Main research areas
The ifb’s fields of research are as varied as family life and families themselves: they range from the prenatal phase of life to the living situation in old age, from childlessness to large families, and from the various ways of family life to the different patterns of living together within the family.
There are various fields of research in which the researches at the ifb work over a long period of time. These include Family Reporting, Parenting Support, Family Formation, Diversity and Dynamics in the Family, as well as Division of Labour within the Family.
In the area of Family Reporting, the ifb monitors in particular the change in family structures, for example, the change in the different forms of living together as a family, the increasing age at the transition to parenthood, and changes of families’ social and economic situations. An ongoing reporting of the current situation and the development of the family is an indispensable basis for decision-making in the area of family and social policy. Alongside this, Family Reporting is also very important for making information available to the general public. Through sustained reporting in the context of the ifb’s Bavarian Family Report, a solid and differentiated database is created and kept up-to-date. This is achieved using publications containing tables on families which are revised annually and available on the ifb’s website. The report itself is completely overhauled about every three years and focusses different thematic areas each time.
A further focus of the ifb is the area of Parenting Support. Through various changes in society, family life has become more dynamic, more varied and, in many ways – especially for those bringing up children – more demanding. Parenting Support is a means to support families with guidance regarding parenting that fits to their needs. For a long time, the Bavarian State Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Family Affairs and Integration has promoted the developments of contents and structures of Parenting Support, as well as the quality assurance in this area. The ifb supports these efforts in many ways, for example, through the scientific monitoring of model projects and the production of various materials and working aids, as well as through the conceptualisation and organisation of symposia. Currently, the ifb is dealing with the target group of refugee families. In this regard, the ifb has not only identified specialists’ need for the training in this area, but it has also arranged a number of symposia for skill advancement in 2016 and 2017. Furthermore, a handbook on this subject is currently being prepared for Parenting Support specialists.
For a lot of people, becoming a parent is an important part of their biographies. In the face of Germany’s enduringly low birth rate and its consequences, the decision to become parents is also extremely relevant from a societal point of view. In the field of research Family Formation, the ifb has, therefore, already carried out many projects which have examined the situation of men and women affected by an unfulfilled desire to have a child, as well as their need for information and support. In the context of a current project, evaluation tools are being developed which will not only contribute to assuring the quality of the existing counselling services provided to those who desire to have a child, but also promote the establishment of appropriate support measures for them. In addition to this, the situation of families which have had a child following the successful implementation of reproductive medicine treatment will represent a further focus of research in the next few years. In this regard, the following aspects will be studied: the particular challenges which these families face, the role which the means of the child’s conception plays in the further development of the family, as well as the differences and similarities which occur between existing and new family forms.
Diversity and Dynamics in the Family
In the past decades, family life has become more varied and considerably more dependent on individual choices. The ifb deals with changes in family life and the various family forms within the field of research Diversity and Dynamics of Family. In various projects, the ifb researchers have developed expert knowledge on the subject of fragmented parenthood, i.e., families in which the social, biological and genetic parenthood do not coincide. This is the case, for example, with same-sex families, stepfamilies, or women and men who have become parents thanks to either sperm or egg donation, or surrogate motherhood. In past as well as in current projects, typical familial transitions and critical life events are examined, for example, the transition to parenthood, or separation and divorce.
Division of Labour within the Family
The allocation of various tasks, such as paid employment, housework, and childcare is an important aspect, in the everyday life of families. The Division of Labour in the Family is often characterised by the fact that fathers concentrate more on paid employment; whereas mothers usually do more unpaid work. Before becoming parents, women and men typically divide the tasks with similar shares and spend about the same time on paid employment and housework. With the transition to parenthood, however, the social norms and ideas change with regard to how paid and unpaid work should be allocated. In an international comparative project, for example, a study was made on the influence of idealised images of motherhood and fatherhood on the ideas prospective parents had regarding the allocation of gainful employment and childcare after the birth of their first child. In another current project, the change in the time which mothers and fathers spend on various activities with the child is being examined. A project which is sponsored by the German Research Foundation is looking into the allocation of unpaid tasks in older couples.