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“Families” in International Context: Comparing Institutional Effects Across Western Societies


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    School of Social Science & Institute for Social Science Research, University of Queensland, St. Lucia QLD 4072, Australia.

School of Social Policy, Sociology & Social Research, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NF, United Kingdom (


We review comparative evidence of institutional effects on families in Western societies. We focus on 2 key aspects of family life: gendered divisions of labor and people's transitions into, within, and out of relationships. Many individual-level models assume the effects are robust across countries. The international evidence over the past decade suggests instead that the socioeconomic and policy contexts strongly influence the significance and even direction of individual effects. A growing body of evidence also highlights important differences across social groups and family forms within countries. The pattern of relative gender, class, and other group equality varies across countries, as do related family experiences and outcomes. We conclude with suggestions for future comparative family research.