Families navigating macroeconomic hard times: the experiences of Portuguese emerging adults and their parents in the aftermath of the Great Recession

Gabriela Fonseca*, Daniela Lourenço, Rita Francisco, Carla Crespo, Ana Paula Relvas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Amidst today’s complex financial world, understanding how family adaptation may be fostered in contexts of macroeconomic adversity is paramount. The present qualitative study sought to investigate how Portuguese families with emerging adult children have been managing macroeconomic-related demands since the Great Recession. Specifically, we aimed at uncovering the processes that may have facilitated their adaptation to macroeconomic stress over the last decade. Fourteen two-parent families with at least one emerging adult child (N = 48 participants) participated in semi-structured interviews in late 2010s. Thematic analysis yielded three key themes: (i) Appraisal, capturing family beliefs regarding their macroeconomic contexts since early to late 2010s; (ii) Demands and Impact, reflecting the macroeconomic challenges with which families were confronted; (iii) Capabilities, including coping behaviors – such as financial cutbacks implemented during the recession – and resources – such as family cohesion and parental emotional and instrumental support to emerging adults – that facilitated families’ demand management, potentially constituting key family processes in resilience during macroeconomic hard times. Despite their positive adaptation to macroeconomic demands during the most complicated years of recession, families continued to perceive great instability in their macroeconomic contexts in late 2010s, displaying concerns related to the future of emerging adults. These results highlighted that macroeconomic crises entail long-lasting impacts for individuals and families, alerting researchers, clinicians and politicians to the increased challenges currently faced by young people and their families. In addition, findings from this study can inform clinical practice and the development of multisystemic interventions aiming at helping financially stressed families.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-326
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Family adjustment and adaptation
  • Family resilience
  • Families with emerging adult children
  • Joint family interviews
  • Macroeconomic crisis
  • Macroeconomic demands


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