Family and Life Cycle
The family is perhaps the social institution that has changed the most in recent decades. In 1960 cohabitation and single parent families were marginal phenomena. Today Norwegians live in very complex family patterns, as a result of their own preferences, the delay in starting families and frequent breakups.
High immigration brings new elements, such as cross-cultural relationships and forced marriage. More people live alone for a large part of their life, but still most "single" people are pensioners.
Three key dimensions of family and life research are the study of differences between generations (cohort effect), how broad social changes affect individuals and groups (period effects) and how changes occur within an individual's biography (age effects). Each generation lives their lives in a social structure that shapes them during their life. Social structures are transformed not only through social and technological conditions; aging, death and migration are the main sources of social change. New generations and community members step into new roles and positions.
Sociologists study the causes and consequences of changes in family structure and life. How has the education and professional work of mothers and fathers’ maternity leave affected the lives of young families? What influence do family policies have on families’ lifestyles? Are family break-ups passed on from one generation to the next? How are relationships between generations shaped now that we live longer and have children later? Why do we have fewer children? What consequences do experiences in early childhood have on behavior later in life? Our perspective is both national and international.
To answer research questions about family and life-cycle sociologists use both statistical and qualitative research methods. Access to a wide range of data sources is important, such as data from public records and surveys, historical archive data and in-depth interviews. Family and life-cycle research is often interdisciplinary: students and researchers must quickly familiarize themselves with concepts and methods from other disciplines, including history, psychology, anthropology, demography, and behavioral and molecular genetic studies.