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For Europeans, Love, Yes; Marriage, Maybe

”We said that if our child were to be harassed at school, we’d think of doing it,” said Mr. Lindahl, 45, who has lived with Ms. Kjolaas for 23 years. ”But statistics showed that something like half the kids in Norway had parents who were single or living together.”

Not just Norway. In a profound shift that has changed the notion of what constitutes a family in many countries, more and more European children are being born out of wedlock into a new social order in which, it seems, few of the old stigmas apply. The trend is far more pronounced in the Nordic countries, in France and in Britain, and less so in southern countries like Italy and Switzerland, but the figures as a whole are startling, particularly because they tend to hold up across all social classes.

Bjorn Lindahl and Nina Kjolaas do not feel inclined to declare their love in front of some anonymous official in a municipal building, or in a church. So they have never married — not when they moved in together, not when they bought their first house, ……not when they had their son, now 16.

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