Cover image courtesy of Cambridge University Press

Combining qualitative and quantitative data: LIVES input in workshop and book

A 2-day workshop will take place on February 9-10, 2015 at Bielefeld University. Alongside with researchers in Germany, NCCR LIVES deputy director Laura Bernardi is part of the organisers. She’s also one of the authors of a chapter on mixed methods in an edited book recently published by Cambridge University Press.

“Good mixed methods research is based on knowledge about the two methodological approaches and about the methodological, theoretical, and analytic challenges specific to integrating various logical approaches to research”: the workshop Beyond methodological dualism: Combining qualitative and quantitative data organised at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF) of Bielefeld University next February promises to explore the potential of mixing methods on the basis of concrete studies in the fields of labour market, social inequality, family, and migration. Supported by the German Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), and the Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research LIVES, it will combine plenary lectures with methodological and thematic workshops.

Prof. Laura Bernardi, NCCR LIVES deputy director, proposes a session on family. She has extensive experience in mixed methods, which she now applies to her research on lone parents in Switzerland. When working at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany (2003-2009), she researched the influence of social networks on individuals’ fertility choices using mixed methods.

This research1 questioned partners in couples born in East and West Germany who had graduated from school in the early nineties. It is summarised in a chapter of the book Mixed Methods Social Networks Research, Design and Applications released recently with Cambridge University Press. This paper shows how the qualitative approach enriches the quantitative data, which alone could not describe aspects like individual perceptions, experiences, family organisation as well as social mechanisms of support, learning, pressure and contagion at play in childbearing decisions.

Nevertheless the quantitative approach helped build a typology of networks and brought a structural perspective. The authors underline the challenge of overcoming epistemological arguments that often oppose qualitative and quantitative researchers. “The process of negotiating these interests to find a good solution for designing the mixed method study should not be underestimated”, they warn. At the same time, they advocate for the “unique strengths” of mixed methods, which make the challenge worthwhile.

Within the NCCR LIVES, several projects use mixed methods on topics like family, migration, work and ageing. Some of LIVES researchers will speak about their experience at the Bielefeld workshop: Emanuela Struffolino with Transition to lone parenthood and employment trajectories: a mixed methods approach, Andrés Gomensoro with Educational pathways of the children of migrants between trajectories and narrations, and Marthe Nicolet with When the family of the deceased says ‘thank you’: Quantitative and content analysis of death notices in Wallis (Switzerland).

  • 1. Bernardi, L., Keim, S., Klärner, A. (2014). Social Networks, Social Influence, and Fertility in Germany: Challenges and Benefits of Applying a Parallel Mixed Methods Design. In Dominguez, S. & Hollstein, B., Mixed Methods Social Networks Research. Design and Applications (p. 121-152). Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press.
SLLS President Elizabeth Cooksey and LIVES PhD Candidate Ignacio Madero-Cabib

International conference on life course in Lausanne rewards a NCCR LIVES PhD candidate

Ignacio Madero-Cabib won a prize for one of the three best posters during the annual conference of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS), which happened at the University of Lausanne from October 9 to 11, 2014. The Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research LIVES was the local organiser of this congress, which included about 200 presentations, over 40 posters and two keynote lectures, notably by Prof. Giuliano Bonoli's from the University of Lausanne.

The President of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS), Elizabeh Cooksey, professor of social demography at the Ohio State University, and other members of the SLLS executive committee remitted three certificates for the best posters among the fourty or so presented during the 5th annual SLLS conference, which the NCCR LIVES hosted this year at the University of Lausanne.

  • Jennifer Tork, from the University of Bielefeld, Germany, for Overcoming the risk of low levels of education by the ability of resilience
  • Julie Falcon, who after a PhD at the University of Lausanne was a visiting scholar at Standford University (USA) and is now based at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB), for Transitions from school to work in time of crisis: Do younger generations really face worse career prospects than older ones at labour-market entry? 
  • Ignacio Madero Cabib, NCCR LIVES PhD candidate at the University of Lausanne, who recently spent a semester at the WZB too, for Life course determinants of retirees' subjective and objective well-being in Switzerland and Germany, which he did with Prof. Anette Fasang from the Humboldt University in Berlin.

The conference brought together almost 300 delegates coming from 23 countries, around 5 parallel sessions including about 200 presentations. The theme this year was Lives in Translation: Life Course Research and Social Policies, with focuses on health, education, employment, poverty, family, childhood, old age, migration, gender, addictions, religiosity and methods. A pre-conference methodological workshop also took place on October 8, which LIVES members animated.

There were two keynote lectures. Giuliano Bonoli, professor of social policy at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (IDHEAP) and member of LIVES IP4 at the University of Lausanne, gave the opening lecture on The Social Investment Strategy: Social Policies in a Life Course Perspective. Using data from different studies, including some led by his team, he showed the limits but also the promises of social investment. Preschool programmes, for instance, which we know positively impact further school performance, mainly benefit to the middle class: that is the famous "Matthew effect". Nevertheless social policies provide access to childcare support to deprived people, for instance, through reduced fees. Prof. Bonoli called for further research on this question.

The other keynote speaker was Kathleen Kiernan, professor of social policy and demography at the University of York (UK). Drawing from the UK Millenium Cohort Study data, she talked about the impact of family environment on young children and showed that poverty negatively impacts cognitive and behaviour skills below age 5. But, she said, to improve both dimensions "parental warmth is more important than wealth".

Throughout the 3-day conference participants issued many tweets using the hashtag to hightlight both the conference’s scientific content and the social events, some of which ended late at night...

Photo Michelle Gibson © iStock

Social policies at the centre of debates during the third Conference on Poverty

On October 2 and 3, 2014 over 250 people gathered at the University of Lausanne to reflect on policies aimed at reducing precariousness. Sponsored by the Canton de Vaud, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts - Western Switzerland (HES-SO), the University of Lausanne, the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS and the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES, the third edition of the biennal Conference on poverty brought together representatives from federal and local governments, NGOs, foundations and researchers.

