Marriages Essay

Any serious discussion of the future of marriage requires a clear understanding of how marriage evolved over the ages, along with the causes of its most recent transformations. Many people who hope to “re-institutionalize” marriage misunderstand the reasons that marriage was once more stable and played a stronger role in regulating social life.

For most of history, marriage was more about getting the right in-laws than picking the right partner to love and live with. In the small-scale, band-level societies of our distant ancestors, marriage alliances turned strangers into relatives, creating interdependencies among groups that might otherwise meet as enemies. But as large wealth and status differentials developed in the ancient world, marriage became more exclusionary and coercive. People maneuvered to orchestrate advantageous marriage connections with some families and avoid incurring obligations to others. Marriage became the main way that the upper classes consolidated wealth, forged military coalitions, finalized peace treaties, and bolstered claims to social status or political authority. Getting “well-connected” in-laws was a preoccupation of the middle classes as well, while the dowry a man received at marriage was often the biggest economic stake he would acquire before his parents died. Peasants, farmers, and craftsmen acquired new workers for the family enterprise and forged cooperative bonds with neighbors through their marriages.

Because of marriage’s vital economic and political functions, few societies in history believed that individuals should freely choose their own marriage partners, especially on such fragile grounds as love. Indeed, for millennia, marriage was much more about regulating economic, political, and gender hierarchies than nourishing the well-being of adults and their children. Until the late 18th century, parents took for granted their right to arrange their children’s marriages and even, in many regions, to dissolve a marriage made without their permission. In Anglo-American law, a child born outside an approved marriage was a “fillius nullius” – a child of no one, entitled to nothing. In fact, through most of history, the precondition for maintaining a strong institution of marriage was the existence of an equally strong institution of illegitimacy, which denied such children any claim on their families.

Even legally recognized wives and children received few of the protections we now associate with marriage. Until the late 19th century, European and American husbands had the right to physically restrain, imprison, or “punish” their wives and children. Marriage gave husbands sole ownership over all property a wife brought to the marriage and any income she earned afterward. Parents put their children to work to accumulate resources for their own old age, enforcing obedience by periodic beatings.

Many people managed to develop loving families over the ages despite these laws and customs, but until very recently, this was not the main point of entering or staying in a union. It was just 250 years ago, when the Enlightenment challenged the right of the older generation and the state to dictate to the young, that free choice based on love and compatibility emerged as the social ideal for mate selection. Only in the early 19th century did the success of a marriage begin to be defined by how well it cared for its members, both adults and children.

These new marital ideals appalled many social conservatives of the day. “How will we get the right people to marry each other, if they can refuse on such trivial grounds as lack of love?” they asked. “Just as important, how will we prevent the wrong ones, such as paupers and servants, from marrying?” What would compel people to stay in marriages where love had died? What would prevent wives from challenging their husbands’ authority?

They were right to worry. In the late 18th century, new ideas about the “pursuit of happiness” led many countries to make divorce more accessible, and some even repealed the penalties for homosexual love. The French revolutionaries abolished the legal category of illegitimacy, according a “love child” equal rights with a “legal” one. In the mid-19th century, women challenged husbands’ sole ownership of wives’ property, earnings, and behavior. Moralists predicted that such female economic independence would “destroy domestic tranquility,” producing “infidelity in the marriage bed, a high rate of divorce, and increased female criminality.” And in some regards, they seemed correct. Divorce rates rose so steadily that in 1891 a Cornell University professor predicted, with stunning accuracy, that if divorce continued rising at its current rate, more marriages would end in divorce than death by the 1980s.

But until the late 1960s, most of the destabilizing aspects of the love revolution were held in check by several forces that prevented people from building successful lives outside marriage: the continued legal subordination of women to men; the ability of local elites to penalize employees and other community members for then-stigmatized behaviors such as remaining single, cohabiting, or getting a divorce; the unreliability of birth control, combined with the harsh treatment of illegitimate children; and above all, the dependence of women upon men’s wage earning.

In the 1970s, however, these constraints were swept away or seriously eroded. The result has been to create a paradox with which many Americans have yet to come to terms. Today, when a marriage works, it delivers more benefits to its members — adults and children — than ever before. A good marriage is fairer and more fulfilling for both men and women than couples of the past could ever have imagined. Domestic violence and sexual coercion have fallen sharply. More couples share decisionmaking and housework than ever before. Parents devote unprecedented time and resources to their children. And men in stable marriages are far less likely to cheat on their wives than in the past.

