Wanted: marriage partner! Partner preferences in newspaper contact adverts in the Netherlands, 1900-1955

Bibi Koekkoek*, Hilde Bras

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

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This study examines romantic and instrumental partner preferences in contact adverts from two Dutch newspapers, the Arnhemsche Courant (N = 283) and the Provinciale Drentsche en Asser Courant (N = 231) between 1900 and 1955. With the spread of the newspaper, contact adverts became a new meeting place. By means of short messages, people could make known that they were looking for a partner to get acquainted or even to marry and describe how their desired person should look like. By analysing how advertisers described themselves and their sought-after partners, insights into the motivations behind partner choice were gained. We identified a number of terms in the ads that could indicate romantic partner preferences, such as age homogamy, openness to regional or social heterogamy, and preferences indicating attraction, personality, and appearance. Similarly, instrumental partner preferences could be gathered from phrases expressing social homogamy (marrying into one’s own social class), parental influences, and the importance of wealth or possessions. The results show that romantic and instrumental considerations in partner preferences co-existed, but that their relative occurrence changed over time. Moreover, differential considerations in partner preference existed according to region, urban or rural residence, social class, religion, and gender. For instance, women’s partner preferences were more instrumental than those of men, while urban women were more likely to place contact adverts than rural women. Widows, widowers, and the divorced more often expressed romantic rather than instrumental partner preferences compared to unmarried men and women.

Originele taal-2English
TijdschriftHistory of the Family
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 5-mrt.-2024

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