Privileging Biological or Residential Relationships: Family Policy on Obligations to Children in 12 Countries

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review




ConferenceAPPAM Fall Conference 2012 / / November 8 - 10 / "Policy Analysis and Public Management in an Age of Scarcity: The Challenges of Assessing Effectiveness and Efficiency"
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBaltimore, MD
Conference date(s)8/11/1210/11/12

Publication details

DatePublished - 8 Nov 2012
Number of pages24
Original languageEnglish


Children’s domestic living arrangements have become increasingly complex over the last several decades in developed countries, with increasing numbers of children born to parents who do not live together, and, even among those born to parents who do live together, increasing numbers are experiencing their parents separating and one or both re-partnering. Children may live with a variety of adults including biological parents, married step-parents, cohabiting step-parents, and, perhaps, other adults who have no biological relationship to the child but do take on aspects of the parental role. In countries with generous and well-developed welfare states, these demographic changes may have few consequences for the economic well-being of children. But in other countries, these demographic changes raise complex questions about who has financial responsibility for the children. In this paper, we identify six common family transitions that children may experience and conceptualize how different potential child support (child maintenance) schemes might deal with these transitions. We then investigate how the child support policies in place in the mid-2000s in several countries handle these family transitions, and use the results of this analysis to categorize countries into the five potential child support schemes. Finally, we compare the categorization of child support schemes with the level of family complexity in each country to see if countries with the highest levels of complexity tend to organize responsibility differently.

    Research areas

  • child maintenance, complex families

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