Doing Family in Europe

Investigating Compatibility of Family and Career

(Last modified August 2012)

European families are the subject of this project. Unlike typological structural comparisons of family welfare state services and benefits in Europe, this research empirically addresses the everyday practicalities of European family life. Its subjects are families that experience Europe in their everyday lives through vocational mobility demands.

The pluralization of family models has been a topic in sociology for some time. Now Europeanization is ushering in a process of intra-familial transnationalization, involving a fundamental transformation of the family ideal. The traditional structural pillars of the family are successively disappearing; aspects of language, belonging, and loyalty are radically questioned and renegotiated.

The Europeanization dynamic faces the family complex with the challenge of integrating its structurally conditioned cultural diversity. Binational marriages, internationalization of childcare and education institutions, growing mobility demands on workers, and increasing pressure for education mobility affect the family. How does family life constitute itself when it contains the diversity of European cultures within its structure but at the same time to serve its purpose must generate a certain degree of stability and cohesion?

In this project the question of compatibility of family and career in Europe forms the basis on which to tease out different categories of family lifestyle in the context of vocational mobility demands: How is transnational family life shaped by national societal influences? To what extent do different institutional childcare structures in Europe influence the ways families cope with everyday life? How do identity constructions and feelings of belonging change in the scope of European family mobility? How does family lifestyle affect the subsequent generation of European third culture kids and what consequences might the passing on of Europeanized everyday practices have for European society?

The qualitative interviews on which the research is based were conducted with mothers and couples who have settled in European countries far from their society of origin. The central question is what individual negotiating and coping patterns and specific family mentalities can tell us about the European family model.