Intermarriage Attitude among Ethnic Minority and Majority Groups in the Netherlands: The Role of Family Relations and Immigrant Characteristics

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Ethnic distance refers to the extent to which people wish to avoid contact with members of ethnic out-groups (Bogardus, 1959). Kinship by marriage is one of the most intimate relationships and, therefore, the domain of life with the highest distance between ethnic groups in society. Marriage is an intimate and often long-term relationship and ethnic intermarriage indicates close interactions across ethnic group boundaries. Factors related to intermarriage have been studied intensively (e.g., Blau, Beeker, and Fitzpatrick, 1984; Kalmijn, 1998; Qian, 1997). Next to opportunities for contacts and third party restrictions, preferences and attitudes towards intermarriage play an important role (Kalmijn, 1998). In this study we study the attitude towards ethnic intermarriage among majority and minority groups in the Netherlands. We focus on the role of family relations and on immigrant characteristics of different ethnic minority groups.

Most studies on ethnic distance do not include the perspective of both majority and minority group members. However, to fully understand inter-ethnic relations and their social consequences, the views of both sides need to be examined (Kalmijn, 1998). Hence, we focus on the majority group of the Dutch and on the numerically four largest minority groups: Turkish-Dutch, Moroccan-Dutch, Surinamese-Dutch and Antillean-Dutch. We examine the intermarriage attitude of the ethnic Dutch towards the ethnic minority groups and the intermarriage attitude of the four minority groups towards the Dutch.

We investigate the association between current family relations and the intermarriage attitude. Existing research on family influences is mainly concerned with the socialization of ethnic attitudes and the inter generational transmission of social positions from parents to their children (see Fishbein, 2002; Vollebergh, ledema, and Raaijmakers, 2001). However, there is also the possible impact of the current family on the intermarriage attitude. Family cohesion as well as the endorsement of conservative family values might go together with the rejection of ethnic out-groups as kin by marriage. It is also possible, however, that warm and supportive family relations lead to more acceptance of ethnic intermarriage via a higher generalized sense of trust and higher psychological well-being (Glanville and Paxton, 2007).

Few studies have examined variations in ethnic distance between different ethnic minority groups. These groups, however, are heterogeneous with respect to language proficiency, education, religion, cultural values and traditions. In this study, we examine to what extent immigrant characteristics relate to the intermarriage attitude when we take relevant socioeconomic and cultural factors into account. Using insights from theories on integration and assimilation we derive hypotheses on the relation between immigrant characteristics and the intermarriage attitude. Researchers of immigrant integration have emphasized the importance of generation, length of stay, language proficiency, and migration motives for the socio-cultural integration in the host society (CBS, 2008; Dietz, 2000; Hwang, Saenz, and Aguirre, 1997; Kalmijn, 1998; Lieberson and Waters, 1988), but it is unclear whether these characteristics are associated with the attitude towards ethnic intermarriage.

Immigrants in the Netherlands

In the last decades, the Netherlands has experienced a large influx of immigrants. Around 10% of the total 16.4 million inhabitants of the Netherlands originate from non-Western countries, with the majority coming from Islamic countries such as Turkey (373.000) and Morocco (335.000), or from the former Dutch colonies of Suriname (336.000) and the Dutch Antilles (132.000) (CBS, 2008). Most migrants from these groups are first generation migrants, varying from 50% for the Surinamese to 60% for the Antilleans (CBS, 2008). In the early 1960s, Dutch industry started recruiting migrant labor on quite a large-scale. …