Walter Schmid set the stage for the conference, which was structured in 8 lectures and 13 workshops. The former president of the Swiss Conference of Social Services’ Institutions (SKOS/CSIAS) held a passionate opening speech on Switzerland’s minimum welfare benefits. According to him, these are currently at risk of being undermined. In recent years, asylum seekers have seen assistance cut to the bare minimum and in cantons such as Berne the minimum welfare benefit has been cut by ten per cent. Should this trend continue, Walter Schmid warned that Switzerland’s complex and fragmented welfare system is bound to turn into a two-tiered system whereby an ever more rising number of people would receive considerably less than the existing minimum welfare benefit, currently set at 60 per cent of the Swiss median income.


But what justifies the maintenance of such welfare expenses? In one way or another, most conference lectures offered answers to this question. For Walter Schmid the response was clear: basic human rights as set forth in Article 12 of the Federal Constitution guarantee the “right to assistance and care, and to the financial means required for a decent standard of living” for people in need.

Peter Sommerfeld from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland also referred to the Federal Constitution, but offered a somewhat different view. Discussing the role of social work in combatting poverty, he justifies anti-poverty policies as a form of social justice derived from the constitutionally enshrined claim to individual wellbeing. Thus, following Peter Sommerfeld, who draws on the capability approach, poverty must be understood as a deficiency in wellbeing, which might best be remedied by focusing on the capabilities of the individual rather than using numerical values such as the median income as the basis for work to alleviate poverty.

Away from ethical considerations, Jacques Donzelot from the University of Paris X Nanterre turned the audience’s attention to the history of anti-poverty policies, pointing out that two intrinsically intertwined motives have always been shaping social policies and specifically anti-poverty policies: charity and social control. This holds true for the pre-modern system of philanthropy and patronage, the insurance-based social security system in industrial societies or the current policies against social exclusion and disintegration which, Jacques Donzelot claimed, nowadays sustain social cohesion with a view to mobilise society against the outside world.


It remains an open question whether Jacques Donzelot had French society in mind when referring to the defensive character of social-cohesion policies. That said, the conference clearly showed the diversity of people affected by poverty and policies involved in combating poverty. Professor at the Haute école de travail social et de la santé - EESP Lausanne (HES·SO) Morgane Kuehni’s lecture unveiled the diversity of people lumped together in the category of the working poor with some feeling outraged and ashamed about their living conditions, other resigned and yet others feeling no remorse.

Professor at the University of Fribourg Monica Budowksi and Director of the Swiss Household Panel at FORS Robin Tillmann showed this diversity in quite different ways by demonstrating the difficulties social scientists encounter when they seek to analyse and quantify poverty. The latter varies in scope depending on the methods and indicators that researchers use to conduct their studies.

The string of 13 workshops most obviously showed the diversity of people and policies related to poverty. Included were such broad topics as indebtedness, aid in kind, poverty in young and old age, housing, health and employment. Other topics were more specific such as case management or cooperation between Switzerland’s many public welfare agencies. All of these workshops started with presentations held by a researcher and a practitioner, followed by an open discussion allowing for an exchange of ideas, experience and knowledge and thereby fostering contacts across professional fields and academic disciplines.


Not surprisingly, translated into actual policies, this diversity requires action on a broad front. Bea Cantillon from the University of Antwerp provided a rationale for such a broad policy programme by presenting the social investment perspective to the conference.

Pointing out the loss of power of purchase among increasing segments of Swiss society, Pierre-Yves Maillard, State Councillor of the Canton de Vaud, went into the nuts and bolts of anti-poverty policies and advocated in his presentation of the canton’s anti-poverty strategy a range of specific policies along with the known and institutionalised insurance schemes covering health, disability or old age. As he explained, the Canton of Vaud has put into place subsidies for families, students, affordable housing and health care as well as schemes for unemployed young adults and women. Moreover, according to Maillard, the canton also embarked on a programme aimed at the prevention of poverty, sponsoring projects in schools and early-childhood education.

Director of the Swiss Programme for preventing and combating poverty at the Federal Office of Social Insurances Gabriela Felder presented the programme, which was launched in 2014, and yet again demonstrated the great diversity in scope, approach and implementation when dealing with issues of poverty. As she explained, the programme will develop multiple projects along four axes, namely: access for children and young adults to education; social and professional integration; general living conditions; and the monitoring of the measures taken. Planned until 2018, the programme will be allocated a budget of 9 million francs – some of which will hopefully alleviate poverty.

Pascal Maeder, NCCR LIVES Knowledge Transfer Officer

Find the programme

"Children’s Rights and the Capability Approach: Challenges and Prospects"

"Children’s Rights and the Capability Approach: Challenges and Prospects"

Daniel Stoecklin (Kurt Bösch Institute) and Jean-Michel Bonvin (HETS-EESP & NCCR LIVES) are editors of a new volume published by Springer, including a chapter written by Stephan Dahmen (HETS-EESP & NCCR LIVES).

This volume addresses the conditions allowing the transformation of specific children’s rights into capabilities in settings as different as children’s parliaments, organised leisure activities, contexts of vulnerability, children in care. It addresses theoretical questions linked to children’s agency and reflexivity, education, the life cycle perspective, child participation, evolving capabilities, and citizenship.

It highlights important issues that have to be taken into account for the implementation of human rights and the development of peoples’ capabilities. The focus on children’s capabilities along a rights-based approach is an inspiring perspective that researchers and practitioners in the field of human rights would like to deepen.

Children’s Rights and the Capability Approach. Challenges and Prospects contains contributions from two members of the CESCAP (Haute école de travail social et de la santé - EESP Lausanne, HES-SO) and of the LIVES Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research IP5: Jean-Michel Bonvin and Stephan Dahmen.

