Abundant evidence suggests that the family and family-related values enjoy approval in all social groups and age cohorts. Three-quarters of Austrians hold that they need a family to be happy (Schulz 1996); results from the Family and Fertility Survey 1996 indicate that nine out of ten Austrians (but only three-fourths of Germans) between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-nine would like to see more weight given to family life in the future (Fux and Pfeiffer 1999). Austrians also view the traditional nuclear family as the standard, that is, family defined as a social group consisting of a man and a woman (married to each other) as parents and their children. Asked about the ideal family size, almost two-thirds of Austrians prefer two children, with almost another third favoring three children; only 1 percent consider childlessness as the best way of life. Around 80 percent in the Population Policy Acceptance Survey view the increasing number of divorces as a negative trend in society. However, Austrians view divorces between childless couples much less negatively, and a great majority opposes more restrictive divorce laws.
Compared to other European societies, Austrians appear to hold conservative attitudes toward abortion and divorce. Furthermore, according to the European Value Study, they give greater support to the traditional separation of gender roles and the homemaker role for mothers. At the same time, they highly appreciate the financial aspect of women's contribution to household income. There seems to be broad agreement—even among the older generation—that married women should be working outside home in the period between the wedding and the birth of the first child, as well as in the period after the children have left school. However, Austrians remain conservative about employment outside the home for women with small children. More than 80 percent agree that pre-school children suffer when their mothers are employed for pay (Fux and Pfeiffer 1999).
A large majority of Austrians disapprove of abortion (between 83% and 67% in various surveys)—which can be legally performed within the first three months of pregnancy if the mother is unmarried or the couple does not want any more children. A minority of one-third oppose abortion in case of an expected birth defect.
Thus, Austrians' subjective attitudes could not be much more positive toward marriage and family, albeit defined in a rather traditional mode. At the same time, the evidence suggests a wide variety of existing living arrangements, including consensual unions and couples living apart together— i.e., married couples and families maintaing separate households. It also points to a growing number of more complex family forms, including continuation marriages—i.e., remarriage and the formation of a new family following divorce and family disruption—and middle-aged unmarried couples with children from previous relationships.