International Commission on Couple and Family Relations

2016 Conference Programme



The Enrichment of Family Relationships for the Common Good


Conference languages were English and Italian:

  • Keynotes: The three keynote speeches and all plenary sessions were translated simultaneously from English to Italian and Italian to English.
  • Discussion groups: Each discussion group was held in either English or Italian, without translation. Participants were allocated to groups where the proceedings would be conducted in their own language.
  • Workshops: Each workshop was conducted in either English or Italian, without formal complete translation. The main language was named in the programme. However, each workshop, whether conducted primarily in English or Italian, had a bilingual facilitator to enable all attendees to participate.


Friday, 17 June 2016

Venue: Hall of the Cooperazione Trentina

4.00 pm  5.00 pm: Registration of participants

5.00 pm  7.00 pm: Opening session

Ugo Rossi, President of the Autonomous Province of Trento
Mons. Lauro Tisi, Bishop of Trento
Anne Berger, ICCFR Chairperson
Rita Roberto, Aiccef President
Francesco Belletti, Cisf Director
Gianluigi De Palo, President of the Italian Forum of Family Associations

7.00 pm  10.00 pm: Guided tour of Buonconsiglio Castle and opening dinner

By courtesy of the Buonconsiglio Castle Foundation

Saturday, June 18 2016

Venue: Hall of the Cooperazione Trentina

8.30 am  9.00 am: Registration of participants

9.00 am  10.30 am: FIRST SESSION – social and cultural area

The family as a source of relational goods (and evils) for itself and the community

Key speaker: Pierpaolo Donati, Professor of Sociology of Cultural and Communication Processes, State University of Bologna

Introduction and coordination by: Rita Roberto

Dialogue with the participants

See more on Prof. Donati

Pierpaolo Donati
Current academic position: Professor of Sociology of Cultural and Ccommunication Processes, Pierpaolo Donati teaches in the Bachelor’s degree in Political, International and Social sciences and in the degree in Sociology and Social Services. He is a Board Member of the Political Science School. He is a member of the Board in the Department of Sociology and Economic Law, and Director of the Centre for Studies and Research on Social Innovation (CESIS).

Academic teaching: He has taught at several universities as a professor, in the following subjects: Family Sociology, General Sociology, Sociology Advanced Course, Comparative Social Systems, Sociology of Welfare and Health Sociology. He was Director of the course in Health Sociology and Professor in the Graduate School of Health Sociology and in schools of Social Work. He has given lectures at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Harvard, Stirling, Geneva, Graz, Paris and Warwick. He was coordinator of the PhD in Sociology for 25 years, from its founding until 2012.

Academic research: Prof. Donati has participated in national and international research projects in the European Union. In recent years he has directed national research funded by the CNR, the Italian Ministry of the University, by individual universities, by the central government, by public bodies and regional authorities and by private entities such as foundations and organisations in the third sector.

Editorial positions: He is the founder and editor-in-chief of the journal Sociology and Social Policy (Franco Angeli Publisher, Milan), has led the Bulletin of Studies and Research on the Family, published by CNR, and Interdisciplinary Studies on the Family, and has been on the Board of International Sociology (ISA) and Innovation (Vienna). He is currently a member of many scientific committees for journals such as Studies of Sociology, Sociology, Social Work and the International Review of Sociology.

10.30 am  11.00 am: Coffee break

11.00 am  12.30 pm: SECOND SESSION  institutional and legal area

Supporting family relations for an active citizenship

Key speaker: Carlo Rimini, Professor of Private Law, State University of Pavia

Introduction and coordination by: Anne Berger

Dialogue with the participants

See more on Prof. Rimini

Carlo RiminiCarlo Rimini was born in 1966. He is a member of the Milan Bar Association, to which he was admitted in 1994, and admitted to the Albo degli Avvocati Cassazionisti in 2008.

Carlo is a Full Professor of Private Law at the University of Milan, Department of International, Legal, Historical and Political Studies, and a Professor of Family Law at the University of Pavia. Carlo teaches Family Law at the Law School in Milan, which is jointly organised by the University of Pavia and the Bocconi University of Milan.

Carlo advises on a wide range of family law matters, with a particular focus on international aspects of family and succession law. Carlo Rimini has also been a freelance journalist since 2009 and, as a specialist family lawyer, he is a regular contributor to La Stampa. Prof. Rimini has published a number of articles, papers and monographs on civil law and family law.