  • Stoecklin, D., & Bonvin, J.-M. (Eds.). (2014). Children’s Rights and the Capability Approach. Challenges and Prospects. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Dahmen, S. (2014). The Theoretical Orthodoxy of Children’s and Youth Agency and Its Contradictions: Moving from Normative Thresholds to a Situated Assessment of Children’s and Youth Lives. In D. Stoecklin & J.-M. Bonvin (Eds.), Children’s Rights and the Capability Approach. Challenges and Prospects (pp. 153-173). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Stoecklin, D., & Bonvin, J.-M. (2014). Cross-Fertilizing Children’s Rights and the Capability Approach. The Example of the Right to Be Heard in Organized Leisure. In D. Stoecklin & J.-M. Bonvin (Eds.), Children’s Rights and the Capability Approach. Challenges and Prospects (pp. 131-152). Dordrecht: Springer.
Scholars from Latin Europe inaugurate new association of historical demography

Scholars from Latin Europe inaugurate new association of historical demography

The NCCR LIVES co-director Michel Oris is member of the scientific and organising committees of the inaugural conference to create the European Society of Historical Demography, promoted by the Société de Démographie Historique (SDH), the Asociación de Demografía Histórica (ADEH) and the Società Italiana di Demografia Storica (SIDeS). The conference will take place in Alghero-Sassari (Sardinia, Italy) on 25-27 September 2014.

The new society will be established to foster co-operation between scholars engaged or interested in historical demography studies in Europe, and stimulate interest in population matters in the European Union scientific programmes and agencies as well as among governments, national and international organisations, and the general public.

During the Alghero Conference, several LIVES members will present a paper:

Aline Duvoisin and Sylvie Burgnard from the University of Geneva will present “Childless women during the baby boom in Switzerland” during the session “Qualitative and mixed approaches of fertility behaviours” on September 25, chaired by Michel Oris, also leader of LIVES IP13.

On September 26, Rainer Gabriel and Michel Oris from the University of Geneva will present “A life course perspective on poverty in old-age Switzerland” during the session “Life Course approaches in historical demography” chaired by Gilbert Ritschard.

Gilbert Ritschard, head of LIVES IP14 and professor at the University of Geneva, will present “Promises and requirements of recent development in sequence analysis” during the session “Life course and the transformation of historical demography”.

Michel Oris will also chair a session on “Internal and international migrations” on September 27.

See the conference website:

Inequalities in modern societies and families in the 21st century: symposium and public lecture

Inequalities in modern societies and families in the 21st century: symposium and public lecture

The Geneva School of Social Science and the Geneva School of Economics and Management, in collaboration with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), organise a day-long symposium on inequalities in modern societies with many key players on September 25, 2014. This event will be followed in the evening by a public lecture on the evolution of family forms by Gøsta Esping-Andersen, renowned professor of sociology at the University of Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.

The rector of Geneva University, Jean-Dominique Vassalli, with Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch (Head of SECO), will do the openings of the symposium. The vice-rector Yves Flückiger, Cyril Muller of the World Bank, Didier Chambovey (SECO), Pierre Maudet (Chief of Department of Economics and Security, Geneva), Jean-Nathanaël Karakash (Chief of Department of Economics and Social Action, Neuchâtel) and many other prestigious members of the political and academic world will be also present.

Prof. Gosta Esping-Andersen, who will deliver the opening lecture of the 2014-2015 academic year at 7pm, will take part in the morning session panel of the symposium. Prof. Jean-Michel Bonvin and Prof. Michele Pellizzari, both members of the NCCR LIVES, will chair and conclude the afternoon session panel.

This event is organised by the University of Geneva and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) with the support of the NCCR LIVES and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Registration deadline: September 24 at

Couverture du livre "Adultes aînés, les oubliés de la formation" aux éditions Antipodes

We still need to learn after 65: a fact which is starting to be understood

A round table supported by the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research LIVES on 18 September 2014 in Lausanne brought together several participants form the political, academic, economic and community spheres to discuss education for older people, to coincide with the launch of the book by Roland J. Campiche and Afi Sika Kuzeawu. Although the participants agreed on the urgent need, they found it difficult to agree on the steps to be taken.

"I admit that this book shook my certainties a bit: its premises should have been obvious, but they had not yet struck me, and they still haven't been understood by everyone", said Guy Parmelin, national UDC adviser. The round table was held on Thursday 18 September at the Continental Hotel in Lausanne and was organised by the NCCR LIVES in partnership with the Swiss federation of universities of the third age, the Leenaards foundation and the Champ-Soleil foundation. Almost 80 people attended.

Chaired by the journalist Manuela Salvi, the debate saw wide consensus on the increasing importance of older people in society. "Together, they make up the biggest kindergarten force in Switzerland", said Roland J. Campiche, who presented his latest work, published by éditions Antipodes: Older adults, left behind by education [1].


Honorary professor of the University of Lausanne, Roland J. Campiche also mentioned the contribution older people make to community activities, their influence on votes and in town council, pointing out that in Switzerland, half of people surveyed would like to work for longer. "Nevertheless, it's as if after retirement, people are put in a no-man's land when it comes to education". The sociologist claims that this denial is evidenced by the fact that the recent laws on universities and ongoing training do not say a word about education for older people.

Several participants referred to this need to learn new things: to find their way in an increasingly digital world, to be able to help very elderly relatives, to prevent degeneration, as "the brain wears out when it's not in use", according to the neurologist Yves Dunant, to fight the depression which affects individuals going through life's major transitions – adolescence andretirement, and for which the costs could be even higher than the cost of Alzheimer's disease. They could even "be used as a source of indigenous labour after the electroshock of 9 February", according to the deliberately provocative suggestion of socialist council of states representative Géraldine Savary (referring to the results of the Swiss immigration referendum), who said that she was "convinced that this discussion will arise".


However, the participants could not agree on how this could be achieved. By introducing public funding? Creating legal bases? And which organisations should be established or protected? In his book, Roland J. Campiche calls for official recognition of the role played by universities of the third age, along with financial support from the State, which he puts at 500,000 francs per year. "We should also point out that this would bring a return on investment; it's a language that the politicians understand", suggested a person from the audience.

