Developmental Idealism and Family and Demographic Change in Central and Eastern Europe

Arland Thornton, University of Michigan
Dimiter Philipov, Vienna Institute of Demography

In this paper we provide explanations for the substantial declines in marriage and childbearing, increases in nonmarital cohabitation and childbearing, and shift from abortion to contraception in Central and Eastern Europe following the political transformations of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Our explanations focus on the political, economic, social, and cultural histories of the region, with emphasis on ideational influences from Western Europe and North America. We argue that developmental idealism was important in these family and demographic changes as it states that the political, economic, and family structures of the West are superior to those elsewhere and help to produce modern political and economic accomplishments. And, this ideational system helps to establish freedom and equality as human rights. We argue that developmental idealism and the political and economic changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s combined to produce the many changes in family and demographic behavior.

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Presented in Session 30: Religion, Changing Ideologies and Fertility