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The programme of the international workshop on shared custody is online

The workshop "Family dynamics and the changing landscape of shared custody in Europe" will take place at the University of Lausanne, IDHEAP Building, on December 14-15, 2017. It will bring together scholars from many renowned research institutions across Europe, as well as specialists of social policies and field practioners.

Divorce rates and separations are on the rise since a long time. They tend to stabilize on a high level throughout all European countries. Despite the long evolution of broken families, only the last decade has seen a radical shift in custody arrangements for children in divorced families. For a long time, mothers were considered to be the main socialization actor and fathers have been given visiting rights. A gender revolution is taking place, whereby fathers have asked and received an increasingly larger share of time to be spent with their children.

Despite this evolution, we do not possess a clear view on families in shared custody across Europe. What are the legal arrangements throughout Europe? What time allocation is considered “normal”? What kind of freedom do judges possess to decide on regulations? How do men act in their post-divorce roles? Are they a Disney-dad or rather a divorce-activated father? And what about mothers? Do they accept the decrease in time spent with their children? Do custody arrangements have an influence on their employment rates and career opportunities?


This workshop will host two keynote presentations, fourteen presentations and a round table gathering recorded experts.

On day 1, Benoit Laplante (INRS, Québec) will give a keynote talk on "Family Demography and Family Law: Interdependencies and Challenges for Shared Custody".

On day 2, Katharina Boele-Woelki (Bucerius Law School, Hamburg, and Chair of the Commission on European Family Law) will speak about "A European Model for Harmonizing the Law on Parental Responsibilities".

Other presenting participants come notably from the Université Catholique de Louvain, INED, EHESS, Stockholm University, University of Rostock, University Pompeu Fabra, University of Antwerp and University of Lausanne.

The round table on day 2 will propose a discussion among four experts on the following question: "Shall shared physical custody and alternating residence be pushed as the default arrangement for children after parental separation?"

  • Vittorio Carlo Vezzetti (European Platform for Joint Custody, Coparenting and Childhood, Italy)
  • Benoit Laplante (INRS, Canada)
  • Monika Pfaffinger (COFF, Switzerland)
  • Katharina Boele-Woelki (Bucerius Law School, Germany)

>> Full programme

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The boundaries of single parenthood are blurred. A new book helps to take stock

The 8th volume of the Life Course Research and Social Policies series, edited by the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES at Springer Publishing, is dedicated to a central issue in the study of life courses: the growing complexity of family structures, which affects an increasing number of people who experience single parenthood at some point in their life. Typically associated with a greater risk of vulnerability, single parenthood is a dynamic process that challenges social policies and that should not be confined to stereotypes

Created in the wake of a workshop organised by the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES in 2014, the publication that has just been released in open access, entitled Lone Parenthood in the Life Course, brings together 15 chapters giving a range of perspectives on single parenthood and offering a comparative and interdisciplinary view of this phenomenon, which has become so common at the beginning of the 21st century.

Edited by Laura Bernardi, professor at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lausanne and deputy director of the NCCR LIVES, and Dimitri Mortelmans, professor of sociology at the University of Antwerp, the book depicts the multiplicity of single-parent situations in various countries and looks at the complexity of these families from several angles: access to work and social benefits, health, well-being, representations, social capital, etc.

"The growing heterogeneity of lone-parent households has not yet been sufficiently emphasised in the scientific literature," says Prof. Bernardi. In three decades, their profiles have indeed diversified. In the past, single parenthood used to concern mainly widows and, more rarely, ostracised "unwed mothers". Today, it affects a much wider group, mainly divorced or separated women. However, the average duration of lone parenthood has fallen drastically, due to a very high rate of single parents finding a new partner after a few years alone. Added to this are the increasingly common situations of shared custody.

Understanding the complexity of family structures

"These changes make it difficult to define lone parenthood within specific boundaries. Socio-demographic and administrative criteria do not always overlap, and sometimes correspond very little to the residential dynamics of children or the real experience of parents," explains Laura Bernardi.