But the same things that have made so many modern marriages more intimate, fair, and protective have simultaneously made marriage itself more optional and more contingent on successful negotiation. They have also made marriage seem less bearable when it doesn’t live up to its potential. The forces that have strengthened marriage as a personal relationship between freely consenting adults have weakened marriage as a regulatory social institution.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the collapse of the conditions that had forced most people to get and stay married led to dramatic — and often traumatic — upheavals in marriage. This was exacerbated by an economic climate that made the 1950s ideal of the male breadwinner unattainable for many families. Divorce rates soared. Unwed teen motherhood shot up. Since then, some of these destabilizing trends have leveled off or receded. The divorce rate has fallen, especially for college-educated couples, over the past 20 years. When divorce does occur, more couples work to resolve it amicably, and fewer men walk away from contact with their children. Although there was a small uptick in teen births last year, they are still almost 30 percent lower than in 1991.

Still, there is no chance that we can restore marriage to its former supremacy in coordinating social and interpersonal relationships. Even as the divorce rate has dropped, the incidence of cohabitation, delayed marriage and non-marriage has risen steadily. With half of all Americans aged 25-29 unmarried, marriage no longer organizes the transition into regular sexual activity or long-term partnerships the way it used to. Although teen births are lower than a decade ago, births to unwed mothers aged 25 and older continue to climb. Almost 40 percent of America’s children are born to unmarried parents. And gay and lesbian families are permanently out of the closet.

Massive social changes combine to ensure that a substantial percentage of people will continue to explore alternatives to marriage. These include women’s economic independence, the abolition of legal penalties for illegitimacy, the expansion of consumer products that make single life easier for both men and women, and the steady decline in the state’s coercive power over personal life. Add to this mix the continuing rise in the age of marriage, a trend that increases the stability of marriages once they are contracted but also increases the percentage of unwed adults in the population. Stir in the reproductive revolution, which has made it possible for couples who would once have been condemned to childlessness to have the kids they want, but impossible to prevent single women or gay and lesbian couples from having children. Top it off with changes in gender roles that have increased the payoffs of marriage for educated, financially secure women but increased its risks for low-income women whose potential partners are less likely to hold egalitarian values, earn good wages, or even count on a regular job. Taken together, this is a recipe for a world where the social weight of marriage has been fundamentally and irreversibly reduced.

The decline in marriage’s dominating role in organizing social and personal life is not unique to America. It is occurring across the industrial world, even in countries with less “permissive” values and laws. In predominantly Catholic Ireland, where polls in the 1980s found near-universal disapproval of premarital sex, one child in three today is born outside marriage. China’s divorce rate has soared more than 700 percent since 1980. Until 2005, Chile was the only country in the Western Hemisphere that still prohibited divorce. But in today’s world, prohibiting divorce has very different consequences than in the past, because people no longer feel compelled to marry in the first place. Between 1990 and 2003, the number of marriages in Chile fell from 100,000 to 60,000 a year, and nearly half of all children born in Chile in the early years of the 21st century were born to unmarried couples.

In Italy, Singapore, and Japan, divorce, cohabitation, and out-of-wedlock births remain low by American standards, but a much larger percentage of women avoid marriage and childbearing altogether. This suggests that we are experiencing a massive historical current that, if blocked in one area, simply flows over traditional paths of family life at a different spot.

The late 20th-century revolution in the role and function of marriage has been as far-reaching — and as wrenching — as the replacement of local craft production and exchange by wage labor and industrialization. Like the Industrial Revolution, the family diversity revolution has undercut old ways of organizing work, leisure, caregiving, and redistribution to dependents. It has liberated some people from restrictive, socially imposed statuses, but stripped others of customary support systems and rules for behavior, without putting clearly defined new ones in place. There have been winners and losers in the marriage revolution, just as there were in the Industrial Revolution. But we will not meet the challenges of this transformation by trying to turn back the clock. Instead we must take two lessons away from these historical changes.

First, marriage is not on the verge of extinction. Most cohabiting couples eventually do get married, either to each other or to someone else. New groups, such as gays and lesbians, are now demanding access to marriage — a demand that many pro-marriage advocates oddly interpret as an attack on the institution. And a well-functioning marriage is still an especially useful and effective method of organizing interpersonal commitments and improving people’s well-being. But in today’s climate of gender equality and personal choice, we must realize that successful marriages require different traits, skills, and behaviors than in the past.

