of inter- and intranational variation. In addition, we illustrate how the regional principal component scores can be used in multilevel analyses to explain outcomes and behaviours on the individual level. We do this by modeling working parents' use of grandparents as the main type of childcare. Special attention is given to how divorce affects childcare provision by grandparents.

Presented in Session 83: Intergenerational family ties in Europe: Multiple linkages between individuals, families and social contexts