Social Control and the Intergenerational Transmission of Age at Marriage in Rural Holland, 1850-1940

By Jan Van Bavel, Jan Kok


This paper focuses on the intergenerational transmission of age at first marriage from mothers to daughters in rural Holland before and during the early stages of the fertility transition. We use a detailed dataset with two generations of marriages stemming from the province of North Holland in the Netherlands. Multilevel models are used to analyse the effect of first-generation family characteristics on second-generation daughters’ ages at first marriage. A crucial advantage compared to conventional family reconstitution studies is that we traced daughters wherever they migrated in the Netherlands. The results clearly indicate that age at first marriage was to some extent transmitted from mothers to daughters. Yet the transmssion effect is not common to all social classes and religious denominations. It is present among the working and middle classes but virtually absent among farmers. It is strong among Protestants but weak among Catholics. These findings support suggestions in the recent literature that family transmission of reproductive behaviour is stronger in societal circumstances with less group pressure and more individual decision-making.

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