Marriages used to depend upon a clear division of labor and authority, and couples who rejected those rules had less stable marriages than those who abided by them. In the 1950s, a woman’s best bet for a lasting marriage was to marry a man who believed firmly in the male breadwinner ideal. Women who wanted a “Mrs. degree” were often advised to avoid the “bachelor’s” degree, since as late as 1967 men told pollsters they valued a woman’s cooking and housekeeping skills above her intelligence or education. Women who hadn’t married by age 25 were less likely to ever marry than their more traditional counterparts, and studies in the 1960s suggested that if they did marry at an older age than average they were more likely to divorce. When a wife took a job outside the home, this raised the risk of marital dissolution.

All that has changed today. Today, men rank intelligence and education way above cooking and housekeeping as a desirable trait in a partner. A recent study by Paul Amato et al. found that the chance of divorce recedes with each year that a woman postpones marriage, with the least divorce-prone marriages being those where the couples got married at age 35 or higher. Educated and high-earning women are now less likely to divorce than other women. When a wife takes a job today, it works to stabilize the marriage. Couples who share housework and productive work have more stable marriages than couples who do not, according to sociologist Lynn Prince Cooke. And the Amato study found that husbands and wives who hold egalitarian views about gender have higher marital quality and fewer marital problems than couples who cling to more traditional views.

So there is no reason to give up on building successful marriages — but we won’t do it by giving people outdated advice about gender roles. We may be able to bring the divorce rate down a little further — but since one method of doing that is to get more people to delay marriage, this will probably lead to more cohabitation. We may also be able to reverse last year’s uptick in teen births and return to the downward course of the late 1990s and first few years of the 21st century — but not by teaching abstinence-only to young people who, if they do delay marriage, are almost certainly going to have sex beforehand.

The second lesson of history is that the time has passed when we can construct our social policies, work schedules, health insurance systems, sex education programs — or even our moral and ethical beliefs about who owes what to whom — on the assumption that all long-term commitments and care-giving obligations should or can be organized through marriage. Of course we must seek ways to make marriage more possible for couples and to strengthen the marriages they contract. But we must be equally concerned to help couples who don’t marry become better co-parents, to help single parents and cohabiting couples meet their obligations, and to teach divorced parents how to minimize their conflicts and improve their parenting.

The right research and policy question today is not “what kind of family do we wish people lived in?” Instead, we must ask “what do we know about how to help every family build on its strengths, minimize its weaknesses, and raise children more successfully?” Much recent hysteria to the contrary, we know a lot about how to do that. We should devote more of our energies to getting that research out and less to fantasizing about a return to a mythical Golden Age of marriage of the past.

Stephanie Coontz teaches history at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and is Director of Research and Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families (www.contemporaryfamilies.org). Her most recent book is Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage.

Also from this issue

Lead Essay

  • The Future of Marriage by Stephanie Coontz

    In this month’s lead essay, historian Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, briefly lays out the history of marriage to understand its present and future. “Today, when a marriage works,” Coontz argues, “it delivers more benefits to its members — adults and children — than ever before.” However, “the same things that have made so many modern marriages more intimate, fair, and protective have simultaneously made marriage itself more optional and more contingent on successful negotiation.” Instead of trying to resurrect a bygone ideal of marriage, those of us interested in encouraging healthy families now need to focus on what makes unmarried co-parents, single parents, cohabiting couples, as well as contemporary marriages successful on their own terms.

Response Essays

  • The Marriage Gap by Kay S. Hymowitz

    Kay S. Hymowitz, the William E. Simon fellow at the Manhattan Institute, argues that Stephanie Coontz’s sketch of the state of marriage is badly incomplete, failing to acknowledge the class divide in marriage and childrearing. “This marriage gap,” she writes, “has profound implications for our political, social and economic prospects for one simple reason: overall, children do better in life if they are raised by their own married parents.” According to Hymowitz, “The de-linking of marriage and childrearing is a particular dilemma in the Unites States … [W]hat you have is a recipe for entrenched, trans-generational poverty, inequality, racial disparities …, reduced social and economic mobility, and — libertarians take note! — demands for government taxes to fund programs to correct the mess.”

