MPIDR Working Paper

Social change and family change in a Central European urban context: Rostock 1819-1867

Szołtysek, M., Gruber, S., Scholz, R. D., Zuber Goldstein, B.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2009-039, 61 pages (December 2009).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Keywords: German Empire, family demography, historical demography, urban population


This study is informed by competing perspectives on family behaviour in periods of turbulent social change, and intends to provide some fresh insights into the effect of macro-level changes on micro-level processes involving the family. In this pilot study, we take our first step towards analysing the impact of developing urban-industrial life on the family system in the northern German city of Rostock. A variety of quantitative approaches are employed to capture long-term changes in household structure and composition, household formation rules and patterns of leaving home in this historic Hanseatic community in two census years, 1819 and 1867. Overall, we can observe rather stable patterns for both the 1819 and 1867 censuses, with only small shifts away from more “traditional” towards more “modern” patterns of the family. Interestingly, the persistence of the family pattern in Rostock rested primarily on the continuity of nuclear family-centred patterns of co-residence. We were neither able to find evidence of a significant deterioration in the traditional pattern of the extended-family household, nor could we prove that a progressive nuclearisation of the family in Rostock took place between 1819 and 1867.