For example, a single mother with children who moves in with a new partner may not always be considered a lone-parent household, according to institutions. However, most of the time, lone parenthood does not end with the formation of a new couple, even if the parent no longer lives alone with their children: "The legal obligations remain with the custodial parent, while from an economic and emotional point of view, it all depends on the new partner's involvement with the child," emphasises Laura Bernardi.

According to the researcher, administrative data and data collected by scientific surveys should provide more details on the concrete living conditions of children and help to better understand who cares for them, for how long, and how the various costs are covered.

In Switzerland and elsewhere

The book's introduction reviews the latest research on lone parenthood in relation to various aspects of the life course, and brings together several datasets to present an overview of the developments since the 1960s in some twenty countries, including Switzerland, Russia, the United States and several European states.

The subsequent chapters develop several themes in different national contexts. The chapter on Switzerland, written by Laura Bernardi and Ornella Larenza, reports on a qualitative study of 40 single parents in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud. It shows that the transition to lone parenthood is often a non-linear and progressive process, the beginning and sometimes even the end of which are difficult to date precisely by the people concerned, who express strong ambivalence in their relationships with their (ex-)partner(s) and in relation to their family situation.

In an increasingly common landscape of non-traditional families, is there any point in delineating the boundaries of lone parenthood? Yes, says Laura Bernardi: "Because while the need for a precise definition of lone parenthood may be questioned in this context of transient arrangements, it is still necessary to know who is legally and practically responsible for the children." On the other hand, she believes that policies should "rethink the rights and duties of parents within a broader framework of complex family configurations, rather than classifying single parents as a homogeneous population of people in need."

Single parenthood and precariousness

However, the extent of the phenomenon should not obscure the fact that lone-parent families remain a category more likely to experience precariousness. More specifically, risks arise especially when several factors accumulate: the young age of the mother, lack of education, unemployment, health problems. Lone parenthood therefore finds itself at the intersection of gender and class inequalities, made even more sensitive by social structures.

One chapter shows that the least developed countries in terms of gender equality are also those with the highest poverty rates for single mothers. The poor integration of women into the labour market and the difficulty in reconciling work and family life significantly increase the risk of having to rely on social welfare.

Yet research indicates that working single mothers have a higher level of well-being, are happier, less stressed and healthier than those who care for their children full-time, as demonstrated by Emanuela Struffolino, one of the authors of the book, in another article published in 2016 with Laura Bernardi and Marieke Voorpostel on the Swiss Household Panel database1.

For universalist policies

One of the book's findings is that social policies that specifically target single parents as a homogeneous group work less well than universal measures. Simplistically targeted measures can even be counterproductive and may discourage lone parents from working or getting back into a relationship, warns Laura Bernardi.

In her view, "implementing policies that guarantee the work-family balance for all parents would have better results in reducing poverty and health risks than targeted and stigmatising measures."

And since lone parenthood is ultimately a risk for very young women without qualifications, Laura Bernardi believes that an important area for improvement lies in promoting education opportunities for everyone, regardless of age or parental status. "The transition from school to work should be flexible and allow young mothers to develop vocational skills so as to prevent the downward spiral of disadvantage."

>> Laura Bernardi & Dimitri Mortelmans (eds.) (2017). Lone Parenthood in the Life Course. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, Life Course Research and Social Policies, Vol. 8.

  • 1. Struffolino E., Bernardi L., Voorpostel M. (2016) Self-reported Health among Lone Mothers in Switzerland:Do Employment and Education Matter? Population-E, 71 (2) pp. 187-214. DOI: 10.3917/pope.1602.0187. Winner of the Population Young Author Prize 2016.
Photo Hugues Siegenthaler © LIVES

People on social welfare are not necessarily lost to the job market

A team of researchers from the University of Lausanne assessed a pilot project in the Canton of Vaud and the City of Lausanne intended to better support marginalised jobseekers. Beneficiaries of the project were invited to a joint Unit of employment advisors and social workers. More of them left welfare through employment than those receiving social assistance alone.

Led by Professor Giuliano Bonoli, an evaluation carried out for the Canton of Vaud on the basis of an experiment carried out jointly with the City of Lausanne, confirmed an intuition that had already been developing for several years: a large proportion of people dependent on income support (Revenu d’insertion, RI) are able to return to work if they are better supported towards achieving this goal. This has a cost in terms of additional supervision, but this is offset by savings on financial benefits paid to beneficiaries.