  • Marriage and the Market by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers

    Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, economists at the Univesity of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, “re-frame Coontz’s careful history of the family in the language of economics,” exploring the economic forces underlying changes in marriage. Modern marriage, Stevenson and Wolfers argue, is marked by “a shift from the family as a forum for shared production, to shared consumption.” Modern marriage, which they call “hedonic marriage,” is more centered on love and companionship. Marriage as such isn’t doomed, they claim, but “marriage in which one person specializes in the home while the other person specializes in the market is indeed doomed,” especially as women’s educational levels begin to surpass men’s. Attempts to “re-regulate” the family to fit a classic ideal, they argue “may actually be a force undermining the dynamic institution that is the modern U.S. family.”

  • Against Family Fatalism by Norval D. Glenn

    In his reply, University of Texas sociologist Norval D. Glenn, identifies Stephanie Coontz as a member of the “family-change-is-irreversible school of thought,” which he says “includes the view that attempts to retard, stop, or reverse any major aspect of recent family change are futile and thus are at best a waste of effort and at worst downright harmful…” But, Glenn asks, don’t liberals generally think policy can mitigate the consequences of economic change? Moreover, is anyone really asking to return to some Golden Age of marriage? There is evidence, Glenn submits, that marriage trends will further improve and that policy interventions, like marriage education, can help.

Here is your essay on marriage, it’s meaning, functions and forms! 

Introduction:

Marriage and family sociologically signifies the stage of greater social advancement. It is indicative of man’s entry into the world of emotion and feeling, harmony and culture. Long before the institution of marriage developed, man and woman may have lived together, procreated children and died unwept and unsung. Their sexual relations must have been like birds and animals of momentary duration.

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Marriage as an institution developed over the time. It may have been accepted as a measure of social discipline and as an expedient to eliminate social stress due to the sex rivalry. The growing sense and sensibility may have necessitated the acceptance of norms for formalising the union between man and woman.

Meaning of Marriage:

Marriage is the most important institution of human society. It is a universal phenomenon. It has been the backbone of human civilisation. Human beings have certain urges like hungers, thirst and sex. Society works out certain rules and regulation for satisfaction of these urges.

The rules and regulations, which deal with regulation of sex life of human beings, are dealt in the marriage institution. We can say that the Marriage is as old as the institution of family. Both these institutions are vital for the society. Family depends upon the Marriage. Marriage regulates sex life of human beings.

Marriage creates new social relationships and reciprocal rights between the spouses. It establishes the rights and the status of the children when they are born. Each society recognises certain procedures for creating such relationship and rights. The society prescribes rules for prohibitions, preferences and prescriptions in deciding marriage. It is this institution through which a man sustains the continuity of his race and attains satisfaction in a socially recognised manner.

Sociologists and anthropologists have given definitions of marriage. Some of the important definitions are given below. Edward Westermark. “Marriage is a relation of one or more men to one or more women which is recognised by custom or law and involves certain rights and duties both in the case of the parties entering the union and in the case of the children born of it.

As B. Malinowski defines, “Marriage is a contract for the production and maintenance of children”.

According H.M. Johnson, “Marriage is a stable relationship in which a man and a woman are socially permitted without loss of standing in community, to have children”.

Ira L. Reiss writes, “Marriage is a socially accepted union of individuals in husband and wife roles, with the key function of legitimating of parenthood”.

William Stephens, the anthropologist, says that marriage is:

(1) A socially legitimate sexual union begun with

(2) A public announcement, undertaken with

(3) Some idea of performance and assumed with a more or less explicit

(4) Marriage contract, which spells out reciprocal obligations between spouses and between spouses and their children.

William J. Goode, the famous family sociologist has tried to combine the two objectives of marriage i.e. to regulate sex life and to recognize the newborn. It was perhaps for this reason that American sociologists came out with the statement that no child should be born without a father.

Although different thinkers have tried to provide definition of marriage, but there is no universally acceptable definition of marriage. There seems to be, however, a consensus that marriage involves several criteria that are found to exist cross-culturally and throughout time. For example, Hindu marriage has three main objectives such as Dharma, Progeny and Sexual Pleasure.

Individual happiness has been given the least importance. It is considered to be sacrament, a spiritual union between a man and a woman in the social status of husband and wife.

In Western countries, marriage is a contract. Personal happiness is given the utmost importance. People enter into matrimonial alliances for the sake of seeking personal happiness. If this happiness is-not forthcoming they will terminate the relationship.

Marriage is thus cultural specific. The rules and regulations differ from one culture to another. We can, however, identify certain basic features of this institution.

(1) A heterosexual union, including at least one male and one female.

(2) The legitimizing or granting of approval to the sexual relationship and the bearing of children without any loss of standing in the community or society.

(3) A public affair rather than a private, personal matter.

