Family Policies in Western Countries

Rome, Italy | April 27, 2004

Achieving constructive family policies is especially challenging due to a number of intrinsic dilemmas that can make consensus difficult and hinder progress.

Achieving constructive family policies is especially challenging due to a number of intrinsic dilemmas that can make consensus difficult and hinder progress.

For instance:

  • The dilemma of a choice that currently is limited to liberal versus socialist policies. Anglo-Saxon countries are known for their predominantly liberal and individualistic principles, whereas in European countries principles related to collective action by the state prevail.
  • The dilemma of the definition of "family". It is well known that national and international bills of rights, constitutions and treaties include varying definitions of the family and family policy formations.
  • The dilemma of the family's social and legal subjectivity. Recent legislation shows a trend towards multiplying the rights of individuals and of certain social categories like women, children or the elderly, although such rights are not connected to the family unit.  For example the concepts of legal personality of the family and “family responsibility” have disappeared.

Principal Inquiries

  • What are the main principles inspiring family policies at present and how might they change in the future?
  • Might family policy be inspired by any principle other than a liberal or a socialist one?
  • What principles could better promote the family in its own right?
  • Is it possible to derive operational principles from Catholic Social Doctrine that are valid and viable in relation to family policies? (For example, what does the principle of subsidiarity suggest)?
  • Must a definition of “family” be formulated to design and implement family policies?
  • Is it possible to reach such a definition that can be at least largely, if not unanimously, shared? How and under what conditions?
  • Is it possible to find shared points of existing definitions that could be used to produce common guidelines to promote the family?
  • Is it possible to speak of “family rights” in the sense fo a set of rights and obligations that are inherent to the family as a social and legal subject rather than being inherent to individuals in relation to their family responsibilities or roles?  How is this matter viewed from the various disciplines (law, sociology, political analysis, philosophy, etc)?

Academic Leader

Pierpaolo Donati – University of Bologna


Pierpaolo Donati – University of Bologna
The Fundamental Prices of Family Policy: Rethinking the “Rights of the Family” in a Society undergoing Globalization.

Sergio Belardinelli – University of Bologna
Why Support the Family as a Social Entity?

Mary Ann Glendon – Harvard University
Family Law and Family Policies in a Time of Turbulence

Janne Haaland Matlary - University of Oslo
Can and Should the Family Be Defined in Western Politics?

Manfred Spieker – Osnabrück University
Family and Society: Subsidiary Family Policy, Presuppositions and Guiding Principles


Carla Collicelli – Censis
Family Rights and Family Policies in Italy

Nuria Chinchilla – IESE Business School

Pablo García Ruiz – University of Zaragoza

Ana Marta González – University of Navarra
Defense of “the Family” or Defense of Interfamily Relationships?

Alejandro Llano – University of Navarra
Civic Humanism and Citizenship of the Family

Giovanna Rossi – Catholic University of Milan
Responding to Relevant Questions Concerning Family and Family Policies

Helmut Willke – University of Bielefeld
Principles of Family Policy in a Globalizing World


Margaret S. Archer – University of Warwick
Commentary upon Pierpaolo Donati’s paper

Robert Constable – Loyola University
Emergent Themes in Family Relational Work

John Haldane – University of St. Andrews
First Thoughts towards a Philosophy of Family Policy

Stefano Zamagni – University of Bologna
The Family as an Economic Unit: The Argument for Family-Driven Policies