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From hardship to benefit: A critical review of the nuclear hardship theory in relation to the emergence of the European Marriage Pattern


  • Annemarie Bouman

    () (Utrecht University)

  • Jaco Zuijderduijn
  • Tine De Moor


In this paper we address several issues, all with the underlying intention of refining and reorienting the nuclear-hardship-debate. There is a need for such reorientation of the debate as several indicators show that the long-term outcome of this process towards a society built upon nuclear households has not lead to more hardship, quite the contrary. Nor would it be fair to claim that this outcome has to be thanked entirely to top-down provisions, and then in particular via charity. In this article we stress the institutional diversity of the solutions for hardship, and we hereby focus on one particular group in society, namely the elderly. We will demonstrate that elderly had more “agency” than is usually expected and that a combination of institutional arrangements besides the top-down provisions in which the elderly participated actively offered more resilience in society to deal with the so-called “hardship”.

Suggested Citation

  • Annemarie Bouman & Jaco Zuijderduijn & Tine De Moor, 2012. "From hardship to benefit: A critical review of the nuclear hardship theory in relation to the emergence of the European Marriage Pattern," Working Papers 0028, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0028

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    Cited by:

    1. Anita Boele & Tine de Moor, 2018. "‘Because family and friends got easily weary of taking care’: a new perspective on the specialization in the elderly care sector in early modern Holland," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(2), pages 437-463, May.
    2. Silvana Maubrigades, 2015. "Connections between women`s age at marriage and social and economic development," Documentos de trabajo 39, Programa de Historia Económica, FCS, Udelar.
    3. Zuijderduijn, Jaco, 2016. "The Ages of Women and Men : Life Cycles, Family and Investment in the Fifteenth-Century Low Countries," Lund Papers in Economic History 150, Lund University, Department of Economic History.

    More about this item


    European Marriage Pattern; agency; institutions; nuclear household;

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