To carry out this evaluation, Giuliano Bonoli, a social policy specialist at IDHEAP, enlisted the support of his colleagues Rafael Lalive, an economist at HEC, and Daniel Oesch, a sociologist at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, all of whom are members of the same project (IP204) within the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES. Three young researchers, Maurizio Bigotta, Lionel Cottier and Flavia Fossati, completed the team.

The pilot project being reviewed was launched in February 2015 with the support of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). It consists of a joint Unit created in the City of Lausanne to enable close coordination between advisors from the Regional Employment Centre (ORP) and social workers from the Regional Social Centre (CSR) responsible for delivering income support services. In this unit, which is still active, seven employment advisors deal with an average of 65 cases, half as many as in a traditional ORP, and are supported in their work by four social workers.

1,200 cases compared to a control group

The study covered the first 22 months of the experiment, during which new welfare applications were assigned to the joint unit every other day, while the remaining cases were routinely processed to form a control group. Nearly 1,200 people benefited from closer monitoring in terms of job seeking as part of the experiment.

The comparison between the two groups, using three databases, showed that "recipients supported by the Unit were more likely to leave income support for employment and had lower expenditure during the observation period," according to Professor Bonoli's report.

At the end of the observation period, 52% of the Unit's beneficiaries had found work, compared to 43% in the control group. These new jobs were also more stable for individuals who passed through the Unit: 70% of them did not re-enter unemployment during the study period, compared to 58% among the control group.

Cost/benefit ratio

These good results achieved a saving of 11% on the financial benefits paid to beneficiaries, resulting in an average monthly cost of CHF 107 less per month in the Unit than in the control group. This corresponds roughly to the additional cost of CHF 108 per month per beneficiary generated by the increased supervision from employment advisors in the Unit. The operation was therefore cost-neutral over 22 months.

The evaluation also shows that the Unit applied more sanctions against uncooperative persons than the CSR applied to the control group. According to the report, "the specialised literature is unanimous enough to identify the use of sanctions as an important lever for reintegration into the world of work".

Greater satisfaction

Based on a survey of some of the beneficiaries of both systems, the report indicates that more people in the Unit's care expressed greater satisfaction and were more likely to receive job offers than those from the control group.

The Unit's staff found the collaboration between employment advisors and social workers to be very positive. "Many were afraid of this forced marriage," explains Giuliano Bonoli. "This has made it possible to get rid of a lot of prejudices between the two professions," says Florent Grin, head of the joint Unit.

"One of the keys to success"

In their conclusions, the researchers mention that the results of the pilot project are consistent with similar experiments carried out in the United States and Germany. They feel that the high rate of supervision from employment advisors is "probably one of the keys to the success of the experiment", while suggesting that a slight reduction in this rate would be desirable to improve the cost/benefit ratio, especially since some employment advisors admitted to feeling not busy enough.

The researchers add that the social workers' supervision rate, on the other hand, could be increased in order to speed up support, or that otherwise social workers' expectations should be reduced.

A follow-up project

In this spirit, the report's authors recommend, among other things, that the Unit's action be limited to a more restricted duration. Analyses show that most jobseekers return to work during the first 14 to 16 months of support. "This group is not forever lost to the job market, but its opportunities are also limited by the same job market," said Giuliano Bonoli at a recent meeting with social workers at the Poverty Symposium in Lausanne.

The Canton of Vaud announced on the day of publication of the report that the project would be progressively extended throughout the canton.

The 2018 Winter School on Life Course will take place in Bremen in collaboration with BIGSSS

The 2018 Winter School on Life Course will take place in Bremen in collaboration with BIGSSS

The LIVES Life Course Winter School is a one-week intensive program on life course research. Two interdisciplinary workshops (drawing from sociology, social psychology, life-span psychology, social demography, social policy) take place in small groups of 6 to 8 students. Three to four experts will lead each of these research workshops, with the aim of preparing collaborative articles through a process of learning by doing. It will take place from 12 to 18 March 2018 in Bremen, Germany, jointly organized with the Bremen International Graduate School in Social Sciences (BIGSSS).

