Growing up in Non Traditional Families: A Review of Main Challenges for a Child-Friendly Policy

Olivier Thevenon, Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)
Antonela Miho, Paris School of Economics

A growing proportion of children live in non-traditional family settings, either with non-married parents, with a sole parent, or in “blended” families which include a step-parent and possibly step-siblings. Parents who separate are also increasingly likely to share the physical custody of children, in which case children commute between the two dwellings of their parents.

The growing heterogeneity of family living arrangements creates inequities between children, as the policy support they receive often depends on the legal recognition of their parents'' partnership status (Sanchez Gassen and Perelli-Harris, 2015). Many countries should consider increasing supports for children with non-married parents in the event that their parents separate or die. Tax and benefit systems, as well as child support regimes, also need to ensure that all children have access to the same supports regardless of their parents’ legal partnership status.

This paper highlights the challenges that the growing complexity of family situations raise to develop child-friendly policies, and makes an overview of the protection that family laws and welfare benefit systems offer to children in non-standard families compared to children living with married parents. The paper uses data from the LawandFamilies Database and results from one OECD questionnaire for 21 countries to produce a set of measures that summarize the overlap in legal effects between traditional and non-traditional family types, within each jurisdiction.

Presented in Session 1208: Policy Issues