Family and marriage : an analysis

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Man is a social being. Every human being lives in a family. Family is the first and the most immediate social environment to which a child is exposed. Marriage is closely connected with the institution of family. In fact family and marriage are complimentary to each other. Marriage and families, the two social institutions with biological foundations, are complementary to each other. Both have a long standing history of their own. Family is the most permanent and the most pervasive of all social institutions. All societies large and small, primitive and civilized, ancient and modern have some form of family or the other. Marriage is an institution of society which can have very different cultures. Its purposes, functions and forms may differ from society to society, but it is present everywhere as an institution.


In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children. Extended from the human “family unit” by biological-cultural affinity, marriage, economy, culture, tradition, honor, and friendship are concepts of family that are physical and metaphorical, or that grow increasingly inclusive extending to community, village, city, region, nationhood, global village and humanism. A family group consisting of a father, mother and their children is called a nuclear family. This term can be contrasted with an extended family

Definition of Family:

We define family as any group of people related either biological The collective body of persons who live in one house, and under one head or manager; a household, including parents, children, and are diverse servants, and, as the case may be, lodgers or boarders.

“There types of families, many of which include people related by marriage or biology, or adoption, as well as people related through affection, obligation, dependence, or cooperation.”

–(Rothausen, 1999, p. 820).

“The Family, almost without question, is the most important of the groups that human experience offers. Other groups we join for longer or shorter periods of time for satisfaction of this interest or that. The family, on the contrary, is with us always. Or rather more precisely, we are with it.”

–Robert Bierstedt.

“Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!”

–Albert Einstein

Meaning of Family:

The word ‘Family’ has been taken over from Latin word ‘Famulus’ which means a servant. In Roman law the word denoted a group of producers and slaves and other servants as well as members connected by common descent or marriage. Thus originally, consists of a man and woman with a child or children and servants. The meaning of family can be explained better by the following definations:

  1. M.F. Nimkoff says that “Family is a more or less durable association of husband

And wife with or without child, or of a man or woman alone, with children.”

2. Burgess and Locke, “Family is a group of persons united by ties of marriage, adoption constituting a single household interacting and intercommunicating with each other in their respective social roles of husband and wife ,father and mother, son and daughter, brother and sister ,creating a common culture.”

  1. Eliot and Merrill: Family is “The biological social unit composed of husband, wife and children.”

4. Maclver: Family is “A group defined by sex relationship sufficient precise and enduring to provide for the procreation and upbringing of children.”

General Characteristics of the Family:

  1. A Mating Relationship: A Family comes into existence when a man and women establish mating relation between them.
  1. Selection of Mates: Wife or husband may be selected by parents or by elders, or the choice may be left to the wishes of the individuals concerned. Various rules govern this selection.
  1. A Form of Marriage: The mating relationship is established through the institution of marriage. Marriage is an institution arrangement made by the society according to which the individuals establish marital relationships among themselves. Marriage may assume any one of the forms- monogamy, polygamy, and polyandry or group marriage.
  1. A system of Nomenclature: Every family is known or recognized by a distinctive name.
  1. A way of tracing the Descent: Every family has its own mode of tracing the descent. Decent refers to the social recognition of biological relationship between individuals. Descent may be traced through the male line or through the female line or through both the lines.
  1. A Common Residence: Family requires a home or a household to live in. After the marriage the wife may reside in husband’s parental home or she may stay in her parental home to which the husband pays occasional visits or both of them may establish a separate home of their own.
  1. An Economic Provision: Family provides for the satisfaction of the economic needs of its members.

Distinctive Features of the Family:

The family is an organization par excellence. Of all the social organizations, large or small, family is of the greatest sociological significance. It occupies the central position in our social structure. The family, unlike other institutions, enjoys a unique position in society. Its distinctive features may be noted here.

  1. Universality: After having made an analysis of more than 250 societies, Murdock concludes that the family is universal. There is no human society in which some form of the family does not appear nor has there ever been such a society. B.Malinowski writes: “The typical family, a group consisting of mother, father and their progeny, is found in all communities, savage, barbarians and civilized”.

The irresistible sex need, the urge for reproduction and the common economic needs have contributed to this universality.

2. Emotional Basis: The family is grounded in emotions and sentiments. It’s is based on our impulses of mating, procreation, maternal devotion, fraternal love and parental care. It is built upon sentiments of love, affection, sympathy, co-operation and friendship.

3. Limited Size: The family is smaller in size. As a primary group its size is necessarily limited. It seems to be the smallest social unit. The biological conditions have also contributed to its small size.

4. Formative Influence: The family is the earliest social environment which surrounds trains and educates the child. It is the ‘nursery of human nature’, and the ‘breeding ground of our mores and the nurse of our loyalties’.

