Family lives during the COVID-19 pandemic in European Societies: Introduction to the Special Issue
Objective: This chapter introduces the reader to the Special Issue "Family Lives during the COVID-19 Pandemic in European Societies".
Background: This Special Issue analyses how families, parents, and children have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they have been coping with its related challenges in different societal contexts.
Method: The studies collected in this Special Issue are based on qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches and data that have been gathered during 2020 in a range of European countries. It covers the first lockdown period, the reopening phases, and the months thereafter.
Results: The 20 contributions of this Special Issue show that families shouldered large responsibilities during the pandemic. While the pandemic did not lead to radical shifts in gendered care patterns, mothers and fathers experienced the pandemic differently, with mothers reporting higher levels of stress. Moreover, there was great heterogeneity in how different types of families and children were affected by the pandemic. Single parents and parents and children in low-income households were most strongly affected in their social and economic wellbeing. Social and economic distress are strongly interwoven, and the developments during the pandemic aggravated existing social disparities.
Conclusion: This Special Issue underlines the importance of the family for the functioning of societies during times of crisis. It also shows that policy makers often adopted a too narrow view of what constitutes a family and did not adequately address family diversity in their decision making. This Special Issue furthermore emphasized that there is a danger that the pandemic will increase disparities between families. Thus, parents and their children need adequate support measures that are tailored to their needs, and that are designed to alleviate these social, economic and educational disparities.