Determinants of divorce in nineteenth-Century Flanders

Koen Matthijs, Anneleen Baerts, Bart Van De Putte

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    20 Citations (Scopus)


    In 1830, the year Belgium became independent, there were four divorces in Belgium. From about 1870 to 1910, there were about one hundred divorces per year, and since 1910, there have been about 1,000. The aim of this research is to investigate the factors that played a role in the increase in the number of divorces in Belgium in the course of the nineteenth century. The research relates to information from four Flemish municipalities for the period 1800-1913. Results indicate that an explanation of the rising divorce rate can be sought in the psychological and social consequences of the more pronounced shift in marriage, gender, and family expectations. Increasing numbers of women threw themselves more and more into their gender-specific expressive gender role, whereas the objective opportunities and attainability of this role did not increase commensurately. The result was role strain: high marriage and family expectations soon come up against intrinsic limitations. As a result of this, both individual and general frustration increased, and this was an ideal social substratum for facilitating divorce.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)239-261
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of Family History
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • divorce
    • Belgium
    • historical demography
    • nineteenth century


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