Since 2015, BIGSSS has successfully organized intense courses with varying research foci from one of its thematic fields. The aim of the BIGSSS summer (winter) school program is to support young social scientists by opening a cross-border dialogue on theoretical questions and methodological approaches to current matters of social science research.

Workshop 1

Social networks, social participation and life transitions: a life course perspective 

With Eric Widmer (University of Geneva), Karin Wall (University of Lisbon), Rita Gouveia (University of Lisbon), Marie Baeriswyl (University of Geneva)

This workshop will explore the interplay between life transitions and changes in personal networks and social participation (for example to various kinds of associations). The pluralization of life courses that has characterized the experience of currently young adult cohorts has also affected those who are now retired or close to retirement. The occurrence and the timing of a variety of life transitions have increased in recent decades, making the family life cycle and traditional work-family arrangements less predictable and standardized than it once was.

This diversity of life trajectories has created additional challenges and contradictions in social networks and social participation. Individuals may have to adjust their personal relationships and social participations to their new life situation without having anticipated the need to do so. Additionally, members of their personal networks may also experience life transitions, which may have an effect on their relationships. In other words, social networks and social participations may be strongly interrelated with the way in which life transitions are experienced.

A focus on the transition to retirement will be proposed by the instructors, as such transition is expected to be associated with a major shift in personal networks and social participation, which still need to be better understood. Participants are invited to propose other life transitions to be considered.

The  workshop aims to advance the empirical study of social networks and social participation in a life course perspective using novel longitudinal datasets made available by the LIVES program or other international datasets, such the Share data. Advanced multivariate quantitative methods will be used. The workshop readings, discussion and data analysis will provide a context for designing two to three papers that will be formulated during the workshop.

Workshop 2

How do values and political orientations develop across the life-span?

With Klaus Boehnke (Jacobs University), Regina Arant (Jacobs University), Maria Pavlova (University of Vechta) and Clemens Lechner (Gesis, Maheim - TBC)

This workshop will explore the life-span development of value preferences and political orientations. Is it really the case that people’s value preferences are more or less stable once people have become of age? Is the old folk wisdom really true that people become politically ever more conservative, the older they get? How does early-life political activism affect later-life psychosocial well-being? These are the three main questions addressed in the workshop.

The most influential political science value change theory, the approach developed by Ronald Inglehart in the 1970s, assumes that value preferences are acquired during the early years of life and depend—in their preference patterns—on the degree of need fulfillment during those years. If lower-level needs, as conceptualized in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, remain unfulfilled during those years, people will cherish what they lacked and will accentuate survival values. If basic needs are by and large fulfilled during these years, people will rather cherish self-expression values. Intrapersonal development is rarely addressed by researchers with an interest in value change. To fill this gap is the focal aim of the workshop. Does the value stability assumption really pertain? And how does it relate to the mentioned folk wisdom that political orientations are said to become ever more conservative across the life-span?

A further question addressed will be the one what effects political activism has on the later-life development of value preferences and political orientations. And how does political activism affect psychosocial well-being and happiness during people’s later lives. It has been suggested that activism and volunteering affect mental health positively. At the same time it has been proposed that a good mental health is an indispensable prerequisite for political activism and volunteering. Can one shed more light on the causal direction of effects? This question will be addressed in the workshop as well.

The workshop aims to advance the empirical study of value change across the life-span using longitudinal (panel) datasets made available by the workshop leader or other international datasets, like the SOEP data set. The core data set will be coming from a study of some 200 early-age peace movement activists, who have been surveyed during their adolescent years in the mid-1980s and have then been followed every 3 ½ years in altogether 10 waves of data gathering. Latent growth modelling approaches will be used, as will be approaches from the tool-kit of repeated-measures ANOVA. The workshop readings, discussion and data analysis will provide a context for drafting two to three papers that will be formulated during the workshop.

