At a time when parliaments around the world are debating the issue of same-sex marriage, as Dutch scholars we would like to draw attention to the state of marriage in the Netherlands. The undersigned represent various academic disciplines in which marriage is an object of study.
Through this letter, we would like to express our concerns over recent trends in marriage and family life in our country.
Until the late 1980s, marriage was a flourishing institution in the Netherlands. The number of marriages was high, the number of divorces was relatively low compared to other Western countries, and the number of illegitimate births also was low. It seems, however, that legal and social experiments in the 1990s have had an adverse effect on the reputation of man's most important institution.
Over the past fifteen years, the number of marriages has declined substantially, both in absolute and in relative terms. In 1990, 95,000 marriages were solemnized (6.4 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants); by 2003, this number had dropped to 82,000 (5.1 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants).
This same period also witnessed a spectacular rise in the number of illegitimate births. In 1989 one in ten children were born out of wedlock (11 percent); by 2003, that number had risen to almost one in three (31 percent). The number of never-married people grew by more than 850,000, from 6.46 million in 1990 to 7.32 million in 2003.
People seem to attach less and less importance to marriage. More people are having children out of wedlock, even though marriage is the best setting for successfully raising a child. There is a broad base of social and legal research that shows marriage to be the best structure for the successful raising of children. A child of out-of-wedlock parents has a greater chance of experiencing problems in his or her psychological development, health, school performance, and even the quality of future relationships.
Read the entire article on the Heritage Foundation website.