Using a unique database containing detailed household information of more than 30,000 Dutch children (1850-1909), we compare infant and child mortality in the 'stem family' region of Eastern Netherlands to mortality in the 'nuclear family' northwestern part of the country. We elaborate on the relation between household structure and mortality by adapting the model proposed by Mosley and Chen. We study the impact of different types of co-resident kin (grandparents, siblings, uncles and aunts) in 'normal' situations (both parents alive) and 'crisis' situations (one or both parents absent). Our findings confirm that intact three-generation families - which were found mainly in the stem region - were beneficial for young children, provided there were not too many young children. In the nuclear area, co-residence with grandparents was an efficient way to counteract family crises. In the stem family region, this 'safety valve'function ofhouseholds was less conspicuous. Overall, however, kin functioned in the same way in both regions, with some kin (especially grandparents) playing an altruistic role, having a positive effect on child survival, and other kin competing for resources and diminishing the survival chances of infants and children.
Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis
Department of History

de Kok, J.M.P, Vandezande, M, & Mandemakers, C.A. (2011). Household structure, resource allocation and child well-being: A comparison across family systems. Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis, 8(4), 76–101. Retrieved from