5. Nuclear Position in the Social Structure: The family is the nucleus of all other social organizations. The whole social structure is built of family units. It influences the whole life of society.

6. Responsibility of the Members: The member of the family has certain responsibilities, duties and obligations. The smooth running of family depends n how best the members discharge their responsibilities in co-ordination with the other individuals of the family. As Maclver points out “In times of crisis men may work and fight and die for their country, but they toil for their families all their lives”.

7. Social Regulation: The family is peculiarly guarded both by social taboos and by legal regulations. The society takes precaution to safeguard this organization from any possible breakdown: by divorce, desertion or separation.

8. The Permanent and Temporary Nature of the Family: The family as an institution is permanent .Since it is based on the organic and emotional nature of man, it continues to exist. But family as an association may be temporary in character. These characteristics indeed reveal the sociological significance of the family.

Functions of the Family:

Functionalism is a special type of Sociology suggested by a man named Talcott Parsons who tried to understand the jobs that various organizations do for society. Talcott Parsons said that the function of anything is the job that it does. He said we need families in all societies because they do a special job for society.

The family as a social institution performs several functions. Various opinions have been expressed regarding the functions of family. Kingsley Davis speaks of four main functions of the family:

1. Recreational

2. Maintenance

3. Placement

4. Socialization

Ogburn and Nimkoff have mentioned six major functions of family:

1. Affectional

2. Economic

3. Recreational

4. Protective

5. Religious

6. Educational

Reed has described four functions of family:

1. Race Preparation

2. Socialization

3. Regulation and Satisfaction of sex needs

4. Economic Function

Primary Functions of Family:

Some of the functions of family are basic to its continued existence. They are referred to as essential functions by Maclver. They may also be regarded as Primary functions of family. They are explained below:

  1. Stable Satisfaction of Sex Need: Man is susceptible to sexual stimulation throughout his life. Family regulates the sexual behaviour of man by it’s agent, the marriage.Even Manu, the Hindu Law giver and Vatsyayana, the another of Kamsutra, have stated that sexual satisfaction is one of the main aims of family life.
  1. Reproduction: The result of sexual satisfaction is reproduction. The process of reproduction is institutionalized in the family. Hence it assumes regularity and a stability that all societies recognize as desirable.
  1. Production and Rearing of the Child: The family gives the individual his life and a chance to survive. The child which is helpless at the time of birth is given the needed protection of the family. No other institution can as efficiently bring up the as can the family. This can be referred to as the function of ‘maintenance’ also.
  1. Provision of home: Family provides the home for its members. Children are born and bring up in homes only. Even the parents who work outside are dependent on home for comfort, protection and peace. Home remains still the ‘sweet’ home.
  1. Family: An Instrument of culture Transmission and An Agent of Socialization: The family serves as an instrument of culture transmission. It transmits ideas an ideology, folkways and mores, customs and traditions, beliefs and values from one generation to next.

The family is an agent of socialization also. Socialization is its service to the individuals. Socialization is the process whereby one internalizes the norms of ones groups so that a distinct “self” emerges unique to the individual. It prepares its children for participation in larger world and acquaints than with larger culture.

  1. Status Ascribing Function: The family a also performs a pair of functions-
    1. Status ascriptions for the individual

1) Ascribed

2) Achieved

    1. Societal identification for the individual
  1. Affectional Function: Man has his physical, as well as mental needs. Family is an institution which provides the mental or emotional satisfaction and securities to its individual members. It is family which provides the most intimate and the dearest relationship for all its members. A person who has never been loved is seldom happy.

Secondary Function of Family:

In addition to the above described essential or primary functions the family performs some secondary or non-essential functions in some way and the other. Of these, the following may be noted:

Economic Function: The family fulfils the economic needs of its members. This has been the traditional function of family. Previously, the family was an economic unit. A man used to work in family or in farms forms the production of goods. Family member used to work together for this purpose. It was to a great extent self-sufficient. But today, the situation has changed. The family members don’t work together at home. They are no longer held together by division of labour.

Educational Function: The family provides the basis for the child’s formal learning. In spite of great changes, the family still gives the child his basis training in the social attitudes and habits important to adult participation in social life. ‘ The manner in which he learns how to get along with his family will be carried over to his interactions with school authorities , religious leaders, the police and other agents of social control.’

Religious Functions: The family is a centre for the religious training of the children. The children learn from their parents various religious virtues. Previously, the homes were also centre of religious quest. The family used to teach the children the religious values, moral precepts, way to worshipping God etc. Even today, it is the family that the foundations are laid down for the mortal standers that are to guide the children throughout their life. It is through the family that the religious inheritance is passed on to the next generation.

