The demographic and social processes of the past 150 years have radically changed the number of parents that children grow up with. This article uses two unique data sets to illustrate long-term changes in the living arrangements of children born between 1850 and 1985 in the Netherlands. Changes are described in terms of whether fathers, mothers, and stepparents lived with these children at birth and at age 15. A massive shift occurred in the living arrangements of the 1850-1879 cohort compared with the 1880-1899 cohort of children, and there is only a slight return to 19th-century conditions in the most recent birth cohort. Researchers and politicians should be careful when comparing contemporary family life with the extraordinary situation Western families were in just after World War II. To some degree, contemporary complexities are more comparable to those in the 19th century, although the sources of these complexities are different.
Keywords: intergenerational ties; family structure; demographic change;