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The family in Norwegian society Anne Skevik Grødem, NOVA – Norwegian Social Research.

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Presentation on theme: "The family in Norwegian society Anne Skevik Grødem, NOVA – Norwegian Social Research."— Presentation transcript:

1 The family in Norwegian society Anne Skevik Grødem, NOVA – Norwegian Social Research

2 What is “a family”? Blood relations, Legal relations (marriage) A set of functions –Production –Reproduction Distinguish between family and household –Household: People who live in the same house, and who regularly have meals together

3 Married women with children under 16 in the labour force, 1972-1999

4 What is ”the family?” A contested political question! ”Haven in a heartless world” A site of oppression and conflicting interests The basic unit of society A changing institution

5 Family trends in Norway Delayed marriages Delayed childbearing  extended youth period, singledom, cohabitation Stable, comparatively high fertility High and stable rates of extra-marital birth High and stable divorce rates  many lone parents, many non-resident parents, many adults living alone

6 Cohabitation A ”paper-less” marriage or a modern form of engagement? Illegal in Norway until 1972! Much less stable than marriage

7 Marriage in Norway Anyone who is over 18 and single is free to marry Illegal to marry parents/ grandparents/ children/ grandchildren, and siblings Only valid if it is freely entered into

8 % who are cohabiting, married or living alone, different age groups, 2002-2004

9 % of women in different age groups cohabiting, various years

10 % of women aged 25-29 who are married or cohabiting, various years

11 Mean age at first marriage, men and women, 1961-2003

12 Same-sex marriage Gender neutral marriage act from 2009 “Registered partnerships” introduced in 1993 Same-sex couples could register their partnerships. This would give them all the same rights and duties as married couples have, except –They could not be married in a church ceremony –They could not adopt children together, or legally be inseminated by a sperm donor

13 Numbers of registered partnerships, 1993-2006

14 Divorce Either party can apply for a formal separation After one year of formal separation (or two years of informal separation), either partner can apply for divorce The parties do not have to agree, nor do they have to give a reason for divorcing

15 Divorce Divorcing couples who have joint children under 16 are obliged to undergo counselling. The aim of this counselling is not to save the marriage, but to ensure that the parents have reached a workable agreement about arrangements for children. This counselling is also mandatory for cohabiting couples with joint children.

16 The divorce rate, 1959-2005

17 Divorce rates in selected European countries and the USA, ca. 2002

18 It has been estimated that 49,3 per cent of all marriages entered into in 2003 will end in divorce Same-sex partnerships are much more likely to end in divorce than heterosexual marriages. Lesbian couples are particularly likely to split up.

19 To sum up: Family patterns are much more unstable than they were only a generation ago People marry later. Cohabitation is the most common way of living together among young couples. The divorce rate has increased considerably More people are living alone Divorced men and women frequently marry new partners – they do not lose faith in marriage!

20 Child-bearing Fertility rates have fallen, but are still higher in the Nordic countries than in most other European countries Many children are born to cohabiting parents Many children are living with lone parents, mainly lone mothers

21 Fertility rates: Norway, and the reproduction level

22 European fertility rates (selected countries)

23 Mean age at first birth



26 % of live births outside marriage

27 Children at different ages, by parents’ marital status. 2006

28 Non-resident fathers’ contact with their children % of non-resident fathers Has had contact with the child since birth 96 Has had contact last 12 months 92 Has had contact last 30 days81 Has spoken on the phone last 30 days 60 Has spent at least one holiday together during the last year 87

29 The family and the welfare state Division of labour Increased demand for work/ family reconciliation policies Increased demand for social care services (child-care, care for the elderly) ”Child-centred social investment strategy” and policies to combat child poverty

30 Main elements of present Norwegian family policies Universal child benefit Parental leave –44 weeks with full wage replacement or 54 weeks with 80% wage replacement (up to a ceiling) –9 weeks are reserved for the mother, 6 weeks reserved for the father Benefits for lone parents Child-care services Cash-for-childcare Care services for the elderly


32 Proportions and numbers of fathers taking parental leave, Norway, 1991-2006


34 Forms of help to the frail elderly, different countries

35 Quotes from Norwegian respondents (source: Daatland and Herlofson 2004) “Society has the main responsibility, but the family can step up with other forms of help”. (son of a frail elderly parent) “The family must be there and provide support, but not as an obligation or a job. The main responsibility should be on the public and on professionals”. (daughter of a frail elderly parent) “You should not expect care and nursing from your children, but of course that they should support you, come to visit and so on”. (frail elderly Norwegian mother)

36 To sum up: Norwegian fertility rates are below replacement level, but above the European average. People have children later in life. Increasing proportions of children are living with only one of their biological parents, usually the mother, but Almost all these children have some contact with their fathers, and the majority have frequent and regular contact. The welfare state is an active partner for Norwegian families Still, there is a lot of informal support – both in cash and in kind – between young adults and their parents, and between frail elderly parents and their children/ grandchildren

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