In all societies, arrangements exist for the social recognition of who may legitimately mate with whom, which we call marriage. While the social recognition of mating itself may be of some importance, its importance is probably outweighed in most societies by that of legitimizing the children that may result that is, giving them social recognition, an identity, a name, membership of a socially recognised group and some indication of who must assume the obligation to support them and their mother. Marriage is probably best regarded as an anticipatory provision for the needs of the mother-child unity, which we regard as the basic unit of the kingship system.
While all societies have a system of marriage (and make a social distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children) there are wide variations in different marriage systems. The more important variables concern the number of mates each marriage partner may have; the locality of the marriage; the arrangements that exist for the transfer of wealth at the marriage; and the terms, if any, on which a marriage may be dissolved.
At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
- describe what is actually meant by marriage
- describe the types of marriage.
3.0 MAIN CONTENT
3.1 Meaning of Marriage
Marriage is traditionally conceived to be legally recognised relationship, between an adult males and females that carries certain rights and obligations. However, in contemporary societies, marriage is sometimes interpreted more liberally, and the phrase ‘living as married’ indicates that for many purposes it makes no sense to exclude cohabitation. It should be noted, however, that even this more liberal definition usually excludes homosexual couples. Cohabitation is increasingly accepted, and is now the normal prelude to marriage.
SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 1
Describe your understanding of marriage.
3.2 Types of Marriage
There are two basic types of marriage, so far as numbers are concerned: Monogamy and Polygamy. Monogamous norms restrict the individual to one spouse at a time. Polygamous norms permit plural marriage and take the form either of polygamy (one husband and two or more wives) or of polyandry (one wife and two or more husbands). There is a fourth type of marriage, usually called “group marriage” in which there are both plural wives and husbands in the marital unit. The last form is rare, and in all known cases the marital rights of one pair in the group take precedence over others. Monogamy is permitted in all societies, although polygamy is the preferred form in most societies.
SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 2
Describe the major types of marriage.
In most societies, marriages are arranged by older relatives, with an eye to expanding their network of kin. The most important criteria in mate selection are economic security and family background, not mutual attraction. Research suggests that in arranged marriages, the couples’ romantic attachment to one another grows over the years, whereas couples who married for love report that their attraction to one another dropped precipitously after the first two to five years of marriage.
In this unit, we have been able to give the meaning of marriage and types of marriage. Marriage is seen as a legally recognised relationship between an adult male and female, that carries certain rights and obligations. The two major types of marriage are monogamy and polygamy. Monogamy norms restrict the individual to one spouse at a time. Polygamous norms permit plural marriage and take the form either of polygyny (one husband and two or more wives) or of polyandry (one wife and two or more husbands).
6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT
What do you understand by the term “Marriage”?
State and explain two major types of marriage.