Changes in Family Relationships between the Sixteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

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Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries there were several factors which affected family relationships. The most influential of these factors are geography, economic conditions, and religion. While geography and economic conditions certainly played a role in the dynamics of family relationships, many believe that religion had the greatest impact on family relationships. Religion controlled almost every aspect of family relationships from marriages to divorce to the treatment of women and children.

In medieval times up until the eighteen hundreds, marriage was based on a variety of factors. Among these factors were economic gain, and for upper class families and nobility, building alliances. While these were the factors that helped decide who married who, religion determined if the couple was eligible to be married as well as other aspects of the marriage. Prior to the 1215, there were a lot of gray areas when it came to marriage and divorce. While some believed that all marriage required was an exchange of vows between a man and a woman, others believed that the exchanged must be followed by consummation, while still others believed that there must be witnesses present for the marriage to be valid. At this time the nobility were using marriage as a strategy to gain land, power, and alliances by marrying, divorcing, and remarrying. These marriages were often destructive and led to wars. In order to avoid so many wars the church stepped in and put regulations on marriages and divorces. In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council constructed the criteria that must be met in order for a marriage to be valid. This criteria included a dowry, published wedding announcements, and for the wedding to take place in a church. Around ...

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...ffection for children. Parents thought of their children as individuals and thus gave each new born its own name. At this time parents also began giving their children more freedoms than before. Also during this time the church began to relax its control over individual families and allowed them more privacy. This simple shift in religious doctrine caused the development of a new way of thinking in which children were appreciated and seen as different from adults.

Although there were many factors that impacted family relationships between the fifteen hundreds and eighteen hundreds, none were as influential as religion. Any small shift in the interpretation of religious doctrine could result in massive changes in family life. From the development and rise of Protestantism to the Puritan view of children, religion often caused revolutions in family relationships.
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