LIVES contribution to a major conference on family evolution

LIVES contribution to a major conference on family evolution

From 26 to 29 September 2012 in Norway, more than 150 European research projects are being presented in Lillehammer, which is an opportunity for junior and senior researchers of the NCCR LIVES to be challenged by their peers.

How do mothers pass their representations of motherhood on their daughters and thus impact their fertility?
What is the relationship between family configurations experienced in childhood and the kind of personal relations in adulthood?
Why do intentions of couples with an egalitarian vision of task sharing not always meet their practices after the birth of a first child?
Does the granting of paternity leave influence the representations and practices of their beneficiaries and lead to greater involvement in the role of father?

As many questions raised by members of the NCCR LIVES as well as young researchers affiliated to its Doctoral Program at the 6th Congress of the European Society on Family Relations (ESFR), from 26 to 29 September 2012 in Lillehammer, Norway.

Three doctoral students are speakers: Gaëlle Aeby presents "The influence of family trajectories on personal networks", a research based on a sample of 803 individuals belonging to two different age cohorts (1950-55 and 1970-75).

Isabel Valarino presents her thesis project on the link between a favorable work environment for fathers and their representations and practices. For this purpose, she collected quantitative and qualitative data among employees of the City of Lausanne, who benefited from paternity leave.

Nadia Girardin’s communication will focus on the differences between the intentions and practices of couples before and after the transition to parenthood, using survey data "Becoming a Parent" collected between 2005 and 2009.

Two other LIVES members are contributing to the congress: Jean-Marie Le Goff, senior lecturer at the University of Lausanne and senior researcher in three LIVES projects (IP1, IP2, IP15), will chair a session on cohabitation patterns in European countries.

Finally, a paper by Laura Bernardi, professor and vice-director of NCCR LIVES, is due to be presented at a session on fertility and the social meaning of children. This article from a qualitative study conducted in Italy between 2004 and 2006 develops the issue of transmission from mothers to daughters of normative beliefs about childbearing choices. It is linked to a forthcoming book* to be published in February 2013 comparing data obtained in France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Italy, representing the high and low end of European variation in fertility rates.

* The Social Meaning of Children and Fertility Change in Europe, edited by Anne Lise Ellingsaeter, An-Magritt Jensen, Merete Lie, Routledge, 2013

  • From mothers to daughters: Intergenerational transmission of fertility norms in Italy
    Laura Bernardi
  • The influence of family trajectories on personal networks
    Gaëlle Aeby, Jaques-Antoine Gauthier, Eric Widmer, Dominique Joye, Pierre-Alain Roch
  • Transition to parenthood and child care division in Switzerland: men's and women's intentions and practices before/after the birth of the first child
    Nadia Girardin, Jean-Marie Le Goff
  • Does a father-friendly work environment challenges gendered fatherhood representations and practices? Paternity leave in a Swiss public administration
    Isabel Valarino, Jacques-Antoine Gauthier
Photo © P-M Delessert

A new head for LIVES IP4 on employment

As from October 1st, 2012, Rafaël Lalive will replace Jean-Marc Falter as leader of the project “Economic inequalities: Towards pathways out of vulnerability” of the Swiss Center of Competence in Research LIVES.

Jean-Marc Falter, the current leader of NCCR LIVES IP 4, will soon become the Delegate for the regional economy of the Swiss National Bank in Geneva.

"As with any life transition, there are losses and gains associated. The loss will be important for us as we loose a very dynamic and agreeable colleague, and the leader of IP 4 (which means that he was also co-applicant of the NCCR LIVES)! The good news is that Jean-Marc leaves for a new and challenging position", said Dario Spini, NCCR LIVES Director, and Michel Oris, Co-Director, in a message addressed to the 140 NCCR LIVES members.

Rafael Lalive, already a member of IP 4, will take over. Professor of Econometrics and Political Economy at the Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC) of the University of Lausanne, he also serves as associate editor for the Journal of the European Economic Association, Economics e-journal, and the Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics. He is a member of the executive committee of the Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES).

