This present report, based on major research projects, sets out to describe the evolution of the family in the world over the last 10 years. The changes have been profound, with doubtless more similarities than differences, from country to country and continent to continent.
Apart from the diversity of the situation and the changes that have taken place, it clearly emerges that there are a number of elements that to a large extent explain the evolution in question:
- Generalization, even if in varying degrees, of demographic transition. This is not to say that we are here seeking to "explain" the family by demography, merely to indicate that we cannot avoid demographic considerations in any analysis of family policies.
- Economic development (or the lack of it). Under this heading, and doubtless in a rather too simplistic way, the point to note here is the phenomenon of urbanization as the economic indicator with perhaps the most influence on the evolution of family structures.
- Increasing significance of the status of women and children. As far as the latter are concerned we do not have enough data to set out our arguments in an objective scientific manner, with relevant statistical indicators. On the other hand, with regard to women we can emphasize significant progress world wide in their education, which is a fundamental factor in postponing the age of marriage and improving birth control.
- Ageing population. Longer life expectancy (except in some countries ravaged by war or AIDS) is already leading the so-called developed countries to pose the problem of dependency and of the fourth age.