Carlo is a fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML).

12.30 pm  1.30 pm: Lunch

Venue: Hall of the Cooperazione Trentina

1.30 pm  2.00 pm: Transfer to the group/workshop locations

2.00 pm  3.30 pm: Discussion groups

3.30 pm  4.00 pm: Coffee break

4.00 pm  6.30 pm: Workshops

  1. Family well-being, social capital and local development. What is the relationship between them? (IT)
    See more details
    The family is a relationship of complete trust and reciprocity between sexes and generations. The “mainstreaming” idea, at the European level, is that this network of relationships produces particularistic goods at the expense of the development of civic value.
    However, many scientific studies show that the family can become a space where resources produced for the individual’s welfare are able to escape from the ‘house walls’ and permeate the social fabric, with a positive impact for the whole community and its territory.
    In order to generate the social capital, it is necessary for its members to invest in the family, and at the same time the family should be capable of significant exchanges with the outside.
    The relations between the inside and the outside of the family must be properly supported, so that those relational goods  trust, reciprocity, reliability, hospitality, etc.  useful to family life and social cohesion can be generated.
    With the help of experts and the presentation of real experiences, the workshop plumbs the complex relationship that exists between the family and the community, as well as the cultural, social, political and economic mechanisms that allow families to develop good relations with the different social actors (government, for-profit companies, no profit organizations, etc.), and to become resources capable of enhancing the quality of life of their environment.
    Luciano Malfer, general manager of the Agency for Family, Birth and Youth Policies of the Autonomous Province of Trento
    Elena Macchioni, School of Political Sciences (Department of Sociology and Economic Law) of the University of Bologna
  2. The role of the counselling centres in developing ‘family empowerment’ (IT)
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    Nowadays, changes in society involve families and create new needs, which must be effectively satisfied by counselling centres. In particular, it is necessary to work on the development of family empowerment. The family is asked to take care of the network of relationships that supports a person’s process of growth and enhances the quality of life in a community.
    In other words, we could say that the family has the task of promoting so-called ‘social capital’. Empowerment aims at improving freedom and family responsibility, by increasing the possibilities of choice and of achieving its goals. Assisting does not mean giving answers, but listening and helping people to listen to themselves.
    In this supporting process, the counselling team helps the family itself to find a way to rebuild its own experience, enhance its resources and nurture new forms of expression.
    In order to make the family progress from its crisis to a new phase, what is needed is a helping relationship aimed at finding those abilities already present in the family unit but still waiting to be set free.
    The point is to look at the family not only through the description of its difficulties, but also and mainly through its resources and potentialities.
    The task of the counselling team is to encourage the family to look for its own solutions, through developing the empowerment of its members, instead of replacing them. In so doing, we can promote in the family a sense of self-determination and the rejection of passive and dependent attitudes.
    This perspective rises from the belief that the family, even in times of trouble, is ‘the expert’ on its life and therefore can – with the assistance of the counselling team – be the most important actor in the process of overcoming its difficulties.
    Francesco Lanatà, Gynaecologist, specialist in medical sexology, La Spezia (Italy); Chairman of UCIPEM, the union of Italian private marriage guidance centres
    Domenico Simeone, Full Professor of Pedagogy of the Family, Catholic University of Milan; Chairman of the Italian confederation of Catholic marriage guidance centres
  3. Happy Hour: A counselling project concerning the couple relationship for antenatal clinic personnel in Finland (EN)
    See more details
    In 2014 the Family Federation of Finland started a ‘Happy Hour’ project, in order to create a new model of help for the young parents who visit antenatal clinics, with the aim of increasing their partnership satisfaction. This model encourages public health nurses to bring up partnership issues with the parents, and their intervention helps parents to think about how well their partner relationship is doing.
    During the project, we conducted surveys among antenatal clinic personnel, both before and after the one-day training that provided them with tools for raising partner relationship issues with parents more actively. The surveys focused on the capacities and the attitudes that personnel had before the training and their feedback after it. Their feedback is currently being used to develop the national training model for antenatal clinics in partner relationship issues. The project provides printed and electronic resources for parents, including literature on a number of topics, videos, online lectures and articles. The service is free of charge.
    Juulia Ukkonen, Expert in couple relationships, Family Federation of Finland
    Osmo Kontula, Ph.D., Research Professor at the Population Research Institute of the Family Federation of Finland.
  4. Facing trauma and shame together (EN)
    See more details
    Trauma, terrorism and violence threaten families and communities to a high degree not seen for decades. This workshop aims to offer an overview of how trauma and shame create a dialectical force that undermines the cross-cultural values that are essential for emotional healing. One of these values is vulnerability, defined as meaning ‘can be easily hurt; open to attack, harm, or damage’. Paradoxically, strong families and communities embrace vulnerability.
    The objective of the workshop is to facilitate thought-provoking exploration of trauma and shame from the viewpoint of a marriage and family counsellor’s experience. Comparisons between Italian and American cultures endeavour to underline the importance of understanding the personal significance of trauma and shame. Vicarious trauma for health care workers is also considered.
    Primary material includes, but is not limited to, B. Brown: Daring Greatly (Penguin Random House, 2012) and J. L. Herman: Trauma and Recovery (Basic Books, 1992) and highlights:
    1. Giving voice to the unspeakable: cross-cultural challenges of vulnerability;
    2. The impact of trauma: cross-cultural challenges of safety/presence;
    3. The impact of shame: cross-cultural challenges of empathy/dignity;
    4. Support groups: cross-cultural challenges of connection/caring.
    Group work will allow participants to share in the practical application of several proposed values.
    Mary Caranita Wolsieffer, Graduate in Sacred Theology, family counsellor, member of the Board of Christian Professional and Pastoral Counsellors (AACC, USA), member and supervisor of AICCEF since 1992
  5. What family policy does Europe need? (EN)
    See more details
    On December 2015, the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture (Poland) published a broad and comprehensive study on the issue of family policy. Many European countries nowadays have serious problems with demographics. Although the family is the basic social unit that should be protected by law (which also implies respect for its autonomy), there are countries and organizations in Europe that do not have or implement any policies based on that principle.
    Therefore, the purpose of this workshop is to raise awareness of the importance of a successful family policy, following the example of European countries with high fertility rates.
    During the first part of the workshop, participants will be asked if they have ever experienced any discrimination based on their family status. During the second part of the workshop, participants will be divided in groups and will be asked to prepare a list of features that are essential to a successful family policy.
    Participants will be provided with fact sheets with short descriptions of family policy in selected European countries.
    Karolina Dobrowolska MA, graduate of the Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warsaw
    Tymoteusz Zych PhD, Coordinator of the Centre for Legislative Analysis, Ordo Iuris Institute
    Olaf Szczypinski, lawyer and theologian, Ordo Iuris Institute
  6. Family associations and family enrichment: how families create social capital (IT)
    See more details
    Family associations are an innovative social phenomenon, which afford the family a double benefit: on one hand, family associations enhance the possibility of representing family interests in the social, economic, political and cultural field; on the other hand, they support the quality of life of families, by the strengthening of family bonds. These informal networks can turn into more formal and structured experiences of self- and mutual help.
    Thus, families increase their capacity to generate valuable social capital and to cope with their challenges and needs, as well as to become active participants in the framing of welfare and family policies and the partners of political and economic decision makers.
    Gianluigi De Palo, President of the Italian Forum of Family Associations
    Other members of family associations

