Dutch - Marriage and Family

Marriage. In preindustrial society, marriage was possible only after acquiring economic independence. The rural Population and urban craftsmen used to marry at a later age. The choice of a marriage partner followed endogamous preference. People married within the same occupational sector or social group, the same religious or political pillar, or at least the same village or age group. Maintaining and increasing wealth were crucial motives in arranging marriages among the aristocracy and freeholding farmers. Among urban craftsmen there was more opportunity for individual choice than among the propertied classes. Romantic love was the basis of Marriage more often among the urban population than among the rural.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is a typical Dutch phenomenon. The Dutch even have a special word for it: gezin. The stem family has never been of any significance in the Netherlands, not even in the rural areas. Since the nineteenth century the concept of the nuclear family has been Invested with strong moral feelings. State policy was aimed at fostering and protecting the nuclear family; extramarital relations were condemned as deviant and antisocial. After World War II, several factors—including the emancipation of women, a decline in the number of household members, and an increase in the number of single-member households—resulted in more people living together without marriage, more children being born outside marriage, and more Marriages ending in divorce.

Inheritance. In Dutch rural society it was common that one of the children, usually the oldest son, inherited the patrimony. Impartible inheritance was both customary and legally mandated. Among the urban bourgeoisie—where money, not land, was involved—the children were more equally treated when it came to inheritance. The bourgeois pattern has become the prevailing standard in modern society.

Socialization. As early as the seventeenth century, the urban middle classes began to treat children not as small adults but as members of a different age group, with their own wants and needs. This attitude became standard in the nineteenth century, partly because of the increasing use of contraceptive measures, which resulted in a decreasing birthrate within the nuclear family and a consequent increase in the time and attention that could be spent on individual Children. A number of factors contributed to this concern with keeping the family size small. One powerful incentive was the high cost of raising the next generation. A good education and dowry had come to be considered necessary expenses. Moreover, providing loving care for a child required an enormous effort that could not be bestowed on an unlimited number of offspring. This attitude first emerged among the urban middle classes, who increasingly did not require married women to work outside the home. Thus, middle-class women were able to give much attention to their domestic and maternal tasks. The life cycle of children changed: the interval Between puberty and marriage was recognized as a special stage in life.

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