(4) A highly institutionalized and patterned mating arrangement.

(5) Rules which determine who can marry whom.

(6) New statuses to man and woman in the shape of husband and wife and father and mother.

(7) Development of personal intimate and affectionate relationships between the spouses and parent and children.

(8) A binding relationship that assumes some performance.

The above discussion helps us to conclude that the boundaries of marriage are not always precise and clearly defined. It is, however, very important institution for the society as it helps in replacement of old and dying population.

Functions of Marriage:

Marriage is an institutionalized relationship within the family system. It fulfills many functions attributed to the family in general. Family functions include basic personality formation, status ascriptions, socialization, tension management, and replacement of members, economic cooperation, reproduction, stabilization of adults, and the like.

Many of these functions, while not requiring marriage for their fulfillment, are enhanced by the marital system”. In fact, evidence suggests marriage to be of great significance for the well-being of the individual. Researchers have shown that compared to the unmarried, married persons are generally happier, healthier, less depressed and disturbed and less prone to premature deaths. Marriage, rather than becoming less important or unimportant, may be increasingly indispensable.

The functions of marriage differ as the structure of marriage differs. ‘For example, where marriage is specially an extension of the kin and extended family system, then procreation, passing on the family name and continuation of property become a basic function. Thus, to not have a child or more specifically, to not have a male child, is sufficient reason to replace the present wife or add a new wife.

Where marriage is based on “free choice,” i.e. parents and kinsmen play no role in selecting the partner, individualistic forces are accorded greater significance. Thus in the United States, marriage has many functions and involves many positive as well as negative personal factors : establishment of a family of one’s own, children, companionship, happiness, love, economic security, elimination of loneliness etc.

The greater the extent to which the perceived needs of marriage are met, and the fewer the alternatives in the replacement of the unmet needs, the greater the likelihood of marriage and the continuation of that marriage. At a personal level, any perceived reason may explain marriage, but at a social level, all societies sanction certain reasons and renounce others.

Forms of Marriage:

Societies evolved mannerism and method for selection of the spouses, according to their peculiar socio-economic and political conditions, and in accordance with their levels of cultural advancement. This explains on the one hand the origin of the various forms, of marriage and on the other the differences in the attitude of societies towards the institution of marriage.

Some have accepted it as purely a contractual arrangement between weds, while others hold it as the sacred union between man, and woman. Forms of marriage vary from society to society. Marriage can be broadly divided into two types, (1) monogamy and (2) polygamy.

1. Monogamy:

Monogamy is that form of marriage in which at a given period of time one man has marital relations with one woman. On the death of the spouse or one of the partners seek divorce then they can establish such relationship with other persons but at a given period of time, one cannot have two or more wives or two or more husbands.

This one to one relationship is the most modern civilized way of living. In most of the societies it is this form, which is found and recognized. It should be noted that on a societal basis, only about 20 per cent of the societies are designated as strictly monogamous, that is, monogamy is the required form.

When monogamy does not achieve stability, certain married persons end their relationship and remarry. Thus, the second spouse, although not existing simultaneously with the first, is sometimes referred to as fitting into a pattern of sequential monogamy, serial monogamy or remarriage.

Advantages:

Keeping in view the advantages of monogamy the world has granted recognition to monogamous form of marriage. The following are its advantages:

1. Better Adjustment:

In this form of marriage men and women have to adjust with one partner only. In this way there is better adjustment between them.

2. Greater Intimacy:

If the number of people in the family will be limited there will be more love and affection in the family. Because of which they will have friendly and deep relations.

3. Better Socialization of Children:

In the monogamy the children are looked after with earnest attention of parents. The development of modes of children will be done nicely. There will be no jealously between the parents for looking after their children.

4. Happy Family:

Family happiness is maintained under monogamy which is completely destroyed in other forms of marriage because of jealousy and other reasons. Thus, in this form of marriage, family is defined as happy family.

5. Equal Status to Woman:

In this form of marriage the status of woman in family is equal. If husband works she looks after the house or both of them work for strengthening the economic condition of the family.

6. Equalitarian way of Living:

It is only under monogamous way of living that husband and wife can have equalitarian way of life. Under this system husband and wife not only share the familial role and obligations but also have joint decisions. The decision making process becomes a joint venture.

7. Population Control:

Some sociologists have the view that monogamy controls the population. Because of one wife children in the family will be limited.