The Recreational Functions: At one time, recreation was largely family based .It fostered a close solidarity. Reading aloud, visiting relatives, family reunions, church socials, singing, dancing, playing indoor games etc. brought together the entire family. Recreation is now increasingly organized outside the family. Modern recreation is not designed for family-wide participation. Whether in the form of movies, sports events, plays, cricket, kabadi, tennis, dinner parties or ‘yakshagana’, it is designed for the couple or individual participation.

The Changing Family Patterns:

The family as a basic social institution has been undergoing change. The modern family radically differs from that of the traditional one. The family has never been at rest. Both in its structure and functions changes have taken place. Some of these changes may be examined here.

Changes in the Functions of the Family:

Some of the functions of family have not family have radically changed today while some others have received more attention of the public. A glance at these changes would clarify this point.

  1. The sexual regulation function of the family has not changed much. The family through its agent, marriage, still regulates the sexual impulse of the people. Illicit sexual behavior is fairly uncommon. But it is true that in the Western societies pre-marital and extra-marital sex relations are n the increase.
  1. The Reproductive function of the family has suffered particularly in the Western societies. In the Westerns societies, it is said, parents no longer desire more children. Absence of children has become the most glaring feature of the Western families. However, it is impossible to take away this reproductive function of the family. The very survival of the human race is based on reproduction.
  1. In the past fifty years the Parental and the Educational Functions of the family have been shifted to certain external agencies like hospitals, out-patient clinics for mothers, maternity homes the baby clinics, nurseries, kindergartens etc.

“The modern home is not enquires specialized training, which only the specialized agency of the school can supply”.

–A.W. Green

  1. The protective Functions of the family have declined particularly in the West. Families are no more the place of protection for the physically handicapped, mentally retarded, aged, diseased, inform and insane people. Other agencies have taken over this function. But, for the young children it continues to provide physical and emotional protection.
  1. The economic function of the family has been disturbed a great deal. The family is no longer the economic unit, neither is it self-sufficient .It is no longer united by shared work, for its members work separately. It is more a consuming unit than a producing centre. However, the family is not completely losing this function, but it is transforming this function to some external agencies.
  1. It seems that the socialization function of the family is gaining increased attention particularly in the Western society. An earlier generation knew little about the personality development. We know something today of the role of emotional development , school progress ,career success , physical well-being and practically all other aspects of the good life.
  1. The status –ascription function has been weakened since in modern society much emphasis is laid on achieved status. Still, the ethnic, religious, class, residential, nationality and other kinds of statuses are ascribed by the family to the individual at least in the initial stages in some way or other.
  1. The recreational function of the family is losing importance. External agencies have taken away this function. Modern recreation is highly commercialized. Movies, dance halls, night clubs, gambling centre have come into being. People leave home to seek these commercialized recreations. But they tend to leave home as single adults or married couples, as adolescents or children, rather than as a family unit. This has affected the cohesion of family.

Types of the Family:

Sociologists have spoken of different forms of family. They have taken into consideration different factors as the classification of the family. A few classifications can be mentioned.

1. On the basis of marriage family has been classified into three major types:

a. Polygamous Family

b. Polyandrous Family

c. Monogamous Family

2. On the basis of nature of residence family can be classified into three main forms:

a. Family of Matrilocal Residence

b. Family of Patrilocal Residence

c. Family of Changing Residence

3. On the basis of ancestry or descent family can be classified into two types:

a. Matrilineal Family

b. Pratrilineal Family

4. On the basis of nature of authority family can be classified into two main types:

a. Matriarchal Family

b. Patriarchal Family

5. On the basis of size or structure and the depth of generations family can be classified into two main types:

a. The Nuclear or Single Unite Family

b. The Joint or the Undivided Family

6. On the basis of the Nature of Relations among the family members the family can be classified into two main types:

a. The Conjugal Family which consists of adult members among whom there exists sex relationship.

b. Consanguine Family which consists of members among whom exists what is known as ‘blood relationship’- brother and sister, father and son etc.

Nuclear Family:

A nuclear family is one of which consists of the husband, wife and their children. Soon after their marriage, the children leave their parental home and establish their separate household. A nuclear family is mostly independent. The American family is a typical example of the modern independent nuclear family.

