Family & Inequality

Kelly Sikkema

What are we researching?

Families play an important role in the creation and persistence of social inequality. Within our research group, we specifically study the extent to which the parenting practices of fathers and mothers contribute to social inequality. Questions we are concerned about within our research are, for instance:

  • How do the parenting practices of mothers and fathers contribute to the development of their children?
  • To what extent do inequalities in this development arise or are reduced through the parenting practices of parents?
  • To what extent, and in what way does policy and culture strengthen or reduce the role of parents in the creation and continuation of social inequalities?

Why are we doing this research?

Research shows that families determine the opportunities that a child receives in their life. This increases social inequality. But much remains unclear about how and which processes within families play a role in maintaining and increasing inequality. 

How are we doing this research?

Our research group uses insights from sociology, demography, developmental psychology, pedagogy, and epidemiology to map these processes better. This enables us to include structural opportunity constraints and policy in our analyses while also having an eye for parents' parenting behaviour, psychological characteristics, and capacities. Bringing together all these disciplines is unique in our field.

How does our research make an impact?

Our research helps policymakers with legislation and regulations surrounding parenthood. Our studies give insight into the role fathers play in the development of their children. We give policymakers advice on making legislation as attractive as possible to all fathers, so that socio-economic differences in taking leave can be reduced.

 Our research also shows how economic changes affect the functioning of families. We find out exactly how families are affected by crises. Do they mainly lose income, for example, or does the quality of their parenting practices deteriorate? These insights help policymakers find the right solutions to cushion the adverse effects of crises. We also investigate which families in society are hardest hit by economic changes. This allows policymakers to know which families to focus on. This helps to counteract social inequality.

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