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Call for papers: “Whatever Happened to Hajnal’s Line. ‘East-European’ Family Patterns, Historical Context and New Developments


Guest editor: Cristina Bradatan (Texas Tech University)

THE JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE FAMILY STUDIES hereby invites contributions for a special issue on the topic: “‘East-European’ Family Patterns, Historical Context and New Developments”

More than forty years ago, John Hajnal introduced the notion of an ‘European’ pattern of marriage/ household, characterized by high age at marriage, women and men working as servants before marriage and establishing their own households upon marriage. He called this pattern ‘European’ for brevity, although it applies only to the Northwestern Europe, west of an imaginary line connecting ‘Leningrad’ (Saint Petersburg) to Trieste.

Interestingly enough, Hajnal’s line followed quite closely the Iron Curtain, then dividing Europe into capitalist and socialist societies. As Churchill put it in a speech he gave at Westminster College, Missouri, in 1946, an iron curtain has descended after the World War II ‘from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic’. Within a larger context of ideas, the 1950s – 1960s were the times when Rostov’s theory of modernization was quite popular in the academic world. Hajnal’s line brought to life the older Weberian idea that the West is somehow different (in this case, in terms of family formation patterns) and it might very well be that the other regions of the world would not follow a similar route, anytime soon, simply because their history followed a different path.

Although the notion of a ‘Western’ as opposed to ‘Eastern’ type of family is currently related to Hajnal’s work, his research relied on the studies coming from the Cambridge Group for the Population History, and, in particular, from Peter Laslett and Peter Czap. Eastern European countries, falling East of the Hajnal’s line, were characterized as having a non-European household formation system. The concept of an ‘European pattern’ of family formation remained popular over the years, to such an extent that even today a Google search returns more than 11,000 hits for this concept.

In the meantime, however, a series of political, social and economic changes affected Eastern Europe and the whole notion of a Western versus Eastern type of household/family seems to have taken a different path. First, in his earliest article on the topic (1965), Hajnal defined this pattern as unstable, since he saw the post-WWII Europe as moving toward an earlier age at (and high rates of) marriage. Secondly, studies on Eastern European countries initially excluded from the ‘European’ marriage group yielded unexpected results. Multi-generation households are a rarity in these countries (Botev, 1990) and age at marriage presents high variation between different regions of Eastern Europe (Sklar,1974), making it difficult to simply divide Europe into an ‘European’ and ‘Non-European’ type of household. Thirdly, Ruggles (2009) using data from 97 historical and contemporary censuses, argues that, when variables such as demographic structure and level of agricultural employment are taken into account, the ‘Western’ family pattern does not seem to be an exceptional case anymore.

This special issue proposes a discussion of the validity of an ‘Eastern’ versus ‘Western’ type of family as a distinct analytic category in family studies in Europe. Specifically, we seek to address, among others, the following questions:

– How useful is this distinction nowadays within the European context?

– Does history continue to play an important role in shaping the household and family characteristics in Eastern as opposed to Western Europe?

– Is there (has ever been) an Eastern European pattern of family?

– Do countries from Eastern Europe have a common family pattern?

– How are they different from the Western European ones?

– How does history shape family systems in Eastern Europe?

– How have the post-1990s changes affected the family ties in these countries?

– How relevant is Hajnal’s line today?

Rather than separate case studies, a comparative (in terms of time span, between countries of the region or in comparison with other regions) and interdisciplinary perspective is preferred.

For the purposes of this special issue, Eastern Europe is considered to include Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and former Yugoslavian countries.

Deadline for submissions: November 1, 2010
This special issue is scheduled for 2012.
Please submit your contributions to: (with “For JCFS issue” in the subject line). Please allow at least 4-6 months for the review process and editorial decisions. Receipt of materials will be confirmed by email in a matter of days.

1. All submissions should be in English.

When using e-mail, articles must be put into the MICROSOFT WORD format. Include: a TITLE PAGE with your name, title of article, and affiliation with complete postal mailing address, telephone number, and email address. NO pdf files please.
Manuscripts should be usually about 5000 words (20-30 pages), line spacing 1-1/2, text in Times Roman, font 12. It must have an English Abstract of about 250 words on a separate page. MAIN headings should be UPPER-CASE, bold lettering and centered. Sub-Headings are in bold and lower-case. Subset headings in Italics, not bold.
Any ‘Notes’ must be Endnotes, placed at the end of the text on a separate page.
Each Table, or Figure, must be camera ready, or done on a laser printer, very clear, each on a separate page at the very end of the entire manuscript after the references, etc. Always indicate at the exact place within the text where it is to go, i.e., „Table 2 about here,” „Figure 1 about here”. (Note: Publishing done only in black/white.)

REFERENCES: Each listed reference must be cited within the text, and vice versa. Single spaced, no indentations, with one blank line between each reference listed. Follow the American Psychological Association (APA) reference style guide (except follow #3 above as your Footnote example). For information on APA Editorial Style, please go to

For more information on manuscript preparation, please go to:

We look forward to your submissions! Sincerely,

Cristina Bradatan
Guest Editor – Journal for Comparative Family Studies
Assistant professor of Sociology, Texas Tech University