Figure: A Nuclear Family

The Structure of Nuclear Family:

The structure of the nuclear family is not the same everywhere. Bottomore makes a distinction between two kinds of family system:

1. The family system in which the nuclear family is relatively independent.

2. System in which the nuclear family is incorporated in, or subordinated to, a larger group, that is to the polygamous or the extended family

Recent Trends in the Modern Nuclear Family:

The family has undergone some radical changes in the past half a century. Its structure has changed, its function has been altered and its nature has been affected. Various factors-social, economic, educational, legal, culture, scientific, technological etc. have been responsible for this. A few significant trends may be noted:

  1. Industrialization: The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century and the consequent birth of the factory system of production affected the economic functions of the family. Family transferred its economic functions to the factory and become more a consumption unit than a productive centre.
  1. Democratic Ideals: Democracy assures equality and provides liberty to women too. Women now play not only domestic roles but also economic and political roles. They have the voting power and with it, they have entered politics. The world has already witnessed four women prime ministers.
  1. The Spirit of Individualism and Romantic Love: Today individualism and romanticism are widespread. Individualism has affected love-making an marriage .Romanticism has encouraged the idea of free choice of mates on the basis of love. Marriage has become as easily dissolvable as it is entered into by a mutual consent of the partners.
  1. Economic Independence of Women: The women have become now the earning member. She now works in office, factories, banks, schools, colleges, hospitals, administrative offices, ministries etc. The economic independence has increased her status but affected her attitude.
  1. Emancipation of Woman: Women are now liberated from the chains of traditionalism. They stand on an equal footing with man. They are demanding more rights and liberty for women.
  1. Decline in Birth Rate: The size of family is becoming smaller. Joint family is fairly uncommon. The birth rate is adversely affected. Absence of children is a glaring feature of the Western families.
  1. Divorce: Today, more stress is laid on romantic love. ‘Love is more sacramental’ now. In the west, love at first sight and divorce at next is quite common. Today, marriage has become a civil contract only.

Function of Modern Nuclear Family:

The modern Nuclear family continues to stay because of the essential functions that it performs even today. Those essential functions are explained below:

  1. Stable Satisfaction of Sex Need: The modern nuclear family continues to be the executive means of providing sexual satisfaction to its member. No other agency has been able to take up this task to the satisfaction of the members.
  1. Procreation and Upbringing of Children: The modern family still fulfils the functions of procreating and upbringing of children. Even, today most of the children are born and brought up in the family only. Family alone is well equipped to produce and bring up children.
  1. Socialization of Children: The modern family still remains as the main architect of socializing the new born baby. The child develops a ‘self’ and a personality of its own mainly in its family. Parents are showing more interest now-a-days giving proper social training to their children.
  1. Provision of Home: The modern family provides for its members house to live in. Due to economic and other exigencies, family members may go out for some time but they spend much of their time in the home itself. Only the home can provide permanent homely atmosphere for its members.

The Joint Family:

The joint family is also known as ‘undivided family’ and sometimes as ‘extended family’. According to Smt. Iravati Karve “A group of people who generally live under one roof, who eat food cooked at one hearth, who hold property in common, and who participate in common family worship and are related to each other as some particular types of kindred.”

Figure:A Joint Family

Types of Joint Family:

The joint family may assume two forms:

  1. Patriarchal joint family
  2. Matriarchal joint family

Characteristics of the Joint Family:

1. Depth of Generations: The joint family consists of people of three or more generations including at least grandparents, parents and children. Sometimes, other kith and kin such as uncles, aunts, cousins and great grandparents also live in the joint family itself.

2. Common Property: The members hold a common property. The head of the family manages the family property like a trustee. The total earnings of the members are pooled into a family treasury and family expenses are met with out of that.

3. Arranged Marriages: In the joint family, the head considers it as his privilege to arrange the marriage of the members. The individual’s right to select his/her life-partner is undermined.

4. Procreation: The size of the joint family is by nature bigger. Members rarely practiced birth control measures. But today the situation has changed.

5. Self-sufficiency: There was a time when the joint family was mostly self-sufficient. It used to meet the economic, recreational, medical, educational and other needs of the members. The rural agricultural joint families were mostly self-reliant. But they can hardly depend on themselves today. No type of family is self-reliant that way to day.

Merits of Joint Family:

  1. Stable and Durable: The joint family is more stable and durable than the single unit family or the nuclear family. Individuals may come and go but the family as a unit family or the nuclear family. Individuals may come and go but the family as a unit stands. It contributes much to the continuation of the cultural tradition.
  1. Provides Social Security: The joint Family gives social security to the week, aged, sick, infirm, divorced and separated and the neglected, the joint family serves as a social insurance company. It gives them food, shelter and protection


  1. Provides Psychological Security: The joint family provides psychological security to its members. By creating a harmonious atmosphere in the family, it contribute to the development of social solidarity. It prevents the growth of excessive individually inside the family.
  1. Provides Recreation: The joint family is an ideal place of recreation for all the members. Children play between the too aged and the little babies, the funny talks of the old, the broken language of the younger ones, the expression of sisterly, brotherly and motherly love and the like make the joint family life a pleasurable one.
  1. Helps Social Control: The joint family by exercising control over the behaviour of its member’s acts as an agency of social control. The individuals are taught to subordinate their individual interests to the group interests.

