"The article compares publicly discussed norms concerning the proper age at marriage for men and women in nineteenth-century Netherlands, and the actual trends present in the empirical evidence about marriage age. Medical professionals (the hygienists) expressed the belief that marriage at too young an age was damaging both to public hygiene and the family's health; other commentators stressed the connection between young marriages and poverty. Yet such norms were put forward vaguely, allowing other influences on marriage age to come into play. Consequently, data on marital behavior suggest considerable diversity in the population, with age at marriage varying strongly by class, sex, and region. Generally, age at marriage did not begin to fall until the period 1860-1870, and even after that decade class differences remained strong."