Photo © Robert Kneschke -

Assessing well-being and motivation through smartphones

A LIVES team of psychologists based at the University of Zürich is conducting a survey using a measurement burst approach to analyze work life balance. A hundred people have to answer questions on a smartphone seven times a day for one minute.

Members of NCCR LIVES IP7, "Professional trajectories: Impact of individual characteristics and resources, and cultural background", Prof. Alexandra M. Freund, Prof. Bettina S. Wiese and Dr. Michaela Knecht are interested in analyzing how people manage their multiple goals in different domains of everyday life like work, family and leisure.

“We investigate inter-individual differences in intra-individual variability on some key variables in managing multiple goals in adulthood, such as motivation and psychological as well as physiological well-being”, says Michaela Knecht. In order to look into the processes that help managing multiple goals, the team uses a combination of a longitudinal design spanning one year and an intense time-sampling method. “The frequent assessment of selected key-variables in everyday life over a shorter period is called a measurement burst.  This allows studying psychological processes in depth and as they occur in the natural environment of a person’s life”, explains Alexandra Freund.

Mixed methods

The study started in March 2012 with an online survey with men and women aged 30-55, having a job and living with their partner and/or children. In addition to questionnaires assessing personality constructs, motivational variables, various facets of the interplay between work, family and leisure goals, and subjective well being, participants name two important personal goals in the different life domains. For examples "assume more responsibilities", “spend more time with my child", or "do more physical exercise"… A shorter version of this 45-minute questionnaire is then repeated twice every 6 months to allow a longitudinal perspective. This part of the research is still in need of additional participants to complete its planned sample of 300 people.

Among them, a hundred participants are invited to participate in the measurement burst phase using smartphone, which consists of three weeks of intensive questioning, seven times a day for about one minute. Participants receive random alerts at different times of the day. They must then go to the application where they find an individualized questionnaire regarding their personal goals, whose answers are recorded directly on a server. From there the researchers will be able to investigate the dynamics of goal conflict and facilitation in everyday life.

“This mixed methods approach gives us the possibility to combine data from different psychological levels of measurement such as stable self-management preferences (e.g., setting priorities) and everyday experiences of successful goal pursuit in different life domains ”, says Bettina Wiese.


To compose the sample, the team sent letters to companies such as insurance, banking or research institutes that take work-life balance seriously in the Zürich area. Participants are also able to apply on the University of Zürich’s website. They are provided with a smartphone for the duration of the study and receive 180 CHF for their participation.

How do people combine the multiple tasks they face, how do they reach their objectives, where are the difficulties? These are some of the issues this study should help to understand, bearing in mind NCCR LIVES’s aim of overcoming vulnerability.

The evaluation of a Swiss program for professional integration presented in France

The evaluation of a Swiss program for professional integration presented in France

Members of the NCCR LIVES Jean-Michel Bonvin, Maël Dif-Pradalier, and Emilie Rosenstein are speakers at a seminar on youth and labor organized on October 4-5, 2012 in Marseille.

The Regional Institute of Labor of Aix-en-Provence and the Laboratory of Economics and Sociology of Work of the National Centre for Scientific Research (LEST-CNRS) organize the Interdisciplinary Seminar "Youth and Work" in collaboration with the PACA Regional Labor Center and the National Network of Labor Institutes. This series of lectures and workshops will be held in plenary on 4 and 5 October 2012 in Marseille.

As part of the workshop No 2 on October 5, "Training, resources and trajectories", Prof. Jean-Michel Bonvin, Head of the NCCR LIVES IP5, Maël Dif-Pradalier, Researcher, and Emily Rosenstein, PhD Student, present the results of a research project entitled "Enabling young adults in difficulties. The case of the FORJAD Program in the State of Vaud".
This contribution proposes to mobilize Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach to evaluate social policies and more specifically, integration policies for young people in vulnerable situations. Within this analytical framework, the efficiency of an employability program should be evaluated in terms of its impact on the capabilities of individuals, that is to say their real freedom to live the life and have a job they have reasons to value.