Demerits of Joint Family:

  1. Retards the Development of Personality: The joint family does not provide enough scope for the members to develop qualities of adventure, self-determination, industriousness etc. The elder ones take up too many responsibilities and the younger ones are overprotected.
  1. Promotes Idleness: The joint family is said to be the home of idlers and drone. Since all the members are assured of their basic necessities of life, no one takes much interest in the productive activities. Further, all the relatives make flock to the joint family with their idle habits and may become life-long parasites.
  1. The Centre of Quarrels: The joint family is said to be the hotbed of quarrels and bickering especially among the womenfolk. Since women come to the family from diverse socio-economic and religious backgrounds, they may find it difficult to adjust themselves properly. Quarrels very often take place between the elder and the younger members of the family.
  1. Denies Privacy: Since the joint family is always overcrowded, privacy is denied to the newly wedded couple. They can’t express openly their love and affection for the invariable presence of other members causes embarrassment for them. They rarely get opportunity to talk about their personal matters.
  1. Limits Social Mobility: The joint family is said to be more conservative in nature. It does not encourage its members to go after change. Members are more concerned with safeguarding their statuses rather than with changing them. Hence social mobility is very much limited here.

Step Family:

A stepfamily is a family in which one or both members of the couple have children from a previous relationship. The member of the couple to whom the child is not biologically related is the stepparent, specifically the stepmother or step father.

Statistics in the United States are difficult to come by, because the U.S. Census Bureau has discontinued providing estimates of marriage, divorce, and remarriage except for those that are available from the 1990 and earlier censuses.

  • The most common form of blended family is a mother and stepfather arrangement, since mothers often maintain custody of the children.
  • One-third of all children entering stepfamilies were born to an unmarried mother; the other two-thirds of cases involve divorce or the death of one parent.
  • Of the 60 million American children under the age of 13, half are currently living with one biological parent and that parent’s current partner.
  • The 1990 U.S. census estimated that by the year 2000 there would be more stepfamilies than original families.
  • If only children residing in legally married stepfamilies are included, 23% of U.S. children would be designated as living in a stepfamily; when children are included who live with a cohabiting parent, the figure rises to 30%.

Abuse and Step-Parents:

Finally, in this review of grim statistics is a report by Gibbons (1993) summarizing the recent research by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson on the relationship of stepparents to stepchildren. Using Canadian data over the past 20 years, they report that children under 2 were 60 to 70 times more likely to be killed by their step-parents than by their birth parents! (The study used only children living in two-parent households.) The murder rate declined as the children got older, but at all ages, stepchildren were more often killed than were genetic children. To even things out a bit, step-parents are also more likely to be killed than are biological parents (Heide, 1993). Malkin and Lamb (1994) also report evidence that maltreatment of children is higher when they live with stepparents or other caretakers. As Daly and Wilson (1996) put it, “It seems that Cinderella was more than a fairy tale.” Daly and Wilson found similar disturbing results for stepchildren in England and Wales. (For a summary of these findings, see Daly and Wilson, 1996. See also Pruett, et al., 1995.)

Of course, there are many committed and loving step-parents. The findings given here concern averages. One can propose that very fine stepparents are different from the statistically typical stepparent in various ways, e.g., they often make a conscious and strong commitment to the role of fathering (or mothering); they frequently offer to formally adopt their stepchildren and they often have a strong religious or moral motivation.

Is The Family In Decline? Analysis

How Some Get It Right

Point 1: The popular line that the family is dying; long-live the family just can’t be supported.

Point 2: The purpose of family is changing.

Point 4: Family size and household size are declining BUT our understanding of both is different than in years past.

Point 5: Women and men are delaying or forgoing marriage, BUT they still get married.

Point 6: Women are increasingly older when they begin to have children, and they have less children, but our frame of reference may be off.

Point 7: Women are raising children on their own, outside of marriage BUT there’s an incorrect presumption that it’s voluntary and permanent.

Point 8: Institutions have taken over many of the traditional duties of the family BUT that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Point 9: Moving from rural to urban environments generally serves to weaken (even end) the extended family household; BUT that doesn’t mean that extended families with strong ties automatically end if they live in different houses.

Point 10: Education of women generally leads to: more women in the workforce delay of marriage and a lower birth rate BUT there’s another reason: birth control.

How Some Get It Wrong

Point 1: I wrote the trend as if it were for a nation or king. It isn’t much of an exaggeration: the media (and politicians) often present the nuclear family with an over-idealized, over-nostalgic view.

Often, the article isn’t about “the family,” but, really about is the about “nuclear family,” specifically, and then equates its decline with demise of all families. The reality is there’s a continuing transformation of “the family,” which has gone on throughout history.

These articles are also frequently culturally-biased – they ignore that different cultural and ethnic tradition of family not just in the U.S., but around the world.

Point 2: “The nuclear family” is a sacred, cherished, fundamental, historical institution that our society is based on BUT.

