Families and Their Institutional Contexts: the Role of Family Policies and Legal Regulations

  • Karsten HankEmail author
  • Anja Steinbach


This article provides an overview of families and their institutional contexts in Western societies, focusing on the role of family policies and legal regulations in union dynamics, fertility, children’s wellbeing, and intergenerational relations. We argue that family dynamics are driven by changing institutional opportunities and constraints, whereas at the same time, welfare state institutions constantly need to adapt to the changing needs of “new” family forms. The empirical studies covered here provide ample evidence of multiple institutional effects on family-related behaviors and outcomes in a variety of domains. Family policy regimes supporting greater gender equality are those under which favorable outcomes are most likely to occur. Importantly, though, specific effects are not always as large, sustainable, or robust as might have been intended or expected beforehand. Methodologically rigorous evaluations of the effectiveness and efficiency of family policy measures and legal regulations thus appear an important task for future research.


Family policies Family law Social contexts Welfare state policies Cross-national comparison 

Familien und ihre institutionellen Kontexte: die Bedeutung von Familienpolitik und rechtlichen Regulierungen


Der Artikel gibt einen Überblick über die institutionellen Kontexte von Familien in westlichen Gesellschaften. Der Fokus liegt auf der Bedeutung von Familienpolitik und rechtlichen Regulierungen in Bezug auf Beziehungsdynamiken, Fertilität, das Kindeswohl und intergenerationale Beziehungen. Die Autoren zeigen, dass familiale Dynamiken durch sich verändernde institutionelle Rahmenbedingungen beeinflusst werden, während gleichzeitig wohlfahrtsstaatliche Institutionen permanent an die Bedürfnisse „neuer“ Familienformen angepasst werden müssen. In den hier berücksichtigten empirischen Studien findet sich vielfältige Evidenz für institutionelle Effekte auf familienbezogenes Verhalten und dessen Folgen in unterschiedlichen Bereichen. Kontexte, in denen familienpolitische Rahmenbedingungen die Gleichberechtigung zwischen den Geschlechtern fördern, erweisen sich für Familien am vorteilhaftesten. Spezifische Effekte zeigen sich jedoch nicht immer so stark, nachhaltig oder robust, wie es a priori möglicherweise beabsichtigt oder erwartet worden war. Methodisch fundierte Evaluationen der Effektivität und Effizienz familienpolitischer Maßnahmen und rechtlicher Regulierungen bleiben daher eine wichtige Aufgabe für zukünftige Untersuchungen.


Familienpolitik Familienrecht Soziale Kontexte Wohlfahrtsstaatpolitik Internationaler Vergleich 



We are grateful for comments by Hans-Jürgen Andreß, Johannes Huinink, and Michael Wagner.


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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Soziologie und SozialpsychologieUniversität zu KölnKölnGermany
  2. 2.Institut für SoziologieUniversität Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany

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