Social Norms and Policy Influence on Family Formation in Sweden

Friday, July 18, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Sanja MAGDALENIC , Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Livia OLAH , Stockholm University, Sweden
Merete HELLUM , Dept. of Sociology and Work Science, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden

This paper seeks to extend existing knowledge about gendered transition to family formation and parenthood by looking at whether and how public policies influence fertility. Our research is part of a larger international project on gender equity and low fertility in postindustrial societies. The theoretical framework is designed to capture the ways in which family- and gender-role norms, institutions, and economic context intertwine with the family formation intentions and behaviors of young adults. We focus on two sets of social norms (family- and gender-role norms) in influencing individuals’ intended and achieved fertility. The two sets are viewed as separate constructs, the first dealing with the definition of the “normal” family, and the second dealing with the appropriate roles of men and women in the family and in the public sphere, especially the labor market. Our analytical model seeks to attribute equal explanatory power to men’s as well as women’s opportunities for engaging in positively viewed activities in the spheres of family and work. In our empirical analyses we rely on a mixed-methods approach. In this paper, we combine a quantitative analysis based on data extracted from the Swedish Young Adult Panel Study on attitudes to work, family and gender roles and their possible impact on family formation (intentions) among Swedish young adults in the first decade of the 21st century, with a qualitative analysis of narratives in in-depth interviews (N=80), carried out with women and men aged 24-35 years in two metropolitan areas in Sweden in 2012. The findings for the qualitative part indicate that young adults view Swedish family policies as good even when having little first-hand knowledge of them. We discuss similarities and differences across gender and family status, as well as the implications of our findings for research and for policy design.