Point 3: The family’s purpose is different, so the changing shouldn’t be a surprise – and maybe it’s even a good thing.

If the family changes from a unit of economic production to a model of human relationship / one of affection, then it would seem that family structure would necessarily (automatically?) change with that.

Point 4: Family size and household size are declining BUT our understanding of both is different than in years past.

It isn’t just divorce and staying/becoming single that is making up smaller families (that’s true for the past few decades but less as you go further back in history) Historically; households/ families included boarders, servants, as well as extended family.

Mobility is a factor: it was harder to go and there wasn’t anywhere to move to.

Point 5: Women and men are delaying or forgoing marriage, BUT .

When the vast majority of Americans still get married and those who get divorced usually remarry.

There’s a presumption that earlier marriage is better.

When younger marries have a higher divorce rate

Point 6: Institutions have taken over many of the traditional duties of the family BUT that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


Education is increasingly institutionalized, and that does tend to homogenize the information taught, and would yes, expose children to ideas that are contrary to a family’s traditional beliefs. But homogeneity and exposure to those ideas is probably essential in an increasingly globalized world/environment or a pluralist society such as ours. And education is increasingly specialized; the amount of information is growing exponentially; there’s no way to have a parent pass down knowledge of a trade and remain successful in a modern era that upgrades its technology faster than you can blink, etc. There are generational differences in technology, information – which now may be a prerequisite – that need professionals who study, are current, and can inculcate all that.

And there’s an argument to be made that might actually strengthen the family because it is the source for culture, those values, etc.

Point 7: Moving from rural to urban environments generally serves to weaken (even end) the extended family household; BUT that doesn’t mean that extended families with strong ties automatically end if they live in different houses.

I think the key is the strength of extended family in the culture. In our independent, American individualist tradition, we’ve been taught to strike out on our own. But in other areas / cultures (such as Africa (e.g. Nigeria), Filipino), there’s a stronger tradition of extended family and they seem to withstand urbanization better. Recall also how some studies argue members of the family act to often facilitate migration to urban areas, or other countries.

Point 8: Education of women generally leads to: more women in the workforce delay of marriage and a lower birth rate BUT there’s another reason: birth control.

I think education may be overrated on this one. It’s an indicator – a really good predicator of behavior. But I ‘m not sure it’s the cause for all that. At least, not by itself. There are other factors that coincide with it to make the difference– they may be cultural, economic.

China’s one-birth policy is the in the workforce. And educated wealthy Kuwaitis are still having large families.


Marriage is a civil contract rather than a religious sacrament.In Islam and the parties to the contract represent the interests of families rather than the direct personal interests of the prospective spouses. In Bangladesh, parents ordinarily select spouses for their children, although men frequently exercise some influence over the choice of their spouses. In middle-class urban families men negotiate their own marriages. Only in the most sophisticated elite class does a woman participate in her own marriage arrangements. Marriage generally is made between families of similar social standing, although a woman might properly marry a man of somewhat higher status. Financial standing came to outweigh family background in the late 20th century in any case. Often a person with a good job in a Middle Eastern country is preferred over a person of highly regarded lineage.

“Marriage is a socially approved way of establishing a family in the marriage”


“Marriage is a relatively permanent bond between permissible mates”

Robert H. Lowie

“Marriage is the public joining together, under socially specified regulations of a man and woman as husband and wife”.

-Alfred McClung Lee

Figure: Marriage ceremony in western country

Characteristics of Marriage:

  1. Universality: Marriage is more or less a universal institution. It is found among the preliterate as well as literate peoples. It is enforced as a social rule in some of the societies. Examples: In Japan, celibacy is publicly condemned. In Korea, unmarried individuals are called ‘half’ persons. Among the Hindus, marriage is a sacrament which is regarded as more or less obligatory. The Todas of Nilagiri refuse to perform funeral rites for a girl if she dies before her marriage. But they do perform it after completing some sort of marriage ceremony for the corpse. According to the Chinese philosopher Confucius, an individual who remains unmarried throughout his life commits a great crime. As Levi-Strauss has observed that the unmarried primitive of Central Brazil are made to lead a miserable life.
  1. Relationship between Man and Women: Marriage is a union of man and women. It indicates relationship between one or more men to one or more women. Who should marry whom? One should marry how many?-are the questions which represent social rules regarding marriage which differ significantly.
  1. Marriage Bond is enduring: Marriage indicates a long lasting bond between the husband and wife. Hence it is not coextensive with sex life. It excludes relationships with prostates or any other exult relationship which is viewed as casual and not sanctioned by custom, law or church. Marital relationship between man and women lasts even after the sexual satisfaction is obtained. The Hindus, for example, believe that marriage is a sacred bond between the husband and wife which even the death can not break.
  1. Marriage Requires Social Approval: A union of man and woman becomes a marital bond only when the society gives it approval, it becomes a legal contract.
  1. Marriage is associated with Some Civil or Religious Ceremony: Marriage gets its social recognition through some ceremony. This ceremony may have its own rites, rituals, customs, formalities etc. It means marriage has to be concluded in a public and solemn manner. Sometimes it receives as a sacrament the blessings of religion. Marriage among the hindus,for example,is regarded as a sacrament. Its connected with rituals such as-

a.Homa b.Saptapadi c.panigrahana,


e.Dharana etc.

