Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Intermarriages between Germans and Foreigners in Germany

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Intermarriages between Germans and Foreigners in Germany

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Since the end of World War II the German Federal Republic has been a country of permanent immigration. Germany is comparable with other classical immigration countries in respect to the migration of fugitives (Fluhtlinge) and expelled (Vertriebene), which was completed by the end of the SOs. However, Germany has experienced a continuous immigration and permanent presence of foreign groups in the following sequence: first the occupying forces of the allies, then the foreign guest workers, and finally the applicants for political asylum. All members of these groups were not regarded as immigrants politically, and therefore could keep their national identity.

The occurrence of marriage between immigrants and natives can be regarded as a measurement of assimilation and integration. Family relationships are indicative of the social and cultural proximity to or distance from the various immigrants. Moreover, it is a measure for the openess of the respective society and an indicator of the formation of ethnic subgroups and possible conflicts resulting from this situation. Binational family relationships have an impact on the social structure of Germany. Empirical studies, which examine marital relationships between members from ethnic minorities and members from the native majority, have a long tradition in classical immigration countries such as the United States (i.e. Drachsler, 1921; Bossard, 1939; Panunzio, 1941/42; Kennedy, 1944; Barron, 1946; Mol, 1970; Gurak and Kritz, 1978; Gurak and Fitzpatrick, 1982). In Germany, there are still only a few studies (Miiller, 1950,1952, Ruckert et al., 1979:101; Buba et al., 1984; Kane and Stephen, 1988). Except for the studies of family integration of the expelled Germans (Miller, 1950, 1952), the research in Germany focuses less often on ethnicity or national origin than on the current citizenship.

In line with this tradition, this article analyses both the process of choosing a partner before marriage, and the marital relationships between Germans and foreigners. Since most migrants were politically not defined as immigrants and there had been high barriers in obtaining the German citizenship one can find the national origin as well as the.ethnic and linguistic affiliation can usually be identified in this connection.

Both marital relationships, and relationships of the non-marital partners, may be interpreted as a 'strong' indicator of the integration of foreign nationalities in the area of private life. Binational marriages are not only an indicator of assimilation but also a mechanism to foster assimilation (Pagnini and Morgan, 1990: 406). However, one has to take into consideration choices of partners between Germans and foreigners therefore must not be misinterpreted as a lack of integration into the German society. For this reason, the present study focuses not only on the marriages but also on the non-marital choice of partner: the choice of the nonmarital partner and of the partner with whom one does not live together at present.

The objective of the current study is to describe the most important developments of the German/foreign choice of partners in Germany, including the various nationalities and the forms of choosing a partner either by marriage or by non-marital cohabition. The study examines the extent to which the development of the German/foreign choice of partner is based upon various and differing sizes of foreign groups of society or upon other factors such as assimilation, cultural convergence and individual motives.

THEORIES OF INTERMARRIAGE BETWEEN GERMANS AND FOREIGNERS

Opportunity Structures

In the literature, there are different patterns of explanation for the binational choice of partners. A prominent pattern of explanation is the reference to structural factors, that is, to the opportunities to get to know a partner of the same or of another nationality. These opportunities are in the first place depending on (1) the size of the group of foreign groups of society, (2) the proportion of male and female in the foreign groups of society as well as (3) other subdivisions of the marriage market (see Surra, 1990; South, 1991; Fossett and Kiecolt, 1993). …

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