Volume 32 - Article 22 | Pages 657–690  

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

By Suzana Koelet, Helga de Valk, Ignace Glorieux, Ilse Laurijssen, Didier Willaert


Objective: This article examines the diverse ways in which young adults develop both their professional career and family life in the years immediately after they complete their education. Building a career and starting a family often occur simultaneously in this stage of life. By studying the simultaneous developments in these life domains, we can gain a better understanding of this complex interplay.

Methods: The data consist of a sample of 1,657 young adults born in 1976 who were interviewed as part of the SONAR survey of Flanders at ages 23, 26, and 29 about their education, their entry into and early years on the labour market, and their family life. Sequence analysis is used to study the timing of union formation and having children among these young adults, as well as how these events are related to their work career. Multinomial regression analysis is applied to help us gain a better understanding of the extent to which these life course patterns are determined by education and economic status at the start of the career.

Results: The results reveal a set of work-family trajectories which vary in terms of the extent of labour market participation and the type and timing of family formation. Various aspects of the trajectory are found to be determined by different dimensions of an individual’s educational career (duration, level, field of study). Education is more relevant for women than for men, as a man’s trajectory is more likely than a woman’s to be determined by the first job.

Conclusions: By using a simultaneous approach which takes into account both family and work, this life course analysis confirms that men have a head start on the labour market, and examines the factors which influence the distinct trajectories of young women and men.

Author's Affiliation

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