  1. Marriage Creates Mutual Obligations: Marriage imposes certain rights and duties on both the husband and wife. Both are required to support each other and their children.

Function of Marriage:

The importance of marriage consists in the functions that it performs. The main functions of marriage are as followers:

  1. Regulations of Sex Life: Marriage is the powerful instrument of regulating the sex life of man. Sexual impulse is powerful in man. He is exposed to its influence throughout his life. It is an urgent and an irresistible need of man. It has to be controlled and regulated in a proper manner to avoid chaos and confusion in society. Marriage has come to be such a regulative means. Hence marriage is often called the licenses for sex life. Marriage regulates sex relations also. It prohibits sex relations between the closest relatives, that is, between father and daughter, mother and son, brother and sister etc. Such a kin d of prohibition is called incest taboo. Marriage also puts restrictions on the premarital and extra-marital sex relations.
  1. Marriage Leads to the Establishment of the Family: Marriage insists on the couple to establish a family of procreation. It is here the children are born and bred up. It is the marriage which determines the descent of the new born individual. Inheritance and succession follow the rule of descent.
  1. Provides for Economic Cooperation: Marriage makes division of labour possible on the basis of sex. In some of the primitive tribes we find a clear-cut division of work between the husband and wife. Even in the modern industrial societies, we find husband and wife working outside the family to get more income to elevate their economic status.
  1. Marriage Contributes to Emotional Interstimulation of the Partners: Marriage brings life-partner together and helps them to develop intense love and affection towards each other. It deepens the emotions and strengthens the companionship between the two. It also helps them to develop intellectual co-operation between them.
  1. Marriage aims at Social Solidarity: Marriage not only brings two individuals of the opposite sex together but also their respective families, groups and kindred’s. Friendship between groups is reinforced through marriage. It is often suggested that by encouraging marriage between different groups, castes, races, classes, religious, linguistic and other communities, it is possible to minimize the social distance between groups and strengthen their solidarity.

Forms of Marriage:

The main forms of marriage are: – Polygyny, Polyandry, Monogamy and Group Marriage. Each of these types may be analyses here.

Polygyny: Polygyny is a form of marriage in which one man marries more than one woman at a given time. Polygyny is more popular than polyandry but nit as universal as monogamy. Polygyny is in practice among the Eskimo tribes, Crow Indians, Hidatsa of North America, African Negroes, the Nagas, Gonds and Baigas of India. However, it is permitted in Muslim Community.

Polyandry: Polyandry is the marriage of one woman with several men. It is much less common than polygyny. It is practiced among the Tibetans, Marquesan Islanders of Polynesia, the Bahama of Africa, the tribals of Samoa and others. In India, the tribes such as Tiyan, the Toda, the Kota, the khasa and Ladakhi Bota also practices polyandry. The Nairs of Kerala were polyandrous previously.

Monogamy: Mnogamy It is the form of marriage in which one man marries one woman.this is the ost widespread form of marriage found among the primitives as well as the civilized people. It is practiced among the tribals such as Kadars, Santals, the Khasis, the Canella, the Hopi, the Iroquois, the Andaman Islanders, the Veddas of Ceylon, the Sevangas of Malaya and others.

Group Marriage: Theoretically group marriage means the marriage of two or more women with two or more man. But this arrangement is practically rare. Here the husbands are common husbands and wives are common wives. Children are regarded as the children of the entire group as a whole. Some of the tribls is Australia, India, Tibet and Ceylon are believed to have practiced group marriage.

Marriage among Muslims:

Marriage among the Muslim is regarded not as a religious sacrament but as a secular bond. Islam made it compulsory. Muslims call their marriage ‘ Nikah’. Prophet Mohammad stressed that married life is preferable to unmarried life.

“Muslim marriage is a contract for the purpose of legalizing sexual intercourse and the procreation of children”

-Roland Wilson

“Marriage among Muslims is not a sacrament but purely a civil contract.”

–S.C. Sarkar

Importance of Mehr in Muslim Marriage:

Mehr or dower is a practice of associated with Muslim marriage. “ Dower is the sum of money or other property which a wife is entitled to get from her husband in consideration of the marriage.”

