The timing of family commitments in the early work career: work-family trajectories of young adults in Flanders

Suzana Koelet, Helga De Valk, Ignace Glorieux, Ilse Laurijssen, Didier Willaert

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This article examines the diverse ways in which young adults develop both their professional careers and family lives in the early years after education. Building a career and starting a family often occur simultaneously in this stage of life. By studying the developments in these life domains simultaneously, we contribute to a better understanding of this complex interplay.

Data consist of a sample of 1,657 young adults born in 1976, interviewed at ages 23, 26 and 29 about their education, entry and first years on the labour market and family life as part of the SONAR survey of Flanders. Sequence analysis is used to study the timing of union formation and having children among these young adults, as well as how this relates to their work career. Multinomial regression analysis is applied to understand the extent to which these life-course patterns are determined by education and economic status at the start of the career.

Results reveal a set of work-family trajectories varying in the extent of labour market participation and in type and timing of family formation. These various aspects of the trajectory are found to be determined by different dimensions of the individual educational career (duration, level, field of study). Education is more relevant for women than for men for whom trajectories are more determined by their first job.

A simultaneous approach of family and work in this life course analysis confirms men's head start on the labour market and unfolds the distinct considerations shaping the trajectories of young women and men.
Original languageEnglish
Article number22
Pages (from-to)657-690
Number of pages33
JournalDemographic Research
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • sequence analysis
  • life course
  • work-family trajectories
  • Flanders
  • young adults

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