8. Better Standard of Living:

It also affects the standard of living within limited resources. One can manage easily to live a better life. It helps in the development of independent personality without much constraint and pressure.

9. Respect to old Parents:

Old parents receive favouring care by their children but under polygamy their days are full of bitterness.

10. Law is in favour:

Monogamy is legally sanctioned form of marriage while some are legally prohibited.

11. More Cooperation:

In such a family there is close union between the couple and the chances of conflict are reduced and there is cooperation between husband and wife.

12. Stability:

It is more stable form of marriage. There is better division of property after the death of parents.

Disadvantages:

1. Adjustment:

Monogamy is a marriage between one husband and one wife. So if the partner is not of choice then life loses its charm. They have to adjust between themselves but now-a-days divorce is the answer to their problem.

2. Monopoly:

According to Sumner and Keller, “Monogamy is monopoly.” Wherever there is monopoly, there is bound to be both ‘ins and outs’.

3. Childlessness:

Some inpatients can’t have kids or some barren cannot have kids. If one of the partners has some problem couples cannot have children. They have to suffer from childlessness.

4. Economic Factors:

Marriage in monogamy does not play part of income. They have to depend upon their own occupation for living. If they are poor they will remain poor. So monogamy effects the economic condition of man and woman.

5. Better status to Women:

Monogamy provides better status to women in the society. They are counted equal to men. Some people do not like this form of marriage.

6. Adultery:

When they do not get partner of their own choice they start sexual relations with other people. This also leads to the problem of prostitution.

2. Polygamy:

Distinguished from monogamy is polygamy. Polygamy refer to the marriage of several or many. Polygamy is the form of marriage in which one man marries two or more women or one woman marries two or more men or a number of men many a number of women. According to F.N. Balasara, “The forms of marriage in which there is plurality of partners is called polygamy”.

Polygamy, like other forms of marriage is highly regulated and normatively controlled. It is likely to be supported by the attitudes and values of both the sexes. Polygamy itself has many forms and variations. Polygamy is of three types: (i) Polygyny, (ii) Polyandry and (iii) Group marriage.

Let us now discuss forms of polygamy in details,

(i) Polygyny:

Polygyny is a form of marriage in which a man has more than one .wife at a time. In other words it is a form of marriage in which one man marries more than one woman at a given time. It is the prevalent form of marriage among the tribes, Polygyny also appears to be the privilege of the wealthy, in many African societies the rich usually have more than one wife.

This type of marriage is found in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda. In India, polygyny persisted from the Vedic times until Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Now polygyny is visible among many tribes of India.

Viewing polygyny cross-culturally, poiygynous families evidence specific organisational features:

1. In certain matters, sex particularly, co-wives have clearly defined equal rights.

2. Each wife is set up in a separate establishment.

3. The senior wife is given special powers and privileges.

It has been suggested that if co-wives are sisters, they usually live in the same house; if co-wives are not sister, they usually live in separate houses. It is believed that sibling can better tolerate, suppress and live with a situation of sexual rivalry than can non-siblings.

Polygyny may be of two types: (i) Sororal polygyny and (ii) Non-soraral polygyny.

Sororal polygyny is one in which all the wives are sisters. Non-sororal polygyny means the marriage of one man with many women who are not sisters.

Causes of Polygyny:

1. Disproportion of sexes in the Population:

When in any tribe or society male members are less in number and females are more, then this type of marriage takes place.

2. Out-migration of male Population:

To earn the livelihood male members migrate from one society to another. This way there is a decrease in the number of males than females and polygyny takes place.

3. Hypergamy:

Hypergamy also gives rise to polygyny. Under this system the parents of lower castes or classes want to improve their social status by marrying their daughters in the higher caste or classes.

4. Desire for male Child:

Among the primitive people importance was given to make children than females. Thus man was free to have as many marriages as he liked on the ground to get male children.

5. Social Status:

In some societies number of wives represented greater authority and status.

Particularly the leaders of primitive society increased number of wives in order to prove their superiority. A single marriage was considered a sign of poverty. So where marriage is taken as sign of prestige and prosperity the custom of polygyny is natural.

6. Economic Reason:

Where the people of the poor families were unable to find suitable husbands for their daughters they started marrying their daughters to rich married males.

7. Variety of Sex Relation:

The desire for variety of sex relations is another cause of polygyny. The sexual instincts become dull by more familiarity. It is stimulated by novelty.

8. Enforced Celibacy:

In uncivilized tribes men did not approach the women during the period of pregnancy and while she was feeding the child. Thus long period of enforced celibacy gave birth to second marriage.

