What Are The Characteristics And Types Of Marriages?

Marriage is a very important social institution that caters to the needs of man’s social and bio-psychic instincts.  This institution was in existence ever since the inception of human civilization and is one of the oldest, universal and important and indispensable institution for the existence, well being and progress of human beings. It is a social institution that binds two persons belonging to opposite sexes allowing them to live together as husband and wife. It gives them social legitimization for having sexual relations between themselves that lead to the birth of children. Marriage can be considered as the institutionalization of sex.

Some definitions of marriage

Many types of definitions of marriages have been coined by different sociologists. Some important among them are given below.

According to Malinowski, a twentieth century anthropologist marriage is a contract that authorises the production and maintenance of the offspring. According to Edward Westermarck, a Finnish philosopher marriage is relation of men to women recognized by law that involves some rights and duties to both the parties into the union as well offspring born out of it.

Characteristics of marriage

Some of the important characteristics of marriage are discussed below.

  • Marriage is a universal institution found in all societies under different stages of development.
  • It involves in a permanent bond between husband and wife designed to meet psychological, social, religious and biological needs.
  • Marriage is an enduring relationship between two individuals of opposite sex and is based on mutual obligations and rights.
  • Marriage between men and women requires social approval without which it is not valid.
  • The family formed after marriage between a man and woman provides facilities for procreation and upbringing of the children so produced.
  • Marriage creates some mutual obligation between wife and husband and they are fulfilled based on social rules or customs.
  • Marriages are often followed by some social or religious functions which makes it valid. Even modern marriages which take place in courts are often followed by religious or social functions.
  • Sexual relationships in marriage are governed by prescribed customs, laws and practices.
  • Marriage has certain symbols like rings, special cloths vermilion, etc.

Types of marriages

There are different forms or types of marriages found in different societies.  In some societies marriage is considered as social contract whereas in other societies marriage is considered as religious sacrament.

Monogamy:  Monogamy is a widespread, rational and ideal form of marriage found in all civilized societies. In this type of marriage a man marries another woman and lives with her though out his life or till the death of her and vice versa. This system of marriage is now in practise throughout the universe and they are considered as the best type of marriage that provides more social security and well being for the members of a family. . There are two types of monogamy. They are serial monogamy and non-serial monogamy.

  • Serial Monogamy: In serial Monogamous marriage, remarriage is allowable in case of divorce or death. In spite of the remarriage he remains to be monogamous.
  • Non-serial monogamy: In this type of monogamy, remarriage is not allowed even if the spouse dies or the marriage end up in divorce. In this type of marriage the spouse has to remain unmarried even after the death of the partner.

Polygamy: This is a type of marriage in which plurality of partners are allowed. A man can marry more than one woman and a woman can marry more than one man. There are three kings of polygamy which are explained below.

Polyandry: In this type of marriage a woman is allowed to marry more than one man. Examples are brothers sharing one wife or more wives in common.  This type of marriages are seen in some tribes like today, in India.

Endogamy:  Endogamy is also known as group marriage.  In this marriage a group of men are married to a group of women. Every man is the husband of each woman of the group and vice versa. Some sociologists call it as sexual communism. This type of marriage is now found in Africa and Guinea.

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