Marriage

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In one form or another marriage has existed almost as long as civilization itself. Marriage is a universal institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family. This union is regulated by society, and societys laws, rules, customs, beliefs, and attitudes prescribe the rights and duties of the man and woman. Marriage is found within so many different societies probably because it satisfies so many basic social and personal needs. For instance, it supplies a sanctioned framework for sexual activity (see Sexuality). Marriage also accords status to the couples children; provides for the care of the children, their education, and their acceptance in society; regulates lines of descent; clarifies division of labor between the sexes; and of course satisfies personal needs for affection, status, and companionship. One of marriages most crucial functions is to lay the foundation for the family. Successful child rearing requires extensive parental involvement and the cooperation of both parents. Marriage provides the framework that makes such cooperation possible. Hence marriage plays a vital role in ensuring the procreation of human beings and the preservation of their societies. (See also Child Development; Family. ) The importance placed on the institution of marriage can be seen in the elaborate and complex customs and rituals that surround it. Although these laws and rituals are as varied and numerous as the social and cultural organizations that invented them, they have many elements in common. In every society the main legal function of marriage regards the couples children. Marriage ensures the childrens rights and entitles them to the traditional communal privileges, including the right of inheritance. Marriage also defines the childrens relationships within the community, and may even determine which future spouses are acceptable for them. The institution of marriage is governed by a number of other customs as well. Until modern times, for example, marriage was rarely a matter of free choice. In Western civilization love has come to be associated with marriage. In most societies, however, marriages were prearranged and carefully regulated. Most societies have rules concerning the marriage of family members as well as the marriage of members of the society to others within and outside the social group. The prohibition of incest-sexual relations with a close family member-is universal. The definition of close relations may vary among societies. With very few exceptions, however, sexual relations or marriage between a mother and a son or between a father and a daughter are universally prohibited. Endogamy, the practice of marrying someone from within ones own tribe or group, is the oldest social regulation of marriage. Cultural pressures to marry from within ones social, economic, and racial group are still very strongly enforced today. ...


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