Sociology – Marriage


Sociology Honours

1. Marriage as a social institution

Marriage is possibly the most ancient social institution that came to be practiced to bring some order, dignity, and permanency to the relationship between a man and a woman choosing to live together. The idea of family as a closely-bonded unit springs from the institution of marriage. The concept of marriage and family can’t be separated.

Quite understandably, people in different lands and at different times have treated the institution of marriage with widely varying rituals. Just as culture takes myriad hues, marriage takes many forms. No matter what form of marriage is practiced, it is universally treated as the bedrock of the man-woman bonding in a civilized society. In no culture, marriage’s sacrosanct nature is questioned.
Definition of Marriage by eminent experts…

Westermarck in ‘History of Human Marriage’ defines marriage as the more or less durable connection between male and female lasting well beyond cohabitation and birth of offspring.
Malinowski describes marriage is a contract for the production and maintenance of children.
Robert Lowie describes marriage as a relatively permanent bond between permissible mates.

2. Functions of marriage

Some of the the important functions of marriage are as below.
1. Procreation of children.
2. Sex regulation.
3. Rearing of children and on-boarding them to the society
4. Provide legal parents to children.
5. Give economic, physical, and social security to women.
6. Create more man power for meeting the needs of society and country.

3. Rules of marriage, Types of marriage
Meaning and Types of Marriage

We can find a lot of commonality among different cultures regarding the meaning of marriage. In short, the institution of marriage formalizes the union of a man and a woman. The married couple gets recognition from others and are not berated for living together and procreating.

The type of marriage varies vastly with geography and historical periods. The domineering attitude of the male and the power of wealth and power fashions the type of marriage.

The main types of marriages are:


Polygyny is a form of marriage practiced in ancient civilizations in which one man married more than one woman at a given time. At present it may be present in primitive tribes like Crow Indians, Baigas and Gonds of India. Polygyny is of two types:

Sororal polygyny

It is a type of marriage in which the wives are invariably the sisters. It is often called sororate. It is usually observed in those tribes that pay a high bride price.

Non-sororal polygyny

It is a type of marriage in which the wives are not related as the sisters.


Polyandry is the marriage of one woman with several men. It is practiced among the Marquesan Islanders of Polynesia, The Bahama of Africa and tribes of Samoa. In India among tribes of Tiyan, Toda, Kota, Khasa and Ladakhi Bota it is still prevalent. Polyandry is of two.

Fraternal polyandry

When several brothers share the same wife, the practice can be called fraternal polyandry. It is prevalent among the Todas in India.

Non – fraternal polyandry

In this type the husbands need not have any close relationship prior to the marriage. The wife goes to spend some time with each husband. So long as a woman lives with one of her husbands, the others have no claim over her. Polyandry has its own implications. It gives rise to the problem of determining biological paternity of the child. Among the Todas one of the husbands goes through what is called a bow and arrow ceremony with the woman and thereby becomes the legal father of her child. Among the Samoans, the children after the first few years are given the liberty to choose their father for their permanent stay. The selected father, so selected, becomes the actual father of the child.


Monogamy is a form of marriage in which one man marries the woman. It is the most common form of marriage found among civilized societies around the world. According to Westermarck, monogamy is as old as humanity. It fosters loyalty and mutual love between the husband and the wife. It contributes to family peace, harmony, and happiness. Monogamous marriage are, by nature, enduring. Children grow under the same parents and get their full attention as they grow up. Unlike polygamy, women are treated with dignity, and sympathy. In monogamy women enjoy better social status.
There are two types of monogamy.

Serial monogamy

In many societies individuals are permitted to marry again often on the death of the first spouse or after divorce but they cannot have more than one spouse at one and the same time.

Straight monogamy

In straight monogamy the remarriage of the individuals is not allowed.

4. Changes in the institution of marriage

To be continued

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