The direction of family changes since the1960s in Western, Northern and Southern Europe is well known. The events in the late 1980s in Eastern Europe were of major historical importance and undoubtedly brought the distinctive changes into the life courses and reproductive behaviour of populations in these regions. In Ron Lesthaeghe's words: What is leading to the quest for democracy in Eastern Europe also paved the way for the second demographic transition (Lesthaeghe 1995, p. 58).
Young generations were especially flexible in an adaptation to complex social and economic changes. In our presentation we focus on recent demographic changes in the Czech Republic, particularly on early life transitions among Czech women. The analysis distinguishes the development of demographic variables in two periods: before 1990 and in the1990s. We combine data from two sources: vital statistics collected and published by Czech Statistical Office and Fertility and Family Survey 1997. We use basic demographic analysis, life table technique and analysis of survey data.
In the centre of our interest are these issues:
How the complex changes in social and economic environment influenced reproductive behaviour and early life transitions of women during the 1990s? Were the 1990s distinctive breaking period in demographic behaviour? Can we observe clear period effects in recent demographic changes?
By the use of schemes we illustrate the functioning of the socialist greenhouse environment, and the influences of political, social and economic changes in the 1990s on life-cycle transitions and demographic behaviour of Czech population. Different theoretical approaches are connected with changes in particular demographic processes and specific life domains.
To answer these questions we analyse life transitions of young Czech women. This analysis focuses on:
- Union formation: choice between cohabitation and marriage; the role of cohabitation
- Contraceptive behaviour and abortions
- Pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes of teenage women
- First births
- Premarital conceptions and nonmarital births
Many life-cycle transitions have become more frequent, less strictly patterned, and more complex. Behavioural changes in the1990s, such as destandardisation and pluralisation of family forms, are similar to changes experienced in Northern and Western European countries since the 1960s. Selected life transitions among Czech women were documented by the Fertility and Family Survey 1997. We compare life transitions of three generations that lived their early stages of family formation and childbearing in different social and economic situation.
Two final questions are:
- Who are the pioneers of new behaviour?
- Is it possible to identify the breaking generations?
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