Our Changing Culture: The mainstream family, and emergence of and non-traditional families and their role in society


The Center for Research and Study of the Family at the University of Haifa was established in 1986 to promote research on families in Israel, the development of the family unit and the way in which the family contributes to the growth of individuals and their ability to function in society.  In response to the recent social, cultural, economic and political developments that are affecting the institution of the family,  the Center is poised to expand its research agenda to include new perspectives and creative thinking on the dynamics and changing role of the modern family.

Israel is a small country marked by cultural diversity, shaped by massive waves of immigration from more than seventy countries around the world.  It is a country with a mix of Jewish and Arab populations and is characterized by many languages, traditional family patterns existing alongside modern lifestyles. It is a nation influenced by Western culture existing together with a Middle-Eastern heritage, including values and practices ranging from highly orthodox religious perspectives to secular ways of life.  The study of families in Israel, must include the great diversity within this society–the uniqueness of various family lifestyles within different ethnic and religious groups.

Today, traditional concepts of families are being redefined.  New-family forms now include lesbian mother and gay father families, solo mother families and families created by assisted reproduction procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), donor insemination, egg donation and surrogacy.  The Center's research aims to broaden public and professional understanding of diversity in family life and inform legislators and policy makers around the world about the needs of new families.

Unique in its subject matter and approach in Israel, the multidisciplinary Center provides a professional forum for research and academic activities for members from diverse backgrounds, including social workers, psychologists and sociologists. The Center is staffed by senior researchers with diverse fields of expertise. Faculty members train and supervise University of Haifa's graduate students and young scholars.

Headed by Prof. Adital Ben Ari of the Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences School of Social Work, the Center serves as an academic hub for developing new research perspectives and generating knowledge on family life in its new forms, internal and external relationships, challenges and coping patterns. The Center's activities will further deepen the connection between theory and practice and encourage cross-fertilization between academic knowledge and experiential knowledge in Israel and around the world.

The Center's research focuses on the following areas:

I.      Alternative family frameworks

II.    Families and disabilities

III.  Family, community and educational systems

IV.  Family and war: families living in war zones Families in a multi-cultural society