This framework is applied here to evaluate an innovative integration policy in Switzerland, the FORJAD Program, which aims to increase opportunities for professional integration of young adults taking welfare by accompanying them during vocational training. The results show that if FORJAD contributes to the development of the capacity for action of its beneficiaries, improvements can still be made in a capabilities perspective. 

3 day symposium in Geneva in gerontology and cognitive aging

From Monday to Wednesday 17-19 September, 2012 will be held at Uni Mail a meeting organized by the Laboratory of Cognitive Aging of the Department of Psychology, with conferences of researchers from France, the United Kingdom and Canada, and the participation of members of the NCCR LIVES.

The purpose of this Geneva Aging Series 2012 is to discuss the recent data, identify current hot topics, develop possible joint projects and promote PostDoc training.

External speakers are: Alexia Baudoin (Paris, France), Gus Craik (Toronto, Canada), Judi Ellis (Reading, UK), Anne-Marie Ergis (Paris, France), Anne-Laure Vest (Nantess, France).

Some of the participants are members of the NCCR LIVES : Prof. Michel Oris, Delphine Fagot, Paolo Ghisletta and Catherine Ludwig. Prof. Anik de Ribaupierre, member of the LIVES Advisory Boad, will also be present.

Photo Hugues Siegenthaler

Dario Spini appointed to the Academic Advisory Board of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies

NCCR LIVES’s Director will serve for a term of 3 years. The duties of the 18 member Board include issuing statements on the Collegium’s research themes and on applications for research positions.

The Academic Advisory Board (ABB) of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies for the years 2013-2015 gathers distinguished European and American scholars.

Thanks to their collaboration, the Collegium for Advanced Studies appoints 8 to 12 researchers annually for periods extending from one- to three-year terms. Both postdoctoral researchers and senior scholars are welcome to submit applications from humanities, social sciences, law, theology, and education, and from all those pursuing research projects related to human beings as cultural and social creatures.

The Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies received 369 applications this year. Each application will be reviewed by at least two members of the AAB, whose next annual meeting will take place in Helsinki on January 10-12, 2013.

The key criteria of the Helsinki Collegium are academic excellence, interdisciplinary orientation, and international activity. The fellowships are open to all scholars independently of their university affiliation or national or other background. The number of international applicants has over the past few years increased.

Photo Hugues Siegenthaler

For women, to stop working has an impact on the couple relationship

A LIVES doctoral student presents in Milan the findings of a study on the link between the decrease of professional activity and the decrease of feeling in love after childbirth.

From 13 to 15 September 2012 is taking place in Milan the congress "Families, care and work facing the challenges of a globalized world: Policies, practices and services." It is organized by the Research Network 13 of the European Sociological Association (ESA): "Sociology of family and intimate relationships."

On the occasion of the session on "The evolution of the meaning of care and work in the families experience," LIVES PhD student Manuela Schicka presents an article written with Professor Eric Widmer, Head of LIVES IP8, entitled: "If I had known our couple turned that way, I would not have stopped working: A biographical account of labour force participation and conjugal love", originating from a study conducted in collaboration with René Levy, Jean-Marie Le Goff and Michele Ernst Stähli.

The paper is about the changing of conjugal love after the transition to parenthood: feeling of being in love, satisfaction with relationship, separation. The data comes from the first two waves of the study "Social Stratification, Cohesion and Conflict in Contemporary Families". The first wave was conducted in 1998 and the second one in 2004. From the second wave the team only took the variable of couples who separated between the waves.

The researchers investigated whether the changing of occupational careers after the transition to parenthood - interrupting, reducing, stop working without restart - have an impact on conjugal love and also what impact the evaluation of the changing career due to the transition has. The basic results are that women are more touched by the transition as their feelings of love decrease when they reduce their labour force. When they felt that reducing or interrupting their labour force was a sacrifice they have a higher risk of being dissatisfied with their relationship. Interestingly, men are not touched by the changing of labour force participation of women and by the negative evaluation of their partners.


