Explaining persistence of early entrance into parenthood in Ukraine: the role of family relationships

Yuliya Hilevych, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen and Wageningen University

BACKGROUND: Early transition to parenthood in Eastern European countries is associated with the pronatalist family policies and regional reproductive norms. However, limited research has examined the continuity of this behaviour, particularly how it connects to family relationships – a major source of welfare in this part of Europe. OBJECTIVE: To examine how family relationships influenced the entrance into parenthood in Ukraine around 1950-1975, when the pronatalist family policies and modern reproductive norms emerged. METHODS: The analysis of 66 life history interviews collected in Ukrainian cities of Lviv (west) and Kharkiv (east). RESULTS: Family relationships promoted first parenthood to take place shortly after marriage. Although this transition coincided with the moment in life when economic uncertainty was high, the informants experienced security and confidence when entering parenthood early, which was linked to high reliability on grandparental support with childcare. These intergenerational relationships derived from paternalistic family values, which had also prevailed in historical family systems in Ukraine. During the socio-economic changes after the 1950s, these values reinforced parental social pressure, which in turn formed expectations of grandparental support by the children. The degree of reliability on grandparents differed between the two cities. In Lviv, couples often resided separately after marriage that allowed them taking the greatest responsibility for childcare, while leaving grandparental support as additional, which could be linked to the historical pattern of the nuclear-stem family system. In Kharkiv, spouses tended to reside with either of the parents after marriage and to relay more on them, also with childcare, which could derive from the historical pattern of the communitarian family system in the region. CONTRIBUTION: Paternalistic intergenerational relationships in tandem with the Soviet pronatalist policy and economic uncertainty contributed to the persistence of early and universal transition into parenthood in Ukraine.

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Presented in Session 111: Before, during and after the fertility transition