Arnaud Régnier-Loilier

answers our questions about the newest INED publication, Parcours de familles The book presents the results of the Etude des Relations Familiales et Intergénérationelles or ERFI survey, conducted with the same respondents in three

The book presents the results of the Étude des Relations Familiales et Intergénérationelles or ERFI survey, conducted with the same respondents in three instalments from 2005 to 2011. Early survey findings were published in 2009 in a book entitled Portraits de familles. INED researcher Arnaud Régnier-Loilier, a member of the « Fertility, Family and Sexuality » research team, specializes in conjugal and family behaviours.

(Interview conducted in March 2016)

What was the aim of the survey discussed in this publication?

The Étude des Relations Familiales et Intergénérationelles or ERFI (INED-INSEE, 2005-2011) focuses on the dynamics of family construction.

ERFI is the French instalment of the Generations and Gender Survey or GGS conducted in approximately twenty countries, most of them European. The main objective of the GGS project is to better apprehend recent demographic changes common to many countries, such as falling fertility, couple union diversification, increasingly complex conjugal trajectories and increased life expectancy,  as well as the impacts and issues raised by these changes, such as family type diversification, intergenerational solidarity, and the changing roles of women and men in society.

To meet these objectives, the survey questioned men and women aged 18 to 79 and remained in contact with them for six years.

Respondents were questioned three times over the six years. What did this contribute to the survey?

The collective work Portraits de familles, published in 2009, discussed the first, 2005 survey wave, offering a kind of snapshot of the family, conjugal situations, household organization, entry into adulthood and intergenerational relations in France. For example, we found that household organization in first unions was less egalitarian than in second or later unions.

Reiterated questioning of the same respondents makes it possible to apprehend family and fertility behaviours as interactive processes that are also related to other components of people’s life trajectories. The results of that questioning are presented and discussed in the new book, Parcours de familles. The aim was to study how demographic behaviours get determined at the individual level; also to assess some of their impacts.

Do respondents’ trajectories highlight key life events?

In prospective terms, we can better understand behaviours and identify impediments to plans by comparing respondents’ reported plans (desire to have a child, for example) with whether those plans were carried out in the following years (whether or not they had the child), then relating this information to their individual paths (e.g., occupational and conjugal). We find that having been unemployed for a certain length of time can delay birth of first child.

Furthermore, this survey brings to light some of the changes involved in family events. The birth of a child impacts on household organization and work activity, particularly for women. And the arrival of children activates intergenerational assistance, with grandparents sometimes stepping in to take care of grandchildren or help with housework.

The survey findings also show that retirement is a moment full of uncertainties and heavily impacted by policy, with some people retiring early and others postponing retirement.

Does the publication of this book mark the end of the ERFI project?

The ERFI survey was conducted between 2005 and 2011. The research itself requires a considerable amount of time, and this book is only one stage in the “life history” of the survey. Several further developments are planned. Many other studies will be conducted using the data collected by ERFI, as the questionnaire provides a wealth of information. Entire sections of the survey have not been explored yet. Also, as explained, the French survey is part of an international research programme, and country comparisons will be done. This in turn will enable us to take into account another important dimension of family dynamics: context.