New Challenges and Future Tasks in the Study of Family and Household in Social Policy: Report from Opportunity Grant

Volkan Yilmaz (Dublin City University), Theo Papadopoulos (University of Bath) and Antonios Roumpakis (University of York) were awarded an opportunity grant from the Social Policy Association in April 2022 to create a scholarly platform to exchange ideas and highlight critical issues in the conceptualisation and research agenda around family and household in social policy. For this purpose, the group organised three webinars in the fall of 2022 and a one-day workshop in the spring of 2023.

Family and Household in Social Policy webinar series 2022 addressed the following questions: How do demographic patterns, family structures and living arrangements change over time? How has social policy -both as a discipline and a practice- responded to these changes so far? What do these changes mean for the future of social policy? The group hosted three excellent academics working on different aspects of social, political and demographic changes affecting families and their place in social policy.

The first webinar was delivered by Chia Liu (University of St. Andrews) who shed light on current dynamics in co-habitation and marriage patterns in different regions of the world including East Asia and Europe. This is followed by a webinar by Catherine Rottenberg (University of Nottingham). Rottenberg examined the compatibility of some forms of feminism with neoliberalism with a special focus on ideas around the reconciliation of work and family life. Last but not least, Daniela Bellani (Scuola Normale Superiore) gave participants a bird’s-eye view of new trends in fertility, lifelong singlehood and divorce in European countries. Each webinar attracted around fifty participants from all around the world and ended with vibrant discussions.

Drawing on the insights from the webinars, the group organised a one-day hybrid workshop entitled “Family and Household in Social Policy: New Challenges and Future Tasks” that took place on the St.Patrick’s campus of Dublin City University on 31 March 2023.

The objective of this workshop was to think together around the following empirical and normative questions: What are the new avenues of research concerning family and household in social policy? How and to what extent the existing conceptual frameworks should be revised to better capture the contemporary changes in marriage and cohabitation and the role of family and household in social policies? How should we reimagine social policy and its relationship to individuals, families and households?

A total number of 15 social policy academics at different stages of their career from 10 Irish and UK universities attended the workshop. Participants included two doctoral students, one post-doctoral researcher and six assistant professors / lecturers. The rest was associate professors / senior lecturers and professors. Most participants attended in person and four joined online.

The workshop was composed of three sessions, which were opened with a short presentation by one of the co-organisers. In the first session on the “Political Economy: Family in relation to state and market in welfare”, Theo Papadopoulos responded to the question of how the role of family in welfare and social reproduction changes. This is followed by a session on “Comparative Social Policy: Comparative familialism(s)”, which was launched with a talk by Antonios Roumpakis that offered an overview of conceptual tools that are used to describe the role of family in social policy and their limitations. The third session on “Sociology of Social Policy: Family and household in social policy” started with Volkan Yilmaz’s talk on the critique of the unquestioned use of family as a unit of analysis in social policy.

Each opening presentation was followed by a vibrant discussion in that both in-person and online guests took part actively. Overall, the workshop provided a great platform for scholarly dialogue around the changing family and household dynamics and their social policy implications. The strong engagement of participants evidenced the growing awareness of the need for a new research agenda around family and social policy.

The co-organisers consider keeping the emerging network up and running by organising a symposium for next year’s Social Policy Association annual conference and ultimately putting together a special issue for a SPA journal or an edited book. If interested in finding out more about this emerging research agenda and receiving relevant updates, please contact