From hardship to benefit: A critical review of the nuclear hardship theory in relation to the emergence of the European Marriage Pattern

Bouman, A., Zuijderduijn, J. and De Moor, T.

In this paper we address several issues, all with the underlying intention of refining and reorienting the nuclear-hardship-debate. There is a need for such reorientation of the debate as several indicators show that the long-term outcome of this process towards a society built upon nuclear households has not lead to more hardship, quite the contrary. Nor would it be fair to claim that this outcome has to be thanked entirely to top-down provisions, and then in particular via charity. In this article we stress the institutional diversity of the solutions for hardship, and we hereby focus on one particular group in society, namely the elderly. We will demonstrate that elderly had more “agency” than is usually expected and that a combination of institutional arrangements besides the top-down provisions in which the elderly participated actively offered more resilience in society to deal with the so-called “hardship”.