Paradoxes of Equality in the Parent-Child-Relationship


Application: Professor Kai-Olaf Maiwald
Project team: Professor Dr. Kai-Olaf Maiwald, Dr. Inken Sürig, Dr. Sarah Speck
Funding institution: Volkswagen Foundation
Funding period: 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2018

In social sciences the general findings on how social change affects family relationships are am-bivalent. Research of the past years shows on the one hand that gender roles, inequality and hierarchy in families have become much less important. The life courses of men and women are converging, women’s labor participation increases as well as men’s participation in domestic chores and child care. The overall style of raising children has become more democratic and more emotional, and ideas of equality prevail with the individual characteristics of partners and children gaining a central role in family relationships. On the other hand, however, there is also the diagnosis that gender-typical patterns endure. Inequalities in labor division are persistent in that women’s labor participation primarily occurs in the form of part-time jobs, and men’s participation in domestic work and child-rearing is often limited to typical ‘male’ chores and activities. And also children and youths are still, albeit with various forms of expression, distinctly orientated towards »male« and »female« patterns.
Against this backdrop the sub-project is concerned with the question how ideas of equality and emancipation, and of individuality and self-fulfillment are brought together and practically im-plemented in family life. How is a »normative principle of equality« aligned with the individual – and often gender-oriented – preferences of parents and children? Information on this vital issue is gathered in interviews with parents and their 15 to 17-year-old children. We want to find out about the daily problems and solutions that emerge in the context of »negotiating« gender equality and gender differences, with the focus on the parents’ and children’s specific interpretations and attitudes.