There is widespread evidence that the family has undergone profound social changes in the past decades. However, the interpretations of these changes remain diverse and inconsistent, particularly when it comes to international comparative research. This reinterpretation of the empirical evidence has grown from the co-operation of researchers from ten European countries. It overcomes the limitations of international demographic statistics by using sample surveys and the available register data in order to study the interaction of political,economic, and demographic factors in the changing forms of private lives during the 1980s. The standardized framework connects the macro perspective of national policy peculiarities with the micro perspective of an analysis of the changing living arrangements of two cohorts of women--those startingfamilies and those whose children are leaving home. Thus, the book provides new interdisciplinary insights into country-specific information and tools for specific thematic comparisons. The evidence presented in this study reveals strong and persistent between-nation differences in the ways people adapt their lives, and the choices they have to make between work and family life, to changing circumstances. Confronted with national cultural and political attitudes, as well asdifferences in institutional designs concerning the family, these differences between nations in the priorities of various forms of family life are explained as the reactions of rational actors to various normative orientations and institutional opportunities.