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Sweeping Changes in Marriage, Cohabitation and Childbearing in Central and Eastern Europe: New Insights from the Developmental Idealism Framework

  • Arland Thornton
  • Dimiter Philipov
Article

Abstract

In Central and Eastern Europe following the political transformations of the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were dramatic declines in marriage and childbearing, significant increases in nonmarital cohabitation and childbearing, and a movement from reliance on abortion to a reliance on contraception for fertility limitation. Although many explanations have been offered for these trends, we offer new explanations based on ideational influences and the intersection of these ideational influences with structural factors. We focus on the political, economic, social, and cultural histories of the region, with particular emphasis on how countries in the region have interacted with and been influenced by Western European and North American countries. Our explanations emphasize the role of developmental models in guiding change in the region, suggesting that developmental idealism influenced family and demographic changes following the political transformations. Developmental idealism provides beliefs that modern family systems help to produce modern political and economic accomplishments, and it helps establish the importance of freedom and equality as human rights in both the public and private spheres. The disintegration of the governments and the fall of the iron curtain in the late 1980s and early 1990s brought new understanding about social, economic, and family circumstances in the West, increasing consumption aspirations and expectations which clashed with both old economic realities and the dramatic declines in economic circumstances. In addition, the dissolution of the former governments removed or weakened systems supporting the bearing and rearing of children; and the legitimacy of the former governments and their programs was largely destroyed, thereby removing government support for old norms and patterns of behavior. In addition, the attacks of previous decades on the religious institutions in the region had in many places left these institutions weak. During this period, many openly reached out to embrace the values, living standards, and economic, political, and familial systems of the West. And, the thirst for freedom—and its considerable expansion—operated in personal and familial as well as political and economic realms. These dramatic changes combined together to produce the many changes occurring in family and demographic behavior.

Keywords

Marriage Cohabitation Childbearing Developmental models Family Freedom Equality Living standards Socialism Ideational influences Abortion Contraception Social change 

Transformations radicales du mariage, de la cohabitation et de la procréation en Europe Centrale et Orientale: De nouvelles perspectives à partir de la conception idéationnelle du développement

Résumé

A la suite des transformations politiques de la fin des années 80 et du début des années 90, l’Europe Centrale et Orientale a vécu un déclin spectaculaire de la nuptialité et de la fécondité, une augmentation significative de la cohabitation et de la procréation hors mariage, et un passage de l’avortement provoqué à la contraception pour la limitation des naissances. Bien que de nombreuses interprétations à ces tendances aient été avancées, nous proposons de nouvelles explications basées sur les influences idéationnelles et sur leur croisement avec des facteurs structuraux. L’étude est centrée sur l’histoire politique, économique, sociale et culturelle de la région. L’accent est particulièrement mis sur les interactions entre les pays de la région et ceux d’Europe de l’Ouest et d’Amérique du Nord et sur l’influence de ces derniers. Notre approche met en relief le rôle des modèles de développement comme moteur des changements dans la région, et suggère que la conception idéationnelle du développement a influencé les évolutions survenues dans le domaine de la démographie et de la famille, à la suite des changements politiques. La conception idéationnelle du développement va de pair avec la croyance que les systèmes familiaux modernes contribuent aux avancées politiques et économiques, et aide à établir l’importance de la liberté et de l’égalité comme droits de l’homme, tant dans la sphère publique que privée. L’effondrement des gouvernements et la chute du rideau de fer à la fin des années 80 et au début des années 90 ont amené une compréhension nouvelle des conditions sociales, économiques et familiales en Occident, et une montée des aspirations en matière de consommation, en porte-à-faux à la fois avec les réalités économiques du passé et avec la dégradation spectaculaire des conditions économiques. En outre, la dissolution des anciens gouvernements a conduit à la disparition ou à l’affaiblissement des systèmes de soutien à la procréation et à l’éducation des enfants, et la légitimité de ces gouvernements et de leurs programmes a été démolie en grande partie, faisant disparaître ainsi le soutien gouvernemental aux normes et schémas de comportements traditionnels. De plus, les attaques menées au cours des précédentes décennies contre les institutions religieuses de la région ont affaibli celles-ci en de nombreux endroits. Durant cette période, beaucoup ont été attirés par les valeurs, les conditions de vie et les systèmes économiques, politiques et familiaux de l’Occident. Et la soif de liberté—et son développement considérable—s’est manifestée tant dans les sphères personnelles et familiales que dans les sphères politiques et économiques. Ces transformations radicales se sont conjuguées pour produire les nombreux changements observés dans les comportements familiaux et démographiques.

Mots-clés

Mariage Cohabitation Procréation Modèles de développement Famille Liberté Egalité Conditions de vie Socialisme Influences Idéationnelles Avortement Contraception Changement social 

Notes

Acknowledgment

This paper is a revised version of a paper given at the Fourth International Conference of the EAPS Working Group “Second Demographic Transition,” September 6–8, 2007 in Budapest, Hungary, and at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana in Ljubljana, Slovenia, September 10, 2007. The paper was also presented at the annual meetings of the Population Association of America, New Orleans, April 16–19, 2008. The authors appreciate the comments and suggestions made by participants at each of these presentations. The authors also appreciate comments, information, and input provided by Barbara Anderson, Lea Bregard, Mick Cunningham, Arjan Gjonca, Joshua Goldstein, Attila Melegh, Irena Ograjenšek, Brienna Perelli-Harris, Ladislav Rabušic, Tomaš Sobotka, Anne Goujon, Zsolt Spéder, Akos Tarkanyi, Geneviève Zubrzycki, and the editor and two anonymous reviewers of the European Journal of Population. This research also benefited from the support of a grant from the United States National Institutes of Health (R37 HD 39425). Of course, the responsibility for errors of fact and interpretation remains with the authors.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social Research, Department of SociologyThe University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Vienna Institute of DemographyAustrian Academy of SciencesViennaAustria

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