Illustratie van een bruid en bruidegom van Elspeet in 1850
Illustratie van een bruid en bruidegom van Elspeet in 1850

In search of the perfect match

Changing partner preferences and self-descriptions in Dutch matrimonial and contact advertisements, 1845-2000
1 April 2024 until 1 April 2030
Project member(s)
C.L.M. Wienholts (Karin)
Project type

Research on partner choice has traditionally focused on the end-result of the mating process, whereby information on partner preferences is deduced from marriage certificates. Much remains unknown about initial criteria in the mating market and how these changed over time in a context of dominant norms. This study is taking a new perspective by looking at the front-end of the mating process using a unique source that has hardly been applied in historical research before: matrimonial and contact advertisements. The aim of this PhD project is offering new insights into changing patterns of partner choice in a context of broader socio-economic and cultural developments in the Netherlands between 1845 and 2000, while applying this unique source and an innovative mix-methods approach. First, the project will explore the transition from instrumental to romantic partner choice following the emergence of the love-match ideal in England that became internalized in nineteenth-century western countries. The romantic-love and status-attainment hypotheses are tested. Subsequently and guided by social role theory, the study will zoom in on the composition and self-descriptions of the advertisers’ group and gender differences in partner preferences across time. Finally, the emergence of alternative relationship goals and forms other than heterosexual marriage is explored, guided by theory on the Second Demographic Transition from the late 1960s onwards.