Family diversity challenges demography: measuring and modeling the transition to solo parenthood

Laura Bernardi, Université de Lausanne

Demographers' attention to measuring and modeling family diversity are challenged when it comes to family transitions. The multiplication of family forms and related legislations regulating the care and responsibilities of children makes it difficult to define the beginning and ending of solo parenthood. On the basis of 40 biographic interviews, we focus on the transition to solo parenthood reported by individuals living in Switzerland, having full custody and raising their children alone at the moment of the interview. First we identify a variety of objective and subjective markers of the transition to solo parenthood and show the ways in which such markers define different experiences of solo parenthood. Second, we analyze the way in which the multiple dimensions of the transition into solo parenthood (residential arrangements, legal responsibilities, relational adjustments) makes it difficult to identify the onset of a solo parent status and to model the transition to it. This is mostly experienced as an gradual, multidimensional, and ambivalent transition. The first characteristic makes it hard for respondents to give a precise date for it. The second characteristic makes it hard to identify the relevant marker or markers. The third characteristic makes it difficult to use retrospective data on solo parenthood. Our findings have important implications for measurements and modeling family transitions in a context of growing diversity.

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Presented in Session 108: Union formation and union dissolution