Ruut Veenhoven, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Presented at the third annual convention of the International Psycho Historical Association, June 1980, New York
The hypothesis here advanced is that in the Western world a historical process of ‘psychological differentiation’ has taken place. It is suggested that individuals have become more complex psychologically, that greater inter-individual psychological differences have emerged, and that the adult psychological development has become less predictable. The process is presumed to have started at the end of the Middle Ages and to have developed at an increasing rate, being most forceful at the present time. Support for these assumptions is presented. Next, on the basis of these assumptions, new explanations of some historical changes in the field of marriage and family life are put forward. It is shown that the increase in intimacy and in privatisation as well as the decrease of household size and of marital stability can to some extent be understood to be the result of a growing psychological differentiation.