However, some people are concerned by the "elitist" nature of universities of the third age, pointing out that there are other sources of education, and even training, available for older people: associations or foundations (Pro-SenectuteForce nouvelle, FAAG), universités populaires, Migros courses, etc.


Roland J. Campiche challenged "the myth of an inaccessible university", stating that students at universities of the third age came from all walks of life. But he admitted that a new form of pedagogy needs to develop, "peers by peers", which is more interactive, and values the skills of older adults, and which could even "breathe new life into the whole education system".

Finally, a few suggestions were made by the participants: reduce the health costs of older people in education, campaign for a national research programme on the issue, professionalise voluntary training, consider education as a human project "from birth to death", encourage intergenerational exchange...

"Young retirees involved in education are still a minority, but it is proven that one or two years more or less education throughout a lifetime have major effects on longevity", according to sociologist François Höpflinger.

600,000 baby boomers will retire in the next few years. "Time is needed between the observation and the implementation. That's why lobbying is needed", said Guy Parmelin, now a firm supporter of the cause. He will soon have a tool to help him lobby his German-speaking colleagues: the book by Roland J. Campiche and Afi Sika Kuzeawu will be published next year in German by éditions Seismo.

[1] Adultes aînés: les oubliés de la formation (Older adults, left behind by education) by Roland J. Campiche and Afi Sika Kuzeawu with the collaboration of Jacques Lanares, Sandrine Morante, Denis Berthiaume, éditions Antipodes, Lausanne, 2014


M. Oris and G. Ritschard: Sequence Analysis and Transition to Adulthood

New publication brings together "big names in the small field" of a promising method

The Lake Geneva region has become crucial in the development of sequence analysis, a method that is currently enjoying rapid growth in the social sciences. Researchers from the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES at the universities of Lausanne and Geneva who specialise in life course research are among the key players in sequence analysis development. Their latest advances have been brought together in a new book edited by Philippe Blanchard, Felix Bühlmann and Jacques-Antoine Gauthier and published by Springer.

Why are some people likely to find themselves in a situation of vulnerability while others are not? Until a few years ago, social scientists were unable to answer this question, because the only models they had were synchronic ones, which looked at individuals at a specific moment in time and did not allow a longitudinal perspective. The development of life course studies, which are, by definition, diachronic and interdisciplinary in nature, led to an increased interest in processes. Such studies largely borrowed methods from the "hard" sciences, particularly genetic biology and bioinformatics, to represent sequences of states and events statistically.

Sequence analysis thus allows researchers to construct typologies of individual trajectories concerning topics such as family configurations, professional careers and employability, major life transitions such as entering adulthood, parenthood, and retirement as well as trajectories for migration, health and ageing. This method has also spread beyond the field of sociology and is used for research in the areas of developmental psychology, history, demographics and political science.

The different applications of sequence analysis have now become the subject of a book, which is based on a joint editorial project by the universities of Lausanne and Geneva. Advances in Sequence Analysis: Theory, Method, Applications is the second volume in a series published by Springer on life course and social policy research. The series is being supervised by the three members of the NCCR LIVES board of directors: Dario Spini, Michel Oris and Laura Bernardi.

A project born between Lausanne and Geneva

In 2012 the Lausanne conference on sequence analysis (LaCOSA) was held in Lausanne, bringing together around thirty individuals from around the world who were experienced in using this method. They included renowned researchers such as Cees Elzinga, Brendan Halpin and Anette Fasang. The conference was organised by Philippe Blanchard from the Institute of Political and International Studies and Felix Bühlmann and Jacques-Antoine Gauthier from the Institute of Social Sciences, both members of the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES. A third of the participants and several speakers were also linked to LIVES, notably Professor Gilbert Ritschard’s team from the University of Geneva, who developed the sequence analysis tool TraMineR, which provides a genuine benchmark for specialists.

"Compared to other methods, sequence analysis is used by a relatively small community," explains Felix Bühlmann. "That is how we managed to persuade big names in this small field to attend the conference and then contribute to a joint publication."

Conceptual Innovations

"This book’s strength is based on an apparent weakness: the method and the thematic areas described are rarely mentioned in scientific journals because such publications require a certain format that is not very compatible with the conceptual and visual innovations provided by sequence analysis," says Felix Bühlmann.

For Jacques-Antoine Gautier, "the diversity of the contributions in this book brings about a more assertive methodological community and provides a space for original reflection on the nature of sequence analysis and its place in the social sciences."

At the NCCR LIVES, several studies on different groups of vulnerable people are based on sequence analysis, since it makes it possible to reduce the complexity of individual trajectories and increase the readability of stages and transitions that shape life courses.

Meanwhile, this method is continuing to make waves: the leading sequence analysis specialists at LIVES will share their knowledge with researchers from around the world at a methodological workshop on 8 October 2014. The event will precede the annual conference of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS), which will be held at the University of Lausanne this year.

Exchange forum on “The changing family and single parenthood”: The practitioners' point of view

Exchange forum on “The changing family and single parenthood”: The practitioners' point of view

On November 21, 2014 at the University of Lausanne, organised by the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES) and the Swiss Federation of Lone Parent Families.

This one-day event will bring together stakeholders from several fields of action around the matter of sole parenthood and its different forms, complex realities which concern a growing number of families in Switzerland, addressing many questions and calling for comprehensive answers.

The NCCR LIVES, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, started a study in 2012 about the development of new forms of such families. The research team focused, until now, on the trajectories of lone parent families who are registered in panel data, and on the viewpoints of the concerned parents, which were recorded during in-depth interviews. The team now wishes to listen to the practitioners, so as to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that exist in the framework of related aid schemes.

