The Transition to Parenthood in the French and German Speaking Parts of Switzerland

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

The Transition to Parenthood in the French and German Speaking Parts of Switzerland


  • Regula Zimmermann Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel, Switzerland
  • Jean-Marie LeGoff Institute of Social Sciences, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland


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Abstract:  After the first transition to parenthood, most couples adopt a gendered labor division, where mothers become main caregivers and fathers breadwinners of the family. By comparing two distinct language regions within one country, the present article explores how parents’ gendered labor division comes into existence and what role gendered culture and social policy play. The analysis draws on in-depth interviews with 23 German speaking and 73 French speaking participants from Switzerland. The results reveal that French speaking women and men presume an egalitarian labor division as parents. In German speaking regions, however, participants anticipate that mothers will become the main caregivers and fathers the breadwinners. It is shown that the labor market structure, which is in line with the male breadwinner norm, contributes to men’s full-time employment, whereas mothers’ labor market insertion is influenced by the acceptance of non-parental childcare and to a lesser extent by the offer of childcare facilities. Further, mothers experience more time conflicts than fathers, and the less mothers’ paid work is accepted, the more they suffer from feelings of guilt when being employed.

Keywords:  family policy; gender inequality; labor division; parenthood; Switzerland

Published:   9 October 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i4.3018


© Regula Zimmermann, Jean-Marie LeGoff. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.