Investigating families

The landscape of family life has changed rapidly in the 20th century. Along with the persistence of marriage-based families, we assist to a continuous diversification of alternative arrangements. Old family forms, including also oneparent families, are transforming from the inside under the influence of divorce and repartnering. New family arrangements, step families, same-sex families, cohabiting couples with or without children, have gained recognition and are now increasingly visible in our statistics. Now as ever before, we need to research on family changes in the life course since family transitions accelerate and family roles multiply. Such dynamics also constantly challenge policy makers because family change implies changes in the vulnerabilities landscape.

LIVES is at the forefront in the scientific investigation of the relationship between family dynamics and vulnerability and constantly contributes to an informed public debate. We have seen our work on family diversity, family configurations, and on the interrelation between family, employment and health being internationally recognized as high-level basic research. The many books and articles in excellent outlets and the numerous scientific conferences and international collaborations clearly bear witness to this.

Parallel to this production, LIVES research on family is also influential outside the academic world, providing occasions for knowledge exchanges on hotly debated topics, for instance, at  the Swiss Psychological Association Congress in Lausanne, the Assises de la Famille in Geneva, which brought together researchers and practitioners for a full day of exchanges and discussions, or upcoming events on family vulnerability in collaboration with the Federal Statistical Office or soon on the generalization of shared custody in Lausanne.

It is rewarding to observe that LIVES research on families is attractive to younger scholars. The excellent dissertations on family issues defended in the last semesters by LIVES doctoral students in our universities – and there are more in the pipeline! are a clear sign that it is a lively field.

With the certainty that LIVES research on familychange,vulnerability, and resilience is here to stay, I will step down from the Board of Directors to take up new responsibilities at the Swiss National Science Foundation, starting on January 1, 2018.

This is therefore my last editorial for the LIVES Newsletter in my function of Deputy Director. Seven years have passed since the beginning of LIVES. During this time, together with my colleagues at the Board of Directors, we first imagined and then carefully and daily constructed the structure that you know as LIVES. I sincerely enjoyed the process, and will continue to be part of the LIVES community through my research projects in the next years. However, to be and continue to be dynamic, I am convinced that scientific institutions need regular turnovers at the cockpit. Therefore, it is with a lot of gratitude and enthusiasm that I look at my personal and LIVES’ institutional transitions. 

Laura Bernardi, Deputy Director