6.30 pm – 7.00 pm: Transfer to MUSE (Science Museum of Trento)

7.00 pm: Guided Tour of MUSE and dinner

 (social event, entry charge payable, mandatory booking)

Sunday, June 19 2016

Venue: Hall of the “Cooperazione Trentina”

8.30 am – 9.00 am: Registration of participants

9.00 am – 10.30 am: THIRD SESSION – Psychological and relational area


Helping relationships and the empowerment of families

Key speaker: Sabine Walper, Professor of Pedagogy, German Youth Institute (DJI), Munich

Introduction and coordination by: Francesco Belletti

Dialogue with the participants

See more on Prof. Walper

Sabine WalperProfessor Sabine Walper PhD is a developmental and family psychologist with a strong interest in interdisciplinary research and its implications for policy and practice. She received her academic training in Düsseldorf and Berlin (Germany) as well as Berkeley, CA (USA) (PhD in 1986 and Habilitation in 1999) and was approved as a psychological psychotherapist in 1999 (approbation). Since 2001 she teaches as Professor of Education at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich (LMU). In 2012 she became research director at the German Youth Institute (DJI) in Munich, whose research informs the German Federal Ministry for Families, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) and seeks to join up perspectives in research, policy and practice. She is one of the principal investigators of the German family panel pairfam (see; funded by the German Research Foundation), for which she directs the assessment programmes in the areas of partnership relations and parenting. Her major research interests focus on families in poverty, children and adolescents in divorced homes and stepfamilies, partnership relations from adolescence to adulthood, co-parenting and child rearing. She is currently President of the German League for the Child. With respect to policy counselling, she is a member of the Scientific Board for Family Issues at the Federal Ministry for Families, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ; since 2002) and a member of the scientific board of the current dialogue established by Chancellor Angela Merkel on the quality of life in Germany (Bürgerdialog Gut Leben in Deutschland). In 2011/2012 she served as scientific coordinator for Chancellor Merkel’s ‘Dialogue on Germany’s Future’.