The Winter School Program

Our joint winter school on life course studies has a specific design that differs from most of the other academic events of this kind: internationally renowned experts will lead two thematically different courses, with the aim of preparing collaborative articles through  learning by doing. In a nutshell, the seven-day class represents all stages of a research process, heading towards a joint publication as a medium-term follow-up:

  1. Firstly, based on the descriptions of the topical foci on the website, work groups of 6-8 participants plus faculty jointly investigate and define the topic of the workshop in more precise terms by reading pertinent papers selected by the organizers.
  2. On this basis, the second step aims at a deepened discussion of possible hypotheses that will - or will not - structure the work with the available data.
  3. The third day (‘lab day’) is dedicated to working ‘hands-on’. Data and measurements are presented, worked with and discussed in the two workshops. In a joint session, preliminary results are made available to both work groups.
  4. After having scrutinized data, the concrete topics of the research project/paper are defined. These topics flow into the essential research questions the publication/s will tackle.
  5. The last two days are dedicated to working on the initial drafts of the collaborative articles plus finally agreeing upon a work-plan for the two groups on how to complete manuscripts in the immediate aftermath of the workshop.

Terms and Conditions

The LIVES winter school is targeted at Early Stage Researchers, i.e. graduating PhD students and PhD students who recently have graduated. Experienced MA students are also welcome. We encourage applications from all countries but may only consider candidates with a social science background working on questions related to one of the two workshops.

There is a 480 € program fee, covering accommodation, all academic events and leisure activities. Breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided for all accepted participants of the winter school. Lodging at a hotel near the venue for the duration of the course is included for all accepted participants. Travel cost reimbursement can not be granted.

Participants will be asked to present proof of an international health-, accident-, and liability insurance that covers their stay in Germany for the duration of the winter school.

The winter school will start on March 12th, at 1.30 pm (pick up at Hotel Seven Things). Therefore, we recommend that you arrive in Bremen on Monday, March 12th, at noon the latest. The program will finish on Sunday, March 18, at 4.00 pm. Please make sure to consider this when booking your train/flight home.


  1. Please apply by sending an e-mail including the following documents (Arial 12 pt, 1,5 lines spacing) to BIGSSS' Admissions and Administration Officer, Hristina Gvozdenovic ( a letter of motivation (max. 2 pages), a CV including publications and academic/research experience (max. 3 pages) and a proposal of your current project, e.g. your MA thesis, an upcoming publication or your PhD thesis (max. 5 pages). 
  2. Please indicate the workshop you are interested in. During the winter school you will be assigned to one workshop only. All accepted participants stay with their group (except for joint activities).
  3. The application period is open between November 21, 2017 and January 21, 2018. Incomplete, incorrect and late applications will not be considered. 
  4. Please send your application in one composite pdf.

>> Website

>> Flyer

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New book in open access on surveying second-generation immigrants

Our colleagues Claudio Bolzman, Laura Bernardi and Jean-Marie Le Goff, from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland and the University of Lausanne, are the editors of the book Situating Children of Migrants across Borders and Origins. This publication includes contributions from several excellent international scholars. It is published in the Springer Series Life Course Research and Social Policies, which is headed by the NCCR LIVES.

This open access wide-ranging collation of papers examines a host of issues in studying second-generation immigrants, their life courses, and their relations with older generations. Tightly focused on methodological aspects, both quantitative and qualitative, the volume features the work of authors from numerous countries, from differing disciplines, and approaches.

A key addition in a corpus of literature which has until now been restricted to studying the childhood, adolescence and youth of the children of immigrants, the material includes analysis of longitudinal and transnational efforts to address challenges such as defining the population to be studied, and the difficulties of follow-up research that spans both time and geographic space. In addition to perceptive reviews of extant literature, chapters also detail work in surveying the children of immigrants in Europe, the USA, and elsewhere.

Authors address key questions such as the complexities of surveying each generation in families where parents have migrated and left children in their country of origin, and the epistemological advances in methodology which now challenge assumptions based on the Westphalian nation-state paradigm.

The book is in part an outgrowth of temporal factors (immigrants’ children are now reaching adulthood in more significant numbers), but also reflects the added sophistication and sensitivity of social science surveys. In linking theoretical and methodological factors, it shows just how much the study of these second generations, and their families, can be enriched by evolving methodologies.

