Gendering family dynamics : the case of Sweden and Hungary

Abstract: This thesis contains three studies that focus on different aspects of family dynamics at three life-course stages. These are the second birth in an intact partnership, the dissolution of the first parental union, and the first shared birth in the second union. The studies address the gender dimension of childbearing and family disruption explicitly by focusing on the dual-earner family context. A comparative framework of two countries, namely Sweden and Hungary, is used in all studies as they provide excellent test cases given their long history with high female employment rates but differences in family-level gender relations.Gendering fertility: Second births in Sweden and Hungary With the increasing prevalence of the dual-earner family model in industrialized countries the gendered nature of the relationship between employment and parenting has become a key issue for childbearing decisions and behavior. In such a context taking into account the societal gender structure (public policies, family-level gender relations) explicitly can enhance our understanding of contemporary fertility trends. By analyzing data of the Swedish and Hungarian Fertility and Family Surveys of 1992/93 with the method of hazard regression we have found indications that the second-birth intensity increases as the combination of parenthood and labor-force attachment of either parent is facilitated. We see this in the effect of family policies in Sweden and in the higher second-birth intensity of couples who share family responsibilities as compared to those with traditional gender-role behavior in both countries. Also, the lack of any visible impact of men's educational attainment in both Sweden and Hungary is probably linked to public policies because state support for families with children has reduced the importance of income for second childbearing. A positive educational gradient for Swedish women and an essentially zero gradient in Hungary reflects the success of policy measures in reducing fertility cost for more educated women in both countries.Gender and family stability: Dissolution of the first parental union in Sweden and Hungary The increasing trend of partnership disruption among families with children in recent decades has been accompanied by substantial changes in traditional gender roles in industrialized countries. Yet, relatively little is known about the effects of changing gender relations on family stability in the European context. In this paper, we study such gender influences at the familial and societal level in Sweden and Hungary between the mid-1960s and the early 1990s. We focus on the disruption of the first parental union (i.e. the union in which a couple's first child was born). Our analysis is based on data extracted from the Swedish and Hungarian Fertility and Family Surveys of 1992/93. We use the method of hazard regression. The results suggest (i) that the establishment of the dual-earner family model influences family stability only if it is accompanied by some changes in traditional gender relations within the family, and (ii) that women's and men's labor-market behavior have different effects in spite of the relatively long history of women's (also mothers') labor-force participation in both Sweden and Hungary.The first shared birth in second unions in Sweden and Hungary: A gender perspective Children of one or both partners from earlier relationships can affect childbearing in higher-order unions and such an effect may vary depending on whether or not the children are part of the new household. As children usually stay with their mothers, the gender dimension of stepfamily fertility needs to be studied explicitly. In our study we address this issue by focusing on the first shared birth in second unions in Sweden and Hungary. We use the method of hazard regression to analyze data extracted from the Swedish and the Hungarian Fertility and Family Surveys of 1992/93. The results suggest that there is a union-commitment effect in both countries for couples with at most two pre-union children if only one partner has children. We also find some support for a parenthood-status hypothesis in both Sweden and Hungary if the woman is a parent but the man is childless. The findings are less conclusive regarding the effect of residence of pre-union children.