Families, Relationships and Societies
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Relationality and linked lives during transitions to parenthood in Europe: an analysis of institutionally framed work-care divisions

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  • 1 Goethe University, Germany
  • | 2 Stockholm University, Sweden
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This article ties together key findings from a 12-year cross-national qualitative collaboration that involved researchers from nine European countries. Our comparative analysis draws on longitudinal heterosexual couple data, in which both partners were interviewed first, during pregnancy, and second, between six months and two-and-a-half years after childbirth. We tackle the relational ties that shape family practices from a lifecourse perspective, emphasising the interdependent construction of motherhood and fatherhood identities, couples’ institutional embeddedness and linked lives. Analysing the data by combining the relationality and lifecourse perspectives brings forth how women and men enact agency in a constrained environment while making consequential decisions about their own, their partners’ and children’s futures. Whereas the gender culture provides parents with arguments and discourses to motivate their work-care plans, the policy context limits how new parents interact as they seek to escape or cope with institutionally prescribed gender divisions of work and care.

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  • 1 Goethe University, Germany
  • | 2 Stockholm University, Sweden

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