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Population Europe research news: Beyond Father-Mother-Child

The common heteronormative family – two parents and children – has been joined by other family forms more and more in the last few decades. Today, there are plenty of different living arrangements and subsequent unions, separations and childbearing with multiple partners that contribute to the growing complexity of family ties, making households with multiple (step-) parental relationships and step- and half-siblings increasingly common.

Increasing legal and social support for childcare by both mother and father has resulted in separated parents more equally sharing the residential care of children. Those new family models are challenging traditional approaches to child support determination based on the ‘classic’ two-parent, sole custody, post-divorce family.

A new article by researchers Elke Claessens and Dimitri Mortelmans provides a comparative analysis of how these challenges are being addressed in the child support schemes of eight different countries: “Claessens, E. & Mortelmans, D. (2018). Challenges for child support schemes: Accounting for shared care and complex families. Journal of European Social Policy 28(3): 211–223.”
It evaluates these approaches in light of family policies on gender equality in family care. The researchers found great diversity in the incorporation of shared care and complex families, which is not clearly connected to existing policy models on gendered family care, which are based on the heteronormative family.

However, child support schemes, at least partially, seem to already translate into assumptions concerning gender roles and general policy aims concerning gender equality. In order to better understand how countries accommodate the challenges arising from the modern post-separation family, gender equality seems to be a vital consideration to take into account.
The full paper can be found on the Population Europe website.