The Swiss Federation of Lone Parent Families, which happens to be celebrating this year its 30th anniversary, is sharing this concern. It is involved, among other things, in the formulation of concrete family policy measures in order to improve the situation of lone parents and their children. The federation is a member of the Pro Familia Switzerland umbrella organisation.

The forum

In the first part of the forum, focus groups will be organised by occupational sectors: lawyers, social workers, early childhood practitioners, teachers, child psychiatrists, representatives of the public authorities and of non-governmental organisations will discuss among themselves about a series of questions, respectively chaired by a researcher.

We will address issues that are at the core of family functioning, like the different forms of family and normativity; parental and intergenerational relations; social policy, law and taxation; employment and work life balance.

The second part of the forum will deepen these issues by crossing perspectives of the occupational sectors. A synthesis will conclude these exchanges, which will provide basis for further reflection relating to the development of social policy and possible research input.


  • Swiss Federation of Lone Parent Families: Anna Hausherr, Danielle Estermann
  • NCCR LIVES: Laura Bernardi, Pascal Maeder, Ornella Larenza, Emmanuelle Marendaz Colle
  • Contact:


Please use the (French) online form

The Alpine Population Conference, La Thuile, Aosta Valley, Italy

The Alpine Population Conference, La Thuile, Aosta Valley, Italy

Alp-Pop brings together scholars interested in population issues across several disciplines, including demography, economics, epidemiology, political science, sociology, and psychology. The conference emphasizes empirical rigor and innovation over a given topic or geographical area, and meets the challenges of interdisciplinary and international audiences.

We welcome submissions on all population issues (e.g., population dynamics, population health, migration, families and fertility, the welfare state and population policy, economic development, institutions and population, decision-making, well-being, and social dynamics, etc.), but we particularly encourage submissions that take a life-course perspective.

Submissions of original papers or extended abstracts are invited by November 1, 2014, and submitters will be notified of acceptance within the week. Submissions and inquiries should be addressed via email to:

The 2015 Conference will feature Ski-note presentations from Francesco Billari of Oxford University, Kelly Musick from Cornell University, and John Ermisch from Oxford University.

Alp-Pop scholars confer both formally and informally. A traditional conference program (paper and poster presentations) mixes with group activities in a world-class winter resort. The conference location, the Planibel Hotel, is on the well-known ski slopes of La Thuile and was chosen strategically for its proximity to both Geneva and Torino/Milano.

Participants are expected to seek their own funding; although, the organizers can provide some support for Ph.D. students, and such applications should indicate a request for support in their submissions. Special-rate rooms have been reserved at the conference hotel with arrival on January 24 and departure on January 28 (the conference will end late morning).

Participants will receive information on how to reach La Thuile and updates on the conference. If there is demand, we will also aim to organize child care. Please indicate whether you intend to bring children along to the conference, as well as their ages.

Organizing committee

Arnstein Aassve (Bocconi University), Laura Bernardi (Lausanne University & NCCR LIVES), Ross Macmillan (Bocconi University), Michele Pellizzari (University of Geneva & NCCR LIVES), and Domenico Tabasso (University of Geneva & NCCR LIVES).

Alp-Pop is organized by the Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics at Bocconi University and the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES - Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES).

Round-table with leading figures on "Senior Citizens: The Forgotten People of Education”

Round-table with leading figures on "Senior Citizens: The Forgotten People of Education”

For the launch of Roland J. Campiche and Afi Sika Kuzeawu’s book, published with Editions Antipodes, the National Center of Competence in Research LIVES and the Swiss Federation of Universities of the Third Age organise a mini-conference in collaboration with the foundations Leenaards and Champ-Soleil, taking place on Thursday, September 18, 2014, from 17:00 to 19:00 at the Hotel Continental, Salon Olympia, Place de la Gare 2 in Lausanne.

One and a half million people are now aged 60 to 85 years. Most are in good health and take advantage of their retirement time; often at the service of others, but sometimes also to educate their minds and culture.

Despite this fundamental change in contemporary society, there has not been any prospective reflection on the necessary adaptations to education policies which continue to focus exclusively on children and youth.

Yet the importance of exercising the brain to prevent the effects of aging has been amply demonstrated, and the need to delay the retirement age continues to be debated, although primarily with regards to financial concerns focussing on medical and social costs.

Education is still only seen as a means to meet the needs of the labour market. It is completely disconnected from the new human reality that sees more and more people capable of learning and passing on their knowledge once their professional careers are over. They are still eager to develop. But an education specifically geared towards the elderly taking into account knowledge, skills and experience remains to be invented.

This lack of reflection sets the stage for this round-table, which will explore the issue and take stock of the challenges ahead. On the occasion of the launch of the book Adultes aînés : les oubliés de la formation [1], leaders from different domains and backgrounds will exchange views, identify obstacles and outline possible venues for action.


Welcome and introduction :

  • Dario Spini, Director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES - Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives (NCCR LIVES)


  • Roland J. Campiche, sociologist, Prof. Emeritus at the University of Lausanne
  • Yves Dunant, MD, Prof. Emeritus at the University of Geneva - Department of Neuroscience
  • François Höpflinger, sociologist, Prof. Emeritus at the University of Zurich
  • Christiane Jaquet Berger, former President of the Swiss Council of Elders
  • Guy Parmelin, National Council, Member of the Commission of Social Security and Health
  • Géraldine Savary, Council of States, President of the Commission of Science, Education and Culture of the Council of States
  • Guy Suchet, Director of Social Affairs, Swiss French Federation of Businesses, Geneva, President of the Foundation Force nouvelle


  • Manuela Salvi, journalist, RTS 


  • Philippe Terrier, Prof. Emeritus at the University of Neuchâtel, director of the University of the Third Age of Neuchâtel, President of the Swiss Federation of Universities of the Third Age

The round-table will be followed by an aperitif. Please subscribe by sending an email no later than 15 September 2014 to:

[1] By Roland J. Campiche and Afi Sika Kuzeawu with the collaboration of Jacques Lanares, Sandrine Morante, Denis Berthiaume, Antipodes editions, Lausanne, 2014

Social psychologists get together in Amsterdam for the 2014 European Meeting

Social psychologists get together in Amsterdam for the 2014 European Meeting

The European Association of Social Psychology will be holding its 17th congress from July 9 to 12, 2014 in Amsterdam. More than 800 individual presentations and almost 700 posters are on the agenda, including NCCR LIVES researchers.