Purpose of Mehr: As per the Muslim law, dower is an obligation imposed upon a husband as a mark of respect of wife. Its main purpose is:

Ø to put a check on the husband to divorce wife

Ø to enable a woman to look after herself after her husband’s death or divorce.

Proposal of mehr before Marriage:

Marriage proposal and Mehr discussions normally go together. The bride’s relative called ‘wall’ plays an important role in discussion. He only keeps the account of ‘Mehr’. Normally, a part of Mehr is paid by the bridegroom to ‘wall’ on the third day of the marriage. The balance is generally paid when the husband dies or divorces the wife. It is her right to claim the Mehr from her husband. She may even refuse to accompany him if the agreed-upon-installment of Mehr is not paid.

Mehr is Different from Bride-price:

Mehr is not bride-price for the wife is not purchased just by throwing some money as it was the case centuries ago. In the modern Islamic societies the bride’s consent has become pre-requisite for marriage. As it is made clear the main purpose of Mehr is to give financial security to the woman and to create responsibilities in man.

Muslim wife’s Right over Mehr:

As per the Islamic law, the wife has absolute right over the mehr mehr amount. A window’s claim for mehr is normally regarded as her claim over her husband’s property. She can retain the property till her mehr is paid. She need not wait for the consent of heirs for the possession of her husband’s property. In case the divorce takes places through mutual agreement or by wife’s initiative, her right to mehr gets extinguished.

Divorce among the Muslim:

Muslim marriage which is treated as a contract can be dissolved in the following ways:

1. Divorce as per the Muslim law but without the intervention of the court.

2. Divorce as per the Muslim Marriage dissolution Act. 1959 ,that is, as per the court’s intervention.

3. Divorce as per the Shariah Act. 1937

Divorce According to Muslim Law:

According to the traditional Muslim law, divorce can be obtained directly in two ways without the interventions of the civil court.They are:

    1. Khula/Mubarat
    2. Talaq

Khula/Mubarat: Husband and wife can obtain divorce by mutual consent either by Khula or by ‘Mubarat’. Different between khula and Mubarat is simple. In Khula divorce is initiated at the instance of the wife. In Mubarat, since both the parties desire separation, the initiative may come either from the wife or from the husband.

Talaq: Talaq represents one of the ways according to which a Muslim husband can give divorce to his wife as per the Muslim law without intervention of the court. In Talaq, the husband has the right to dismiss his wife by repeating the dismissal formula thrice. The talaq may be affected either orally by making some pronouncements or in writing by presenting ‘talaqnama’. Talaq may be given in any one of the following three ways:

  1. Talaq-e-Ashan: This involves a single pronouncement of talaq followed by a period of conjugal abstinence till the completion of ‘Iddat’.
  1. Talaq-e-Hasan: This consists of three pronouncements of ‘Talaq’ made during three successive menstrual periods and no sexual contact has taken place between the spouses during these months.
  1. Talaq-ul-Bidat: Here, talaq, pronouncement takes place in any one of the following ways:

Ø In a single sentence, for example, “I divorce thee thrice” or in three separate sentences “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee”.

Ø In a single but clear pronouncement such as “I divorce thee irrevocably.”

Importance of ‘IDDAT’ in Muslim Divorce:

‘Iddat’ plays an important role in Muslim divorce cases. ‘Iddat’ denotes a period of waiting. Iddat refers to a period of secusion for tree menstrual periods for a woman after the death of or divorce by her husband to ascertain whether she was pregnant. ‘Iddat’ “…implies the period of waiting incumbent on a woman between dissolution of one marriage and the contracting of another”. “It is important to note that in this period of waiting husband and wife are not supposed to have sexual contact.

Legal and Social effects of Iddat:

Legal Effects:

1. In a divorce case the wife involved is bound to wait for ‘Iddat’ period.

2. During the period of ‘Iddat’ the husband is obliged to provide for her maintenance.

3. The wife is not supposed to give her consent for another marriage till the Iddat period is completed.

4. On the completion of ‘Iddat’ period, the wife can legitimately demand the ‘Deferred mehr’

Social Effects:

1. ‘Iddat’ serves as a restraining influence on inconsiderate haste on the part of the husband and on the tempo of divorce. It gives time for the husband to think and act. The husband may simply take back the wife during the period of ‘Iddat’ and suspend the devorce.

2. ‘Iddat’ makes it clear whether the wife is pregnant or not. The fact of pregnancy sometimes brings reconciliation between them.

3. It is becomes apparent during ‘Iddat’ that the divorced wife is pregnant,the husband is recommended to take her back and treat her with consideration till the child is born. The child belongs to the husband if it is not born out of adultery. The wife also can not marry any one else until her delivery.

4. The ‘Iddai’ period is normally three months. In the case of a widow the duration is 4 months 10 days.

It may be noted that according to the Muslim Women’s Prot