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Middaglijnstraat 10, 1210 Brussels


PhD student for a qualitative research project on social norms of motherhood in collaboration with the University of Vienna

Project Description

Why do women take much more often the role of the main caregiver than men? Why do many
families have a similar gendered division of work and care, although other possible solutions
exist that may be more adapted to their lives?

This project, funded by the Belgian Research Fund FNRS, is addressing these questions by
focusing on the role of coexisting and potential conflicting social norms of motherhood.

Background: A recent European directive aims to promote gender equality by providing men
with more generous incentives to assume care responsibilities. This attempt contrasts with the
prevailing idea that women are mainly responsible for their children’s care. In fact, women
made great achievements towards gender equality in professional life and gender egalitarian
attitudes have widely spread in all spheres of life. Nevertheless, women much more than men
reduce their work for caring responsibilities. Normative models that oscillate between
traditional and modern mother roles are likely to reduce the effectiveness of recent policies and
may thwart economic progress. Despite many studies investigating this stalled revolution, a
differentiated view on coexistent and potential conflicting motherhood norms remains elusive
and descriptive, since within-country norm plurality has been neglected.

Approach: In this project, we draw on Belgium as an excellent case study; its parental leave
policy combines high levels of flexibility and gender neutrality and may serve as a role model;
still, leave take-up remains gendered. This finding is puzzling, as Belgium’s leave policy offers
parents more individualized solutions of work-family arrangements than in many other
countries. Relying on a multi-method sequential approach, we analyse survey data and conduct
focus group discussions (conducted in French-speaking Belgium) to identify normative
discourses. In close collaboration with the University of Vienna, we evaluate in a most-different
case design with Austria whether an overarching norm of good motherhood exists in these
different country contexts. Whereas in Belgium mothers tend to return quickly to work after
childbirth, Austrian mothers spend years on parental leave. Using individual interviews with
French-speaking young mothers, we study how mothers integrate these normative constructs
into their everyday lives. Finally, we estimate how conflicting norms relate to mothers’

This position offers the opportunity to
• develop qualitative method skills through interviews and focus groups.
• contribute to a project that triangulates methods (focus group discussions, individual
interviews, quantitative survey data);
• join an international research cooperation with University of Vienna, Austria;
• work in an international research group;
• access to the doctoral training offered at UCLouvain;
• participate in conferences and have research stays abroad.

Job description
• The PhD student will focus on the qualitative part of this project, documenting and
analysing the normative discourses (focus groups) and mothers’ life strategies
(individual interviews).
• Preparation of a dissertation
• Publication of research articles and presentations in international conferences
• Integration into the research project’s team through collaboration in research
• Involvement in research administration (e.g., preparation of meetings, workshops,
conferences, managing website…)

Center for Demographic Research (DEMO)
The Center for Demographic Research (DEMO) at the Université Catholique de Louvain
(UCLouvain) belongs to the Institute for the Analysis of Change in Contemporary and Historical
Societies (IACCHOS). DEMO, funded in 1963, is a vibrant medium-size (~ 40 researchers)
research group that gathers population researchers from all over the world. DEMO is
conducting fundamental and applied research in demography around 7 themes: historical and
contemporary demography of Belgium (1), data and method development (2), fertility, family
transformations and gender relations (3), international migration and integration (4),
population and health dynamics in low- and middle-income countries (5), the challenges of
ageing (6), and population, environment and energy (7). The center is known for its organization
of the yearly international Quetelet Seminar and the international Quetelet Journal.
The PhD project will contribute to DEMO’s research theme “Fertility, Family Transformations
and Gender Relations”.


We are looking for candidates with:
• a Master degree in sociology or another relevant social science discipline;
• excellent study grades and CV;
• research skills in qualitative methods;
• excellent knowledge of French;
• Good knowledge of English (minimum C1);
• good writing skills in English;
• a keen interest in family sociology;
• willingness to attend conferences abroad;
• strong conceptual thinking;
• strong motivation, good communicative skills, proactive and independent work attitude;
• strong planning skills, ability to organize own work and related activities, ability to meet
• a great curiosity and enthusiasm for scientific research.
• experiences in conducting group discussions and individual interviews, analyzing
qualitative data, reconstructing normative discourses and subjective meaning;
• experience with softwares for qualitative data analysis (e.g. MaxQDA, nVivo)
• knowledge of German

– Starting date: ideally April or May 2022.
– Duration: 42 months
– Net monthly allowance starts at 2,064.40 €.
We warmly invite you to apply for this vacancy, if you are interested and will have completed
your Master degree before September 2022.
We ask you to submit:
• a motivation letter,
• your complete CV, including the grades obtained during your Master programme and the
names and contact details of two reference persons.
• Candidates who are shortlisted will be asked to submit written work (e.g. MA thesis or
papers) at a later stage.

• You may apply for this position until 28 February 2022 12:00pm.
• Send your application (all documents in one pdf file) to christine.schnor@uclouvain.be,
mentioning in the subject PHD POSITION DEMO 01-2022.
• Interviews with the selection committee will take place in mid-March.

Candidates who want more information about the research project or the recruitment process
should contact christine.schnor@uclouvain.be.