10.30 am – 11.00 am: Coffee Break and transfer to the group/workshop locations

11.00 am – 12.00 am: Discussion groups

12.00 am –   1.30 pm: Workshops

  1. ‘Servicestelle Netzwerk Familie stärken’: a central service point for institutions supporting families (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany) (EN)
    See more details
    The aim of the workshop is to present structures and institutions supporting families in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz.
    In Rheinland-Pfalz there are several kinds of institutions that focus on supporting families. They are called: family houses/multigeneration houses (Häuser der Familie/ Mehrgenerationenhäuser); family education centres (Familienbildungsstätten); family centres (Familienzentren); and local associations for the family (Lokale Bündnisse für Familie).
    Altogether, there are about 90 such institutions in Rheinland-Pfalz. To promote more communication and exchange between them, especially those that are located in the same town, in 2012 the Government of Rheinland-Pfalz decided to create a central service point, called the Strengthening Families Network (‘Servicestelle Netzwerk Familie stärken’), and gave the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialpädagogische Forschung, Mainz) the task of establishing this project.
    The central service point offers conferences, workshops and courses on different themes to all the institutions supporting families in Rheinland-Pfalz, equipping them with specialized skills and affording the opportunity to exchange experiences. It presents important and up-to-date information on its home page and issues regular newsletters. All the participating institutions can ask the service to provide counselling, for example to develop new projects and follow them through to practical implementation.
    Elisabeth Schmutz, Institute for Socio-Pedagogical Research, Mainz; leader of the ‘Servicestelle Netzwerk Familie stärken’
  2. Work-life reconciliation policies (IT)
    See more details
    In work-life reconciliation policies, the family should be seen as a social unit (just as the sharing of caring responsibilities between spouses should also take place on a financial level), whereas work-life balance services are generally perceived to be of benefit principally to female workers. The current crisis has highlighted how adequate welfare levels are a key element of the social contract, including the contract between enterprises, workers and families. Within the framework of the new wage policies, corporate welfare is an opportunity that could improve the quality of workers’ lives. Corporate welfare programmes, which may offer a variety of ‘socially oriented’ services, could be used by companies to contain and control costs and to retain workers. Indeed, the value of these services is not included in the taxable income of the employees, and accordingly no social security contribution is due.
    The participants in the workshop will be asked to reflect on these themes, with the aim of developing a legislative proposal, on the basis of some objective data:
    – gender differences are apparent in the low rate of female employment and in their more difficult work-life balance;
    – vertical segregation, the pay gap and a fragmented working life place a large burden on social security and pension benefits, which is likely to lead to new poverty in the future.
    Rita Matano, President of the female entrepreneur association Terziario Donna Confcommercio of Trento
  3. Developing family studies as a discipline internationally: the creation of a graduate programme in international family studies (EN)
    See more details
    The Global Consortium for International Family Studies (GCIFS) is an innovative initiative aimed at developing the field of family studies across the globe. In this workshop, a panel of GCIFS representatives will facilitate exploration of the contribution the GCIFS makes to the growth of this field of studies through international collaboration.
    The purposes of the workshop are:
    1) to highlight the significance of the GCIFS initiative to the field of family studies by internationalizing the discipline in terms of teaching, research and outreach;
    2) to share the details of the process of delivering the initiative, in relation to its evolution, the product and the programmatic aspects, as well as the cultural and the academic challenges faced during the development and initial implementation of the programme.
    Panel members will contextualize the GCIFS initiative in terms of the status of family studies in different national contexts. They will also present each of the partners’ stories as a case study of the opportunities and challenges encountered in contributing to the discipline in their contexts.
    The workshop will also focus on the opportunities and the challenges of defining and developing the field in the world. The panel will raise and discuss issues relating to professional roles, agreed curricula and pedagogy in international collaboration, while acknowledging differences in social, economic and education systems.
    Representatives from the Global Consortium for International Family Studies
