Family matters

When visiting the University of Lausanne last April the Dalai Lama said that ageing well is an art that starts from childhood. He implicitly referred to the principle of early life experiences and their importance on later life. The large majority of children are born and socialised in families. Families are more and more diverse in contemporary societies and are differently successful in equipping children to face life course hazards.

Family change represents a major challenge for societies in the next decades. An increasing number of individuals are single or stepparents, do not have children, experience transnational family relationships, live alone in older ages. Needs and resources of these individuals vary making them differently vulnerable.

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES is at the forefront on family research since its very beginning. In its third year, the centre focuses even more on making research internationally visible and on increasing the dialogue with the civil society and the policy makers.

The LIVES participation to the broad European project “Families and Societies”, including 25 universities and 3 major transnational civil society organisations, places our centre in continuous exchange with the top-level institutions in Europe. Family dynamics and family policies in Switzerland are put into context to learn from similarities and differences in preventing risks and promoting social equality across families.

The round table on family policies that follows the annual LIVES conference in June will offer a unique opportunity of having representatives from the university, state, and family organisations sitting side by side and engaging in a constructive dialogue on family diversity and how to face vulnerability of individuals within families.

International standards and constructive collaborations outside the academics are guidelines to follow in the next future. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, the healthy ageing of the NCCR is an art to be started early in the life of our centre.

Laura Bernardi, Deputy Director