The program consists of 12 parallel sessions, including 101 symposia and 61 thematic sessions. The director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES, Dario Spini, was member of the Scientific Programme Committee and several LIVES members were reviewers.

On Wednesday 9 July at 11:00 in the Symposium S09, Dario Spini will present “Social group participation, identity continuity and well-being after the loss of an intimate partner”, drawn from IP12 research. This paper written with Nadia Girardin and Davide Morselli shows how “social groups help to maintain identity continuity, which has a positive effect on well-being. Individuals who lost a partner and who participate in groups or feel continuity report greater well-being.” Continuity, which is the fact of remaining the same person over time, also moderated the effects of loss on well-being during the five years after the bereavement.

At the Poster Session 6 on Saturday 12 July, “The impact of normative climates on gender role attitudes” will be presented. It is an outcome of the LIVES 2013 Winter School on Life Course. During that week of intensive collaborative work between junior and seasoned researchers last year, participants used a social representations approach to show that “own gender role attitudes in 20 European countries are influenced by the normative climate, controlling for individual and structural context variables like family policy indicators and gender equality indices”. Véronique Eicher prepared this poster with Stephanie Glaeser, Aude Martenot (UNIGE), Sandra Penic (UNIL), Richard A. Settersten (Oregon State University), and Dario Spini.


NCCR LIVES awaits visitors at stand No 19 of the Geneva “Night of Science”

NCCR LIVES awaits visitors at stand No 19 of the Geneva “Night of Science”

“All that glitters… is not gold” applies particularly to the social sciences, in its vocation to go against common sense and counter class, origin, age, and gender prejudices. This is why research on life course jumped at the opportunity of the 10th edition’s theme, on the 5 and 6 July 2014, to present some activities inspired by scientific data and methods in an entertaining way.

"Perle du Lac" Park, Geneva - Stand No 19
Saturday 14:00 - 23:00 / Sunday 12:00 - 20:00

Researchers at the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES, especially those from the Interfaculty Centre of Gerontology and Vulnerabilities Studies (CIGEV) at the University of Geneva, will be proposing two activities.

To start with, come discover the life course calendars, a tool that is very much used in research on life course to track individual trajectories in different life domains: residency, family, professional activity, health. Life calendars show particularly well interactions between private and work life. By using this method, we have traced the biographies of several prominent figures, which visitors will have to guess thanks to the events along these personal life histories.

The highlight of the LIVES stand is a parody of a famous French TV game-show, “Mind the Step”, which was renamed “Mind the Stat” for the occasion. Following the model of the original programme, the visitors to the Night of Science may confront each other in pairs on questions about the Swiss society. In order to win, they will have to get as close as possible to the correct figures and be quick. The software that was especially developed for the occasion will also be available in a child-friendly version.

Full programme on

LIVES team involved in the preparation of the 17th European Conference on Personality

LIVES team involved in the preparation of the 17th European Conference on Personality

From July 15 to 19, 2014 in Lausanne, this event will cover a wide variety of topics, including: personality, health and well-being; personality and work and organizational psychology; personality, motivation, and emotion; and many others. Members of the NCCR LIVES IP7 are on board.

The 17th European Conference on Personality will propose 7 keynote presentations, 11 invited symposia, 30 open-call symposia, 24 paper sessions, 2 poster sessions, and 3 pre-conference workshops.

Prof. Jérôme Rossier, head of the IP7 within the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES at the University of Lausanne, is chair of the local organizing committee and is assisted by co-chair Dr. Marina Fiori from the University of Lausanne. Both are part of the international scientific committee.

The local organizing committee also includes other members of IP7: Prof. Franciska Krings, vice-rector of the University of Lausanne, Prof. Willibald Ruch from the University of Zurich, as well as Dr. Koorosh Massoudi and PhD Student Claire Johnston from the University of Lausanne.

On Wednesday 16th July, Claire Johnston will present “Changes in well-being and professional change: the role of career adapt-abilities and personality traits”, with Christian Maggiori and Jérôme Rossier as co-authors.

On Thursday 17th July, Dr. Christian Maggiori, another member of IP7 at the University of Lausanne, will present “The role of personal characteristics in an unstable professional context”, with Claire Johnston and Jérôme Rossier as co-authors.

Claire Johnston also organizes a lunchtime meeting on Thursday 17th July for PhD students and young researchers, called “Publishing in the European Journal of Personality: Overview & Tips” and presented by Wendy Johnson, Editor of the European Journal of Personality, along with the associate editors.

LIVES researchers at the Congress of the International Sociological Association in Japan

LIVES researchers at the Congress of the International Sociological Association in Japan

The XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology will take place in Yokohama from 13 to 19 July 2014 under the title “Facing an Unequal World: Challenges for Global Sociology”. Some members of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES will join the hundreds of participants to present a paper.

Also to be noted,Francesco Giudici (IP13) is co-author of a paper presented by Ping-Yin KUAN, from the National Chengchi University in Taipei City (Taiwan): An Inter-Cohort Comparison of Intra-Cohort Social Stratification: How Do Cumulative Dis/Advantages Evolve Across Cohorts?

26 international students gathered on “Vulnerability, Empowerment and Social Work”

26 international students gathered on “Vulnerability, Empowerment and Social Work”

The University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Western Switzerland (HES-SO), the State of Vaud and the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES organise the 5th Summer University in Social Work from June 30 to July 11, 2014 in Lausanne. Many speakers will present LIVES research.

