Arranged versus individual choice marriages

Sex and Marriage:

When a person gets married to another, one of the first rules is that there should be ‘exogamy’ in the selection of the partner, which also means that the partner has to belong to a well defined outside group, or there should be ‘endogamy’, which means that the partner must be within some large defined group of people, and both of these two rules work within any given society at any given time, so that there are limits maintained as to the preferability and the acceptability of the marriage partner. The number of spouses that an individual is allowed to marry, however, is generally dictated by the culture and the religion to which the individual belongs. In most of Europe as well as in America, the general rule followed by almost everyone is that of ‘monogamy’, and this means that one person is only allowed one spouse at one time. This type of monogamous marriage, though the most common all around thee whole world, is today the least preferred; in an analysis of 850 societies, it was seen that less than about 20% of people preferred monogamy over other types of marriage relationships. Polygamy is another method of marriage, wherein a man or a woman may marry more than one spouse at one time. (Marriage Rules, Part 1)

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Polygyny is yet another phenomenon wherein multiple women share one single husband, and this is most often seen in Moslem countries, and polyandry, a relatively rarer occurrence, seen in some rural and remote areas of India and Sri Lanka, is where several husbands share one single wife. While monogamy may have several obvious advantages for both men and women, in that they would be able to remain loyal and maintain fidelity within the marriage vow, and at the same time love each other exclusively, without fear of sexually transmitted diseases, polygyny is more advantageous to the woman than the man, and this is because women may be able to share the workload, especially in rural areas where women are expected to bear the major burden of house work as well as help in farming and looking after heir cattle. It is said that women interview their future co-wives so that they may find a woman with whom they would be able to get along well with in the future. Polyandry is most often fraternal, that is, two brothers marry one woman, and the advantage is thin is that this system is useful in economically deprived countries where the wife would have someone to look after her when one husband dies. (Marriage Rules, Part 1)

Arranged Marriages vs. marriage made by individual choices are two different methods of getting married. While in a romantic marriage, two people get to know each other and then fall in love with each other and reach a stage when they feel that they would be happier if they married, and then go ahead with the marriage, then this is a marriage of individual choice, and this type is most often found in the Western parts of the world rather than in the East. In the East, it is the arranged marriage that is favored. This is a marriage in which members of a family formally get together and arrange or fix up a marriage between two people, and in this system, the entire community and the entire society supports the union, and any sort of opposition would not be entertained at all. This marriage is said to be advantageous for the families because of pragmatic reasons, whereas the former would be advantageous to the young people who are in love. Most of the persons within a romantic marriage criticize the arranged one, stating that it is oppressive, repressive, and degrading, whereas those within the arranged marriage state that it is based more on the short-term rather than on the long-term, and is based on lust and physical love rather than a getting together of like minds. (Marriage)

Family and Household:

The primary functions of the family as a unit, anywhere in the world, are to ensure by any means at all, that the newly born babies are able to survive and grow into full adults in the society in which they have been born. This is because of the fact that human babies, when they are born, are the most immature beings, and would not survive without any sort of help. In addition, they are not considered to be socially mature until a great many years later, and the reason for this may be that the various rules within a given society are extremely complicated. For example, quite a few individuals are trained to do certain things even when they are in their twenties. (Functions of the Family)

Another function of the family is that of regulating and arranging the sexual activities of the youngest members of the society, and this in other words means that some sort of legalization of the relationship between a man and a woman is expected, and the members are expected to conform to these rules. In addition, this type of control over the sexual activities makes sure that the new offspring is as healthy as possible. Human children, when they are born, are extremely egocentric, wherein they see themselves as being the center of the very Universe. They have to, therefore, be taught the various rules of society so that they may live their lives within the society as happily and as well adjusted as possible. The various family members have this huge responsibility, and when the children are well adapted, so will be the next generation. Within the family, the basic human needs for love and companionship are satisfied, and so are the emotional bonds that are important in any human relationship. (Functions of the Family)

In a comparison of American middle class family life today with families during Colonial times, what emerges as the most important difference is the very structure of the homes of those days, which were built close together and were very small. There was not much furniture, and the husband was the one person allowed to sit in a chair, and that too near the fire. The hearth was used for warmth as well as for cooking, and children had no schools to go to. However, they learnt the basics of obedience and discipline form their parents, and they were severely punished for the smallest indiscretion. When compared to the children of today who have books, VCDs, Nintendo’s, Video Games, and so on, the poor children of those days really did not have it good. When they were a little grown, boys would be sent out to the fields to work with their fathers, while girls would be taught to sew and clean and maintain the house. (American Life: a Comparison of Colonial Life to Today’s Life)

Kinship and Descent:

What is Bilateral Kinship? This system creates a virtual Kinship Group, wherein a bilateral kinship between different members of the family is formed, except in the case of unmarried siblings. When the kinship group forms a lineage, then it is also known as a unilineal kinship system. This is a closely-knit and well-formed group with clearly delineated members. In the case of the lineage being based on the father’s lineage, it would be known as a ‘patrilineage’, and in the case when it is based on the lineage of the mother, then it is known as a ‘matrilineage’. (Definitions)

Therefore, ‘Bilateral Kinship’ can be defined as the basic pattern of descent in which every person and individual in the world finds that each and every biological ancestor or every biological descendent is actually a socially recognized relative of that particular individual. This would also mean that everyone is a relative or a member of his mother’s and his father’s families, and this phenomenon is also known as ‘cognatic descent’. What must be remembered is the fact that ‘Bi-Lineal descent is different from Bilateral descent, and the difference lies in the fact that in bi-lineal descent, the pattern of descent places the individual in a position where he is a member of both his mother’s matrilineage as well as of his father’s patrilineage. This is also known as ‘double descent’. ‘Matrilineage’ refers to the phenomenon by which a multi-generational group of several relatives who are related to each other through matrilineal descent form a family. This also means that a number of nuclear families descend from the same woman, and this group of members is all related to each other, because of the one woman. (Glossary of Terms)

In Unilineal descent, where the ancestry is traced through only one single line of ancestors, whether they are male or female, the matrilineal descent follows the woman or the female member of the family, whereas when the father’s line is traced, then it becomes known as the ‘patrilineal line’, and both matrilineal and patrilineal are unilineal. Whereas in matrilineal patterns, females pass on the ancestry to their descendants, in patrinileal patterns, it is the father who passes on his heritage and ancestry to his descendants, though both men and women can inherit these lines of descent, but only the males of the family can pass it on to their descendants. This pattern is also known as ‘agnatic descent’, and the members are generally people who are from nuclear families that have descended form one single man. (Glossary of Terms)


Definitions. Retrieved From Accessed on 20 March, 2005

Glossary of Terms. Retrieved From Accessed on 20 March, 2005

Grenet, Phyllis. American Life: a Comparison of Colonial Life to Today’s Life. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. 1990. Retrieved From Accessed on 20 March, 2005

Marriage Rules, Part 1. 19 March, 2004. Retrieved From Accessed on 20 March, 2005

Marriage. 18 August, 2004. Retrieved From Accessed on 20 March, 2005

The Functions of the Family. Retrieved From hl=en Accessed on 20 March, 2005

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