Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Family Formation Policies

Project outline


This project, seed-funded by the OX-BER partnership, explores the potential challenges in linking policies oriented to the pre-parental phase of family with those oriented to the parental phase. Theories on the latter are far more developed than on the former, certainly from a social policy perspective. Moreover, the two phases of life are typically treated in isolation and by distinct research fields. Policies for the preparental phase tend to be considered from a public health perspective whereas the parental phase tends to be the province of classical family policies. Hence, little is known about similarities and differences in the logics of law and social policy shaping partnership and family formation on the one hand, and parenthood and family life on the other. This omission is highly problematic especially because it makes for a lacuna in social policy knowledge and potential contradictions between social policy, law and health policy. In sum, the project opens up the view of the life course as starting before conception and aims to contribute to elaborating an innovative perspective of social rights of children and parents across the life course.

At the project’s core is a critical and forward-looking analysis, surveying the existing relevant regulation in a range of policy fields. The first strand of the project will develop a descriptive overview of the patterns of policies across countries; the second will uncover the specific tensions created within particular policy packages.

The project centres upon an inter-disciplinary symposium which will bring together experts from the fields of classical family policy, social policy, public health, law, political science, demography and sociology from different countries. This interdisciplinary and international exchange will explore synergies and research needs, in the interests of both taking stock and carving out an agenda for a new research programme. The planned outputs from the project include a number of publications, including a background research paper, a project/symposium report and at least one journal article.


  • Read an interview with Dr Hannah Zagel about her research and this project. March 2019
  • See coverage of the project in the Berliner Zeitung 19/2/2019