International Seminar on Family Demography and Family Law around the World
- Benoît Laplante (Institut national de la recherche scientifique)
Steering committee members
- Suzana Cavenaghi (ENCE/IBGE)
- Paul Monet (International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP))
Terms of Reference:
Over the last decades, family structure and family dynamics have undergone tremendous changes. In family demography, these changes are typically interpreted as the consequences of deep transformations in values, attitudes and norms. These are defined and measured at the level of the individual, typically using a questionnaire, and, when aggregated, they are usually interpreted either as characteristics of a population – for instance in cross-national comparisons – or as characteristics of different groups within a country, say men and women, the less educated and the well-educated, and so on.
Although these approaches have proven fruitful, they leave aside the formal context within which actors must make the decisions and the choices that will lead to demographic events such as entering in a conjugal relationship, leaving one or having a child. Although these choices and decisions are without any doubt rooted in economic contexts, influenced by individuals’ values and attitudes, and conditioned by what they perceive as norms, the range of what is possible and the “cost” of any specific decision or choice are largely an institutional matter and are shaped by law.
The diffusion of unmarried cohabitation would probably not have occurred if the millennia-old distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children had not been abolished in many countries through a combination of legislative changes and court decisions. The postponement of fertility would not have occurred the way it did, if contraception and abortion had remained illegal. Divorce, separation and step-families would not be as common as they are today if most jurisdictions in the West had not, willingly or not, come to terms with unilateral divorce.
As the last example suggests, the relationship between the changes in the demography of the family and the changes in family law is not a simple matter of cause and effect. Changes in law occur because of changes in behaviour as much as changes in law may favour changes in behaviour.
The purpose of the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Family Demography and Family Law is to foster the study of the connection between changes in family law and changes in family structure and family dynamics while assuming as little as possible about the specifics of the connection.
The purpose of the seminar is to gather together people who are working on relevant topics but are not yet meeting in seminars or meeting sessions devoted to the field. Members of the panel consider the seminar as an opportunity to prepare an edited book that would help set the field.
For the purposes of the Panel and of this seminar, family law is mainly private law, i.e. what is normally regulated by the Civil Code of a country, or its laws on marriage, divorce, separation, filiation, maintenance between relatives and inheritance. These matters are commonly intertwined with matters of “social law” (Sozialrecht, derecho social, droit social) and proposals that deal with matters of private law and social law will be welcome, but the focus of the seminar is not on the relationship between the social provision of welfare and demographic behaviour.