Fields of Research
The ifb’s topics of research cover the broad range of issues in family life: from the prenatal phase to the living situation in old age, from childlessness to ‘large’ families, as well as variations of family life over the life course and the different patterns of living together within the family.
In recent years, researchers at the ifb have been focussing on four topics in particular: Family monitoring, Family education, Family formation, Family diversity and dynamics.
In the area of Family Monitoring, the ifb monitors 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 in families’ social and economic situation. An on-going 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, as well as the administration (for example, social and youth welfare offices). Family monitoring is also very important for making information available to the general public. Therefore, the ifb regularly publishes the ‘Bavarian Family Report’ on different topics as well as updated tables and figures on family statistics (available on the ifb’s website).
The second focus of the ifb is the area of Family Education. Through various changes in society, family life has become more dynamic, more varied and, in many ways more demanding, especially for those bringing up children. Family education is a means to ensure that families receive the most fitting and needs-oriented support possible in order to fulfil their tasks. For a long time, the Bavarian State Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Affairs has been promoting the development of contents and structures of Family education, 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 conceptualization and organisation of symposia. Currently, the ifb is dealing with one of today’s most important target groups in the context of family formation: refugee families. In this regard, the ifb has identified specialists’ need for the training in this area, and arranged a number of symposia for skill advancement in 2016 and 2018. Currently, a handbook on this subject for Family education specialists is being prepared.
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 of 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. Furthermore, in recent years, evaluation tools have been 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 way 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 diverse and considerably more dependent on individual choices. The ifb deals with changes in family life and various family forms within the field of research of Family Diversity and Dynamics. In different projects, the ifb researchers have developed expert knowledge on the subject of ‘multiple parenthood’, i.e., families in which the social, biological and genetic parenthood do not coincide. This is the case, for example, with stepfamilies, same-sex families, or women and men who have become parents with the help of reproductive medicine. Further, typical familial transitions and critical life events from a life-course perspective are part of the ifb’s research portfolio, for example, the transition to parenthood, or separation and divorce. Last but not least, the ifb has been doing research in the field of the division of labour in the family. Most recently, in a project supported by the German Research Foundation, the ifb has studied how older couples allocate unpaid work in later stages of their life course, focusing on the influence of retirement and health.