    Members: Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India; University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia; University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA
  4. Reflections on the contemporary de- and re-construction of family (EN)
    See more details
    The contemporary discourse about the co-existence of people in family and social connections is dominated by some inherent contradictions. There is first of all the independent individual, who is aware of his or her rights to a good quality of life, and his or her duties (especially economic), but who has an increasingly critical attitude towards the family. This situation creates great variability and many differences in family structures. A man can marry a man, a woman can marry a woman, and they can form a family and have children. The individual reserves to him-/herself the right not only of choosing the members of his family (in Western society, the choice is often based on love) but also of ending the family relationship if love ends. The divorce rate in Western society is between 30% and 50%, resulting in a lot of reconstituted families and more and more stepfathers and stepmothers. The genetic affinity between generations is no longer the cornerstone of a relationship based on care and ethics.
    Thus, social coherence, which during the postwar period allowed Europe to evolve from prosperity to welfare, is under pressure. In addition, we see quite a few of these tensions and contradictions popping up in the domain of youth care. In the workshop, ‘What do we know?’ and ‘What can we do?’ will be the guiding questions. We will also examine if there are initiatives that go against these trends, what their characteristics are and if they work.
    Jean Pierre Vanhee, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels
    Caroline Vrijens, postgraduate in European and International Law and in Management in the social profit and public sector; Policy officer for the Flemish Government Agency of Youth Welfare
  5. From family to family: the meeting of different cultures. Families hosting refugees and their families (IT)
    See more details
    Migrations are strongly challenging many developed and ‘rich’ countries (Italy, the whole of Europe, USA and others), having a very strong impact from the political, economic and social point of view.
    Many different and complex answers have been adopted in various contexts. In Italy, one of the most innovative projects involves families hosting one or more asylum seekers in their homes and including them in their daily family life. These projects are usually organized through non-profit organizations, with economic and juridical support from local authorities.
    The workshop will discuss the idea that the family environment is a strategic resource for promoting more effective integration between people from different cultures, and whether this is true not only for migrant people but also for the hosting population.
    Francesco Belletti, sociologist, Director of the International Centre for Family Studies (CISF)
    Roberto Maurizio, Social worker, Paideia Foundation, coordinator of the project ‘Giving a Family to a Family’
  6. Marital and family consultancy as accompaniment, support and guidance throughout the whole lifecycle of the couple and the family (IT)
    See more details
    Marital and family consultancy is a social and educational intervention based on active listening and non-judgment. It focuses on respect for individuals, on their acceptance and on the creation of a warm and empathetic relational climate. This type of counselling is more centred on the couple and family well-being than on their discomfort and suffering; more on prevention than on treatment; more on mental health rather than on pathology. Through a methodology that favours dialogue, good communication and relationship, people are helped to be active participants in their lives, to make up their minds by themselves, to make choices and to mobilize their resources to find and go their own way.
    Marital and family consultancy develops through several areas:
    – a general area of training, aiming at the creation and maintenance of a dynamic state of well-being for the individual, the couple, the family and society;
    – preventing future tension, based on capitalizing on the experience brought into the counselling setting and its analysis and re-processing thee;
    – reworking of non-pathological discomfort (pathology belongs, of course, to psychotherapy), operating, as previously stated, from the here-and-now of the client, assisting him or her in activating his or her own conscious resources.
    The workshop will include theoretical sections, with a slide presentation, as well as practical activities.
    Rita Roberto, educator, marital and family consultant, President of AICCeF (Italian association of family counsellors)
    Raffaello Rossi, teacher, marital and family consultant, Vice-president of AICCeF, director of the School of Education in Marital and Family Counselling, Bologna

1.30 pm – 2.30 pm: Transfer and lunch

Venue: Hall of the ‘Cooperazione Trentina’

2.30 pm – 4.30 pm: ‘Mandala Labyrinth’

A dynamic and interactive session to close the Conference.

By courtesy of AICCeF