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John E. Knodel photo

The Decline of Remarriage: Evidence from German Village Populations in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Publication Abstract

Knodel, John E., and K.A. Lynch. 1985. "The Decline of Remarriage: Evidence from German Village Populations in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries." Journal of Family History, 10(1): 34-59.

Family reconstitution data for fourteen German village populations permit the examination of remarriage during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The results provide compelling evidence for a secular decline in the tendency to remarry. Pronounced age and sex differentials in the likelihood of remarriage were evident: widows were far less likely to remarry than widowers, and the probability of remarriage declined rapidly with age, particularly for women. The probability of remarriage was also inversely associated with the number and age of children. There were, however, no clear differences in either the probability of remarriage or its tendency to decline over time among major occupational groups. The decline in remarriage probabilities was caused in part by declines in adult mortality, which gradually raised the ages of surviving spouses to levels at which remarriage has historically been rather unlikely. However, age-specific marriage probabilities also declined, affecting both men and women and all occupational groups, suggesting the presence of a social change of wide scope. Some comments on possible factors contributing to the decline of remarriage are presented. The need for a comprehensive explanation of remarriage trends and differentials remains an important challenge for family historians.

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