Parenting (s) in Portugal: diversity and issues

Project Title:
Parenting (s) in Portugal: diversity and issues

Start and End of Project
2015 until 2025

Chief Investigator
Prof. Margarida Mesquita

Research Team

Researchers Name Institutional Afiliation
Margarida Mesquita CAPP/ISCSP
Elvira Pereira CAPP/ISCSP
Maria da Luz Ramos CAPP/ISCSP
Albino Cunha CEMRI/UA
Cristina Cunha Instituto Sociologia/UP
Dulcinea Gil --
Ana Gomes da Silva ISCSP


Project Summary:

In the last century Western societies were subject to profound changes with important effects on parenting. Given the growing interest for childhood and for children, new demands and expectations around parental roles were created complexifying them. Never as before the children have taken such a central role in families, a set of rights were guaranteed to children as subjects of law (rather than objects), and sciences have revealed how the performance of parental roles have effects in the integral development of children, demonstrating the importance of both fathers and mothers for being equally attentive, caregivers, educators and effectively involved in parenting.

Nevertheless, societies have maintained very high levels of demands for fathers in the work sphere; and mothers, traditionally seen as the main providers of care to children, have increasingly integrated the labor market, and are expected to have a dedication in this sphere similar to that of fathers. This circumstance created, from the outset, two important demands to parents, often experienced as problematic, the conciliation of spheres and the search for social and educational solutions and care for children, in the periods in which they both work.

In its turn, the welfare state crisis has rekindled the expectation of the emergence of a welfare society, and in the area of parenting occurs that social networks are not always activated.

The Fertility Composite Index in Portugal is not only one of the lowest in all EU countries as, since 1982, it no longer ensures the natural replacement of the population. However, the Fertility Survey conducted by INE / Foundation Francisco Manuel dos Santos (2013) found that the Portuguese are having fewer children than desired. On the other hand, in the Portuguese case, parenting may be experiencing particular difficulties since the country followed the developments inherent to the growing interest in children, the Portuguese mothers are those which, in European terms, are more integrated into the labor market, are more working full-time and in continuous careers. In fact, some studies found that Portugal is the country with more stress in work-family reconciliation and that often the families  requiring more support are those that have less support from informal networks.

Thus, this project is intended to find out how parenting is being experienced in Portugal in order to contribute to the debate on public policies in this area.

It is important for Public Policy to know families’ projects in terms of parenting and problems experienced. And also to identify differences in the intensity with which the problems are experienced both intra and inter different family types and different stages of family life cycle. Therefore this project seeks to address the following questions: Which projects do parents have regarding parenting? How are they experiencing parenting? What problems do they face? Are the problems generalized to parents or concentrated in a particular group of parents? What characterizes parents with more problems and which variables can help to understand their greater vulnerability? Are the projects of the parents regarding parenting related to the problems they face? What differences exist (at the project level relating to parenting, the way parenting is experienced and problems) between the different family types and the different stages of family life cycle?

The project has the following aims:

  1. Characterize parenting, with special emphasis on problems experienced by different kinds of families and children of different ages;
  2. 2. Identify differences in parenting according to the type of family (nuclear, single parent and recomposed) and the age of the children (pre-school, school and adolescent). To meet these aims, the project will be based on the macrosystemic analysis model of problems in parenting (developed by Mesquita, 2014) and will adopt a methodological strategy comparative between family types and comprehensive regarding to the changes occurred between the different stages of family life cycle.

The project is developed in three stages:




Exploratory Stage

Development of the model of analysis.

Already completed

Survey Questionnaire

To know parenting projects and how parenting is being experienced in a comparative perspective between family typologies.


Case Studies

To identify changes in parenting projects and in the way parenting is experienced considering the change of stage in the family life cycle.