9. More Children:

In uncivilized society more children were needed for agriculture, war and status recognition. Moreover, in some tribes the birth rate was low and death rate was high. In such tribes polygyny was followed to obtain more children.

10. Absence of children:

According to Manu, if wife is unable to have children, man is permitted to have more marriages. He further says if a wife takes her husband then he should live with her one year and take another wife.

11. Religious Reasons:

Polygyny was permitted in the past if wife was incapable of forming religious duties in her periodic sickness because religion was given significant place in social life.

12. Patriarchal Society:

Polygyny is found only in the patriarchal society where more importance is given to males and male member is the head of the family.

Advantages:

(1) Better status of children:

In polygyny children enjoy better status. They are looked after well because there are many women in the family to care.

(2) Rapid growth of Population:

In those societies where population is very less and birth rate is almost zero, for those societies polygyny is best suited, as it increases the population at faster rate.

(3) Importance of Males:

In polygyny males occupy higher status. More importance is given to husband by several wives.

(4) Division of Work:

In polygyny there are several wives. Therefore, there is a proper division of work at home.

(5) Variety of Sex Relations:

Instead of going for extra marital relations husband stays at home because his desire for variety of sex relations is fulfilled within polygyny.

(6) Continuity of Family:

Polygyny came into existence mainly because of inability of a wife to produce children. Polygyny provides continuity to the family tree. In absence of one wife other women in the family produce children.

Disadvantage:

1. Lower status of Women:

In this form of marriage women have very low status; they are regarded as an object of pleasure for their husbands. They generally do not have a right to take decisions about their welfare; they have to depend upon their husband for fulfillment of their basic needs.

2. Jealousy as stated by Shakespeare:

“Woman thy name is jealousy”. When several wives have to share one husband, there is bound to be jealousy among co-wives. Jealousy leads to inefficiency in their work. They are not able to socialize their children in a proper manner in such atmosphere.

3. Low Economic Status:

Polygyny increases economic burden on the family because in many cases only husband is the bread winner and whole of the family is dependent on him.

4. Population Growth:

This type of marriage is harmful for developing society and poor nations because they have limited resources Further increase in population deteriorates progress and development of that society.

5. Fragmentation of Property:

In polygyny all the children born from different wives have share in father’s property. Jealousy among mothers leads to property conflicts among children as a result property is divided and income per capita decreases.

6. Uncongenial Atmosphere:

Polygyny does not promise congenial atmosphere for the proper growth and development of children. There is lack of affection among the members. As such families have large number of members. They fail to provide proper attention to all of them. This gives rise to many immoral practices in the society.

(ii) Polyandry:

It is a form of marriage in which one woman has more than one husband at a given time. According to K.M. Kapadia, Polyandry is a form of union in which a woman has more than one husband at a time or in which brothers share a wife or wives in common. This type marriage is prevalent in few places such as tribes of Malaya and some tribes of India like Toda, Khasi and Kota etc. Polyandry is of two types:

(i) Fraternal Polyandry and

(ii) Non-Fratemai Polyandry.

(i) Fraternal Polyandry:

In this form of polyandry one wife is regarded as the wife of all brothers. All the brothers in a family share the same woman as their wife. The children are treated as the offspring of the eldest brother, it is found in some Indian tribes like Toda and Khasis. This type of marriage was popular in Ceylon (Srilanka at present).

(ii) Non-Fraternal Polyandry:

In this type of polyandry one woman has more than one husband who is not brothers. They belong to different families. The wife cohabits with husbands in turn. In case of Fraternal Polyandry, the wife lives in the family of her husbands, while in case of non-fraternal polyandry, the wife continues to stay in the family of her mother. This type of polyandry is found among Nayars of Kerala.

Causes of Polyandry:

1. Lesser number of Women:

According to Westermark, when the number of women is lesser than the number of males in a society, polyandry is found. For example, among Todas of Nilgiri. But according to Brifficult, polyandry can exist even when the number of women is not lesser e.g. in Tibet, Sikkim and Laddakh polyandry is found even though there is not much disparity in the number of men and women.

2. Infanticide:

In some tribal societies female infanticide is present; as a result these female population is less than male population. Further males do not enjoy good status. Therefore, one female is married to a group of brothers and polyandry exists.

3. Matrilineal System:

Just in contrast to above noted point, it has also been argued that polyandry exists in matrilineal system where one woman can have relationship with more than one man and the children instead of getting the name of father are known by mother’s name.