This book is open access under a CC BY license.


>> More on the series

>> Bolzman, C., Bernardi, L., Le Goff, J.-M. (eds.) (2017). Situating Children of Migrants across Borders and Origins. A Methodological Overview. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, Life Course Research and Social Policies, Vol. 7



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The income of the super-rich is rising unabated in Switzerland

Over the past twenty years, Switzerland’s top 1% tax payers have seen their income rise strongly despite the international financial crisis, according to an article by Isabel Martinez published in the 11th issue of the series Social Change in Switzerland. The probability to stay in this income group from one year to another has been constantly high.

The rise of income was especially strong among the super-rich: the 450 most wealthy tax payers (the top 0.01%) have seen their share of overall income in Switzerland almost double since the 1980s. The 2008 crisis hardly made a dent in this upwards trend, which can also be observed at an international level, particularly in the United States.

To date, very few studies have been conducted over the length of the period during which the persons with the highest incomes remain at the top. Based on data from the Swiss Old Age and Survivors’ Pensions Information Service, Isabel Martinez observes that 80% of the richest individuals tend to maintain their position the following year. After five years, the share of people remaining in this top group is still 60%. These figures are surprisingly stable since 1981.  “The observed rise in inequality has therefore not been compensated for by greater income mobility”, the researcher concludes. Common measures of inequality like the Gini-Index, taking into account the income of all contributors to the Swiss Old Age and Survivors’ Pensions, confirm this result.

Isabel Martinez’s study also allows us to gain a better understanding of who exactly the highest earners in Switzerland are. Foreign-born tax payers represent around one third of the richest percentile. Women, on the other hand, are substantially under-represented in this top percentile; they only account for 10% of the latter despite making up 46% of the active population.

>> Isabel Martinez (2017). Die Topeinkommen in der Schweiz seit 1980: Verteilung und Mobilität / Les hauts revenus en Suisse depuis 1980: répartition et mobilité. Social Change in Switzerland No 11. Retrieved from

Contact: Isabel Martinez,, +41 79 560 27 26

The series Social Change in Switzerland documents the evolution of Switzerland’s social structure. It is edited by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS, the Life Course and Inequalities Research Centre of the University of Lausanne LINES , and the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES). The aim is to monitor change in employment, family, income, mobility, voting, or gender in Switzerland. Based on cutting edge empirical research, the series targets a wider audience than just academic experts.

International Conference on Social Identities and Health (ICSIH4) in Lausanne

International Conference on Social Identities and Health (ICSIH4) in Lausanne

The International Conference on Social Identity and Health will be hosted in 2018 (July 13-14) at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland by the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES. The deadline of the call for abstract submissions is set on January 4, 2018. The conference will be preceded by a Groups 4 Health workshop on July 12.

The theme of the 2018 conference is Vulnerabilities in Social Identities and Health. With the concept of vulnerability we want to stress the dynamic and multidimensional processes which relate social identity to health. Accordingly, studies analysing how cognitive, affective and behavioural dimensions of social identities are associated with positive or negative health outcomes across the life span, and research that examines how social inequalities and social norms affect the interplay between vulnerability and social identity are of high interest for this conference. We also welcome submissions of studies that focus on stigmatised groups and their health trajectories across the life span, and of research which looks at interventions and policies that empower vulnerable groups in order to promote positive health outcomes. While we encourage submissions addressing these themes, we also welcome more general research examining the interplay between social identity and health.

To present your work at the conference, please send a title and an abstract of 250 words for peer-review before 4 January 2018 by registering on this webform. During the registration process, you will be asked to indicate your preference in terms of format session: 10-min presentation, 20-min presentation or poster session. Information on acceptance/rejection will be sent by the beginning of February 2018. 

Invited speakers are Tegan Cruwys from the University of Queensland and Eric Widmer from the University of Geneva. The final program will be available by mid-February 2018.

The organizing committee:
Olivier Desrichard, Daniela Jopp, Davide Morselli, Dario Spini, Christian Staerklé, Eric Widmer

>> See also the Groups 4 Health workshop