Students from all over the world will participate in the next Summer University in Social Work. They come from the United States (University of California Los Angeles - UCLA, and Boston College), Canada (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Burkina Faso (Institut National de Formation des Travailleurs Sociaux, Ouagadougou), India (Rajagiri College of Social Sciences, Kochi), China (Shandong University) and Switzerland (HES-SO).

Among the professors we find many LIVES members: Michel Oris and Stefano Cavalli (IP13), Jean-Pierre Tabin and Jean-Michel Bonvin (IP5), Jean-François Bickel (IP5, IP13), Claudio Bolzman (IP2, IP13), Marianne Modak (IP8). The general coordination is ensured by Prof. Marc-Antoine Berthod from the HETS&SA l EESP, Lausanne, which is one of the HES-SO schools.

The theme of this edition is “Vulnerability, Empowerment and Social Work”. The complex interrelations between vulnerability and empowerment will be discussed, “two central concepts that are too frequently grasped separately in theoretical approaches”, the programme says.

The Summer University in social work aims at promoting exchanges between participants from various backgrounds, at facilitating comparative analysis and at stimulating new theoretical and professional approaches in social work. It offers a privileged place for discussions and debates to professors and students coming from many different countries.

The lectures and workshops will be based on the most recent researches, including LIVES data. As written in the booklet, “the international dimension of the event will help thinking critically and comparatively about what drives social work practice, often caught between an excessive concern for the protection of the most vulnerable and an idealistic ambition to enhance individual responsibilities and capacities.”

LIVES demographers participate in the European Population Conference in Budapest

LIVES demographers participate in the European Population Conference in Budapest

The biennial congress 2014 of the European Association for Population Studies (EAPS) is about to start on 25th June for four days in Hungary. The theme of this edition is « Transitions: Opportunities and Threats ». Some researchers from the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES will speak about changes in family settings, immigrants, ageing, and mortality.

“Fundamental changes started 25 years ago in the Eastern part of Europe, opening a new chapter in the history of the Continent. Even though the transformation of population processes is not complete, making an inventory from the perspective of a quarter century is both achievable and advantageous. It is worth asking more questions: whether a new pattern of demographic behaviour has emerged, how much it is different from other regions of Europe, and what mechanisms shaped population processes in the Eastern part of Europe.” This statement by the local organizers opens the programme of the EAPS 2014 Conference.

Some of the NCCR LIVES demographers will present their research or are co-author of a paper in the following sessions.


23-2 Young adults' excess mortality: individual reality or yet another heterogeneity's ruse?
Adrien Remund, Université de Genève


33-5 Widowhood and bereavement among the Swiss elderly. Exploring the associations in the causes of death
Michel Oris, Jonathan Zufferey, Reto Schumacher, Université de Genève


41-2 Partnership formation and labour market status among children of immigrants in Switzerland
Eder Andres Guarin Rojas, Université de Lausanne; Helga A. G. de Valk, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) and Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Laura Bernardi, Université de Lausanne


61-1 Doing research on ageing migrants: a methodological discussion on limitations and implications of studying ageing migrants
Ruxandra Oana Ciobanu, HES-SO & Université de Genève


75-4 Employment impacts on partnership and parenthood entry in different family-policy regimes
Michael S. Rendall, University of Maryland; Alessandra De Rose, Università di Roma "La Sapienza"; Ann Evans, Australian National University; Edith E. Gray, Australian National University; Doris Hanappi, University of California, Berkeley and Université de Lausanne; Frauke Kreute, University of Maryland; Trude Lappegard, Statistics Norway; Lori Reeder, University of Maryland; Marit R.nsen, Statistics Norway; Olivier Thevenon, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED); Laurent Toulemon, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)


108-5 Family diversity challenges demography: measuring and modeling the transition to solo parenthood
Laura Bernardi, Université de Lausanne


2-11 Life-course and transition to adulthood in China: the case study of Beijing in a comparative perspective between two cohorts born in the 1950s and 1980s
Sandra Constantin, University of Geneva

Image peepo © iStock

Social scientists and physicians exchange methods and ethical questions on panel data

An interdisciplinary workshop on June 26-27, 2014 organised by the NCCR LIVES and the IUMSP (CHUV) at the University of Lausanne will bring together researchers in the social sciences and in medicine to share their experience in collecting longitudinal data.

Longitudinal panel data have been collected for a long time in several scientific disciplines, especially in health sciences and social sciences. In health sciences, data are often partly composed of results of physiological or experimental repeated measures of biomarkers. In social sciences, data are collected in order to estimate the impact of an event or a change in the behaviours or attitudes of people interviewed, as well as to follow people during their life course.

Perspectives from the two disciplines have crossed in recent years: measures of biomarkers have been introduced in several social sciences panels while social questionnaires have been introduced in health sciences longitudinal cohorts. Despite this crossing issue, research traditions based on panel studies vary between these disciplines, as can be seen in ethics debates: for example, questionnaires on social networks can be considered intrusive in health and medical sciences, while mixing physiological measures and questionnaires is not always well perceived by social scientists. The aim of the workshop is to discuss these different issues.

A first session will be devoted to the different kinds of panel surveys. An interactive perspective between disciplines will be the object of the second session. The third session will be devoted to methodological issues. Invited speakers, coming from both disciplines, will speak about their experience in collecting longitudinal data.

This event is organised by Jean-Marie Le Goff (NCCR LIVES IP15) and Joan-Carles Suris, from the Institut universitaire de médecine sociale et préventive (IUMSP) of the University of Lausanne & CHUV.

Photo stockstudioX © iStock

Lone parenthood: an increasingly common situation, but a concept that needs to be redefined

The National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES is organizing an interdisciplinary, comparative workshop at the University of Lausanne to explore the various forms of single parenthood and their consequences on the life course. The symposium will be held on June 6 and 7, 2014 and will include fifteen speakers from several countries.

Since the 1970s, the number of children not brought up within a traditional family - with their biological parents united in marriage - has been constantly growing. In the past, parents bringing up their children alone were either widowers or widows, or what were then referred to as "gymslip mothers", with all the weight of the moral judgement contained in that label at the time.