4. Poverty:

Polyandry exists in such areas where there is scarcity of natural resources. It is for this reason many men support one woman and her children.

5. Bride Price:

In societies where there is bridge price, polyandry exists. Brothers pay for one bride who becomes wife of all of them.

6. Division of Property:

To check the division of ancestral property polyandry is favoured. When all the brothers have one wife then the question of division of property does not arise.

7. Production and labour:

Polyandry not only avoids division of property but it also increases production in agriculture. All the brothers work together because they have to support only one family. Thus production and income increases, further there is no expenditure with regard to labour because all the husbands contribute their share of work.

8. Social Custom:

Polyandry exists in some societies mainly because of customs and traditions of that particular society. Generally, polyandry is found in such areas which are situated far away from modern developed areas.

Advantages:

(1) Checks Population Growth:

It checks population growth because all the male members of the family share one wife. As a result population does not increase at that rapid rate, the way in which it occurs in polygyny Therefore, it limits the size of the family.

(2) Economic Standard:

Polyandry helps to unhold the economic standard of the family. It strengthens the economic position of the family because all the members work for the improvement of the family.

(3) Greater Security:

With large number of males working after the family affairs, other members of the family especially women and children feel quite secure. Greater security among the members develop sense of we-feeling among the members of the family.

(4) Property is kept Intact:

In polyandry family does not get divided. The property of the family is held jointly and thus it is kept intact.

(5) Status of Women:

In polyandry one woman is wife of large number of husbands. As a result she gets attention of all the members and thus enjoys a good status in the family. She feels quite secure because in the absence of one husband other males are there to fulfill her basic needs.

Disadvantages:

(1) Jealousy:

When all the men have to share one woman, family quarrels and tensions are ought to be there. Husbands feel jealous of one another which adversely effect congenial atmosphere of the family.

(2) Lack of Model:

When children have large number of fathers they fail to select appropriate model for themselves. This adversely effects their personality configuration.

(3) Health of the Woman:

It adversely effects health of a woman because she has to satisfy several husbands. It not only has negative effect on the physical health but also on mental health of the woman.

(4) Sterility:

According to biologists if the same woman cohabits with several men, it may lead to sterility, further lack of sex gratification give rise to extra-marital relationship of husbands.

(5) Status of Men:

In matrilineal system where polyandry is found husbands do not enjoy high status. They do not give their name to the children.

(6) Lack of Attachment:

In many tribes where polyandry exists husbands do not live permanently with their families. They are visiting husband who visit the family for a specific period. They do not get love and affection of their children because children feel unattached to their fathers.

(7) Less Population:

This form of marriage decreases population growth. In some tribal societies where polyandry continues to exist may get extinct after a gap of few years.

(8) Loose Morality:

This is another outcome of this practice.

(iii) Group Marriage:

Group marriage is that type of marriage in which a group of men marry a group of women. Each man of male group is considered to be the husband of every woman of female group. Similarly, every woman is the wife of every man of male group. Pair bonded or Multilateral marriage are the substitute term for group marriages.

This form of marriage is found among some tribes of New Guinea and Africa. In India group marriage is practised by the Toda Tribe of Nilgiri Hills. Except on an experimental basis it is an extremely rare occurrence and may never have existed as a viable form of marriage for any society in the world.

The Oneida community of New York State has been frequently cited as an example of group marriage experiment. It involved economic and sexual sharing based on spiritual and religious principles. Like most group marriage on record, its time span was limited. Rarely do they endure beyond one or two generations.

Levirate and Sororate:

(i) Levirate:

In levirate the wife marries the brother of the dead husband. If a man dies, his wife marries the brother of her dead husband. Marriage of the widow with the dead husband’s elder brother is called Senior Levirate. But when she marries to the younger brother of the dead husband, it is called Junior Levirate.

(ii) Sororate:

In Sororate the husband marries the sister of his wife. Sororate is again divided into two types namely restricted Sororate and simultaneous Sororate. In restricted sororate, after the death of one’s wife, the man marries the sister of his wife. In simultaneous sororate, the sister of one’s wife automatically becomes his wife.

Concubinage:

Concubinage is a state of living together as husband and wife without being married. It is .cohabitation with one or more women who are distinct from wife or wives. Concubinage is sometimes recognised by various societies as an accepted institution. A concubine has a lower social status than that of a wife. The children of a concubine enjoy a lower status in the society.

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