Friday, August 21, 2009
Different Forms of Marriage
The fact that the parties to a marriage must be members of two different kin groups has crucial implications for the structuring of the family. Indeed, the continuity, and therefore the long – term welfare, of any kin group depends on obtaining spouses for the un-marriaged members of the group from other groups. By the samd token, a kin group has a stake in retaining some measure of control over at least a portion of its members after they marry. Accordingly, we need to take a closer look at marital arrangements, particularly marriage. Marriage refers to a socially approved sexual union between two or more individuals that is undertaken with some idea of permanence.
Exogamy and Endogamy: All societies regulate the pool of eligibles from which individuals are expected to select a mate. A child’s king generally have more in mind then simply getting a child married. They want the child married to the right spouse, especially where marriage has consequences for the larger kin group. Two types of marital regulations define the “right” spouse; endogamy and exogamy. Endogamy is the requirement that marriage occur within a group. Under these circumstances, people must marry within their class, race, ethnic group or religion. Exogamy is the requirement that marriage occur outside a group. Under these circumstances, people must marry outside their king group, be it their immediate nuclear family, clan, or tribe.
Regulations relating to exogamy are based primarily on kinship and usually entail incest taboos, rules that prohibit sexual intercourse with close blood relatives. Such relationships are not only prohibited, but bring reactions of aversion and disgust. Incest taboos were once singled out by social scientists as the only universal norm in a world of diverse moral codes, but sociologist Russell Middleton (1962) found that brother-sister marriage was not only permitted but frequently practiced by the ancient Egyptians. He speculates that brother sister marriage served to maintain the power and property of a family and prevented the splintering of an estate through inheritance. A similar arrangement apparently also occurred among the royal families of Hawaii, the Inca of Peru, and the Dahomey of West Africa. Additionally, the degree of kinship covered by incest varies from society to society. For example, in colonial new England it was incestuous if a man were to marry his deceased wife’s sister. But among the ancient Hebrews, the custom of the levitate required that a man had to marry his deceased brother’s widow under some circumstances.
Types of Marriage: The relationship between a husband and wife may be structured in one of four ways: monogamy, one husband and one wife; Polygyny, one husband and two or more wives; polyandry, two or more husbands and one wife; and group marriage, two or more husbands and two or more wives. Monogamy appears in all societies, although other forms may not only be permitted but preferred. It was the preferred or ideal type of marriage in less than 20 percent of 862 societies included in one cross-cultural sample.
Polygyny has enjoyed a wide distribution throughout the world, with 82 percent of the 862 societies permitting husbands to take plural wives. The Old Testament, for example, records polygynous practices among the Hebrews: Gideon had many wives, who bore him seventy sons; Kind David has several wives; King Solomon reportedly had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines; King Solomon’s son Rehoboam had eighteen wives and sixty concubines; and Rehoboam’s sons in turn had many wives.
The lot of husbands with several wives rarely if ever conforms to the Hollywood image of the Arabian sheik whose harem is ready and waiting to provide him every pleasure. Indeed, anthropologist Ralph Linton (1936: 183-184) believes that the polygynous husband should be pitied, not envied, by other men.
There are few polygynous societies in which the position of the male is really better than it is under monogamy. If the plural wives are not congenial, the family will be town by feuds in which the husband must take the thankless role of umpire, while if they are congenial he is likely to be confronted by an organized female apposition.
Although Linton overstated the case, his point in worth considering. And generally, it is only the economically advantaged males who can afford to have more than one wife (for example, in China, India, and the Islamic countries. Polygyny has usually been the privilege of the wealthy few). Polygyny involves for more than sex; it is closely tied to economic production and status considerations (Health, 1958). The arrangement tends to be favoured where large families are advantageous and women make substantial contributions to subsistence.
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