International and national studies of norms and gender division of work at the life course transition to parenthood 
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Project Description
Collaboration Partners

financed by the European Research Council (ERC) | ERC Starting Grant

The project assesses contemporary parenting norms and practices and their diffusion in a number of European countries. The international collaboration includes Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Poland. The project develops a comparative framework to study prevalent motherhood and fatherhood norms, images, identities and behaviour in current societies. The focus is on how mothering and fathering is constructed by professionals, welfare states, and popular media, and will assess how cultural and institutional norms and images are perceived and realized by expecting and new parents. Apparent is a 6-year research program which started in January 2011.


The aim of this project is to develop a contemporary sociology of adult sex roles and parenting norms: A theory of the social creation of parenting norms and a comprehensive framework to study empirically the change of men's and women's roles, identities and practices as earners and care givers in the early phase of family formation. The project is methodologically innovative in its aim to combine diverse quantitative and qualitative longitudinal data and methods. By combining expert interviews, policy analysis and content analysis of print media with analyses of qualitative and quantitative data on (nascent) parents, the four subprojects will address the diverse layers associated with changing gender roles and parenting norms over the adult life course.


1. What do contemporary motherhood and fatherhood norms look like? How are norms and images of male and female parenting roles evolving and changing in recent European societies? What are the central mechanisms and institutions involved in the creation and dissemination of parenting norms and standards?

2. How do expecting and new parents in different European countries perceive the standards created by medical and social experts, welfare states, and popular media, and to what extent do they embrace and live these standards? When do legal options to share care and paid work become 'real' options for new parents?


(1) How are standards of 'good' mothering and fathering perceived, shaped and disseminated by professionals (gynaecologists, midwives, family councils)?

(2) How do welfare states, labour markets and family policies target at mothers and fathers roles as earners and care givers? How has this changed in recent decades?

(3) How have images of mothers and fathers roles been portrayed in print media from 1980 until 2010?

(4) How do (expecting) mothers and fathers perceive, embody and represent parenting norms and images in their own work and family roles?

(5) How do new parents divide paid and unpaid work and how do these divisions shape career patterns over the life course?

(6) How do these patterns differ cross-nationally?

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