Parents’ attitudes to their children’s partner choice: a century of change

Population and Societies

588, April 2021

How has the parents’ role in their children’s choice of partner evolved since the early 20th century in France? Analysing three surveys conducted over the last 60 years, Milan Bouchet- Valat and Sébastien Grobon retrace the rise of love marriages and the expansion of partner searches at the expense of matches supervised by the family. While parents are more tolerant of their children’s choice of partner than they were 50 years ago, their more liberal attitude follows a long period of mounting tension that culminated around 1968.

The influence of family on children’s partner choice has been declining since the beginning of the 20th century, leading first to more frequent parental disagreement from 1920 to 1970, then to growing tolerance. Love marriage has risen, and mutual attraction has taken precedence over social status. Partner searches have expanded outside the neighbourhood and family sphere, and parents have become increasingly tolerant of partners from other social backgrounds. 

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