Photo © Félix Imhof

2-day retreat on "Life Course and Social Policy"

On Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd August, 2012 took place in Charmey (Fribourg) two days of thinking within the LIVES Social Policy Group closely with the IP5 “Overcoming vulnerability to unemployment: Possibilities and limits of the so-called "active" social policies”.

The objective was to compare the concepts and theories in the field of social policy analysis with those of the approach in terms of the life course. Despite the targeting of social policies towards specific age groups and the fact that some measures contribute to (re)produce critical age markers (eg distinguishing between "young" or "retired“), the life course perspective is too seldom found in the literature on the welfare state. The purpose of this retreat was therefore to further explore this relationship between social policy and the life course - particularly focusing on phenomena and situations of vulnerability, such as unemployment, social assistance, poverty or insecurity on the labor market.

The discussion was organized around three themes:

a) Under the heading "Normativity of the welfare state and the life course", a group led by Jean-Pierre Tabin discussed Karl Ulrich Mayer’s and Lutz Leisering’s classic texts on the relationship between the state and the life course. This group was especially interested in standards, categorizations and divisions which are mediated by social policies.

b) A second group led by Jean-François Bickel and Felix Bühlmann focused on the development of dynamic analysis of poverty, a perspective that is experiencing considerable methodological advances in recent years, but - somewhat ironically - experiences difficulties to locate the periods of poverty in a biographical perspective.

c) Youth and transitional labor markets were at the center of interest of a group led by Jean-Michel Bonvin (including on the basis of Dominique Anxo’s and Andreas Walther’s articles). The issue was to explore the similarities between the transitional labor markets perspective and the perspective of the life course. This group concluded that it is especially during transitions between training and employment, between employment and unemployment or between work and family responsibilities, that social policy can help expand the people’s field of possibilities with structural measures - although one should keep an analytical and critical distance towards "activation" policies.

This thinking has shown the potential of linking theories of the life course and those of social policy. But the discussion also made aware of the problems of international comparison, those related to the definition of the state or the ambiguous status of an individual approach to poverty.


Discussed articles

Alcock, P. (2004), “The influence of dynamic perspectives on poverty analysis and anti-poverty policy in the UK”, Journal of Social Policy, 33, no 3: 395–416.

Anxo, D. & C. Erhel (2008), "Irréversibilité du temps, réversibilité des choix ? Les fondements des «marchés transitionnels» en termes de trajectoires de vie", Revue Française de Socio-Économie, 1 : 199-219.

Dif-Pradalier, M., E. Rosenstein & J.-M. Bonvin (2012), “Vocational training as an integration opportunity for struggling young adults? A Swiss case study”, Social Work & Society (online journal), n° 1, 16 pages.

Layte, R. & C. Whelan (2003), “Moving in and out of poverty”, European Societies, 5, n° 2: 167–191.

Leisering, L. (2004), “Government and the life course”, in J. T. Mortimer and M. J. Shanahan (Eds.) Handbook of the Life Course, New York: Kluwer/Springer: 205-228.

Mayer, K.-U. & U. Schoepflin (1989), “The State and the Life Course”, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 15: 187-209.

Pollak, C., B. Gazier et al. (2008), "L’apport des analyses longitudinales dans la connaissance des phénomènes de pauvreté et d’exclusion sociale: un survey de la littérature étrangère".

Sandoval, D. A., M. R. Rank & T. A. Hirschl (2009), “The increasing risk of poverty across the American life course”, Demography, 46, no 4: 717–737.

Tabin, J.-P. & R. Enescu (2013). “Unemployment insurance, normativity and social work: first reflections”, forthcoming in Journal of Comparative Social Work.

Vandecasteele, L. (2010), “Poverty Trajectories after Risky Life Course Events in Different European Welfare Regimes”, European Societies 12, no 2: 257–278.

Walther, A. (2006), “Regimes of youth transitions. Choice, flexibility and security in young people’s experiences across different European contexts”, Nordic Journal of Youth Research, 14(2): 119-139.