Families and Societies Stakeholder Seminar

The future of our families. What policies can do for children in vulnerable situations.

On 28th January 2014, leading experts from research, policy, and NGOs met in Brussels to discuss the most recent evidence on children in vulnerable situations and the potential scope of policy interventions. Stuart Duffin, our Director of Policy and Programmes,  was a panelist.

A poor socioeconomic background and family disruptions, such as parent separation, may have an impact on the life-chances of children. But so far, empirical evidence is quite scarce. In two workshops, prominent experts discussed their most recent findings. For example, what role does divorce play for the cognitive abilities and school performance of children? Can institutionalised childcare and public custody compensate disadvantages due to difficult living conditions? Is there a difference between immigrant and native youths? And are there country-specific patterns which policy makers have to take into regard?

The workshops were organised by the Population Europe Secretariat (hosted by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research) and FamiliesAndSocieties, in cooperation with Oxford Population Centre | European University Institute | International Federation for Family Development | European Economic and Social Committee.

Stuart Duffin states: ‘‘There is no evidence to suggest that, although increasingly more commonplace, separation is an easy transition for children and parents. Partnership separation is not a single event. It is a complex process that unfolds over time and requires a series of reorganisations and adjustments. How children cope with parental separation is affected by developmental stage, temperament, cognitive capacities, and personal resilience.”

He continues: “Our experience of working with those parenting alone and those sharing parenting demonstrates that many children are resilient and can learn to manage the challenges and stress parental separation creates. Therefore, separation-specific interventions that build and restore competence can reduce reliance on social and legal systems. Preventive interventions that educate and support parents are an important component of successful family transition when they are introduced early in the process. Focused intervention plans, with clearly articulated goals reflecting children’s and families’ unique qualities, are recommended as a means of fostering resilience.”

Population Europe is the network of 29 leading demographic research centres and 150 eminent researchers in Europe. As a collaborative network it provides comprehensive knowledge, information and insights into fundamental demographic trends and diverging population developments. This expertise is key to understanding the political, social and economic developments of Europe in the 21st century.The Population Europe Event has received funding from the European Union’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion under grant agreement n° VS/2012/0168 for the project Population Europe 2.0. FamiliesAndSocieties is the European think-tank in the field of family policy research. It brings together 25 universities and research institutes in 15 European countries and three transnational civil society organisations. It aims to investigate the diversity of family forms, relationships and life courses in Europe, to assess the compatibility of existing policies with these changes and to contribute to evidence-based policy-making.The FamiliesAndSocieties Workshop has received funding from the European Union´s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 320116 for the research project Families And Societies.