This situation has changed with the rising rate and acceptance of divorces, increased life expectancy, more widely available contraception and the legalization of abortion. Has "enforced" single parenthood now been replaced by "chosen", or at least accepted, single parenthood? And more importantly, what challenges do those single parents face nowadays? These are just some of the aspects that will be dealt with by the "Lone Parenthood in a Life Course Perspective" workshop, on June 6 and 7. It will be held at the University of Lausanne and is organized by the NCCR LIVES in partnership with the universities of Berne and Geneva.

A multi-facetted reality

"Research into lone parenthood is still too often limited to the aspects of poverty and marginalization. But the reality of solo parents is more multi-facetted", explains the main organizer, Prof. Laura Bernardi, deputy director of the NCCR LIVES. She hopes the symposium will be an opportunity for "fruitful discussions to improve theoretical knowledge on the diversity of family types and empirical knowledge of the experience of single parents in terms of needs and resources". She hopes to be able to arrive at "suggestions how social policies can respond to this problematic."

There will be around fifteen presentations, with sociologists, demographers, psychologists and political scientists from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Finland, Poland, Hungary, the United States and Australia. Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods will be represented in this program, and several studies are using longitudinal data.

The two keynote speakers will be Dr. Marie-Thérèse Letablier-Zelter, from the Economics Centre at the Sorbonne, University Paris 1, and Dr. Anne-Laure Garcia, researcher at the Marc Bloch Centre and at the University of Potsdam.

Public actions and family identity

Dr. Anne-Laure Garcia will give a lecture called "The Construction of Single Mother identity in French and German State-Orders", from her book Mères seules. Action publique et identité familiale (Single mothers. Public Actions and Family Identity), published in 2013 by Presses universitaires de Rennes, following the completion of her doctoral thesis. The researcher shows how legal and institutional factors affect the norms and the perception of individuals, in this case, single mothers.

This research is based on a structural analysis of narrative interviews conducted between 2008 and 2010 with women who became single mothers between 1977 and 1987, i.e. after abortion became legal and prior to German reunification. Anne-Laure Garcia has demonstrated how the state sector impacts how these women relate to motherhood: in East Germany, for example, the fact that jobs, housing and childcare were guaranteed allowed a degree of emancipation of single mothers, who were much more numerous than in West Germany, where the traditional role of women in the home was predominant. Single motherhood was also more readily accepted in East Germany than in France, where the concept of single mothers "on benefits" promoted a more negative image.

The comparison has led the researcher to define three processes common to all these situations: "the internalization of the universe of possibilities", "the structuring of expectations" and "the self-understanding in matters of external ascriptions". Parental identity is constructed in a context of overlapping with social policies.

Breaks and discontinuity

The lecture by Dr. Marie-Thérèse Letablier-Zelter will be on "Breaks and Discontinuity in Family Life: the Case for Single-Parent Families". She will deal with the problem of defining single-parent families and the broadness of the definition, when most children who grow up in this situation in fact have both their parents.

By reviewing the different types of families referred to as single-parent families, the researcher will differentiate several socio-economic-demographic profiles and will be looking at the different paths - temporary or sustained – of single parenthood. Not surprisingly, long-term situations of lone parenthood are generally those of single mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Finally, she will investigate the effects of single parenthood on parents and their children, on the management of co-parenting and on the status of the third parent in "non-traditional" families.

For Marie-Thèrèse Letablier-Zelter, the term "lone parenthood" is no longer suitable and can refer to different situations - either purely the physical aspect of where the children live, or the economic and social aspects of resources, or even the legal and educational aspects of parental authority.

The challenges of the new types of family

"In France, over half of children are born outside marriage. Therefore, marriage is no longer the basis for families. Although single mothers are no longer subject to moral stigmatization, we can still talk of social stigmatization, as the rate of poverty among this group is generally higher than among couples and it is more difficult for single mothers to access the labour market", states Marie-Thérèse Letablier-Zelter. She fears that "the trivialization of this type of parenthood leads to a lack of interest in the real socio-economic and legal challenges posed by the new family types".

Finally, the symposium will deal with other aspects of single parenthood, such as well-being, social networks, and the physical and mental health of the parents and also the social success of the children. These issues will no doubt flow into NCCR LIVES's thinking in its own current project on single parenthood.

Image lelik © iStock

During UNIL’s open days NCCR LIVES will show the difference between commercial and scientific surveys

The University of Lausanne holds every year a public event called “The Mysteries of UNIL” mainly for kids aged 9 to 13. This time it takes place from May 22 to 25, 2014. The NCCR LIVES will welcome visitors at the stand No 12.

“WHO.R.U?” With this slogan and on the theme of the inner adventure, the University of Lausanne invites children with their class or family to discover who they are during the next “Mysteries of UNIL”, which is an annual manifestation where laboratories and research institutes present part of their work in a playful way.

Twenty-five activities compose the visit. The one proposed by the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES will first invite the participants to make the distinction between commercial and scientific surveys. Then the kids will have to turn into researchers and survey their classmates or relatives on the positive and negative events that may happen in different domains over the life course.

The NCCR LIVES based this activity on the observation that telephone surveys are becoming more and more difficult to conduct, because people are constantly solicited at home by incoming commercial calls. When children do their homework or at dinnertime, it is not uncommon to hear the phone ringing and upset parents answering that they don’t have time for that.

Surveys with a scientific aim

Yet all surveys do not aim at market research to sell insurances or soft drinks. The NCCR LIVES for instance conducts several surveys based on large samples of the Swiss population so as to better understand vulnerability processes and the resources that people mobilise to overcome it. These studies contribute to the development of public policies that meet new social needs.

From Wednesday 22 to Sunday 25 May about ten LIVES researchers, mainly sociologists and social psychologists, will relay one another to animate this activity with two students in social sciences. Come see us!