Basis on Choosing a Marriage Partner

The following practices are the bases of selecting a marriage partner:

1. Parental Selection or Arranged Marriages

Families that have important stake in the type of spouse their son or daughter will take usually practice this, E.g., Will he or she readily adjust to the family’s code of behaviour? Will he or she share in the family’s ideals and principles? Parents select their child’s spouse who would not imperil the customary family relationships and practices.

2. Romantic Love

Romantic love has become an important basis for marriage in our society. It is the theme of most of our popular songs, the subject of many of our movies and television shows, and made active in scores of popular books and magazine articles. With the values of individualism and free choice inculcated among our youth, they are more independent in the choice of their partner. Young as they are, they are full of idealism and youthful energy. Influenced by our society’s exaltation of romance, romantic love helps weaken the strong emotional ties that bind young people with their own family and enables them to move more comfortably into their own independent world. Thus, by exalting romance, our society may be simultaneously undermining the very relationship it tries to promote: stable, enduring, child-producing marriages.

Why People Marry

People marry for a combination of reasons such as those enumerated below:

  1. Love
  2. Economic security
  3. Emotional security
  4. Parents’ wishes
  5. Escape from loneliness
  6. Common interests
  7. Parenthood
  8. Physical attraction
  9. Compatibility
  10. Marital bliss and happiness
  11. Unhappy home situation
  12. Money
  13. Companionship
  14. Protection
  15. Adventure
  16. Sex and sexual attraction
  17. Begetting and rearing of children
  18. Acceptance of responsibility
  19. Death of a former spouse
  20. Care and nurturance
Definition and Nature of Family

The family is the basic social institution and the primary group in society. There are varied types of family arrangements among the families throughout the world.

Burgess and Locke (1963) define the family as a group of persons united by ties of marriage, blood or adoption, constituting a single household, interacting and communicating with each other in their respective social roles of husband and wife, mother and father, son and daughter, brother and sister, creating and maintaining a common culture.

Light (1985) defines the family as a group of people who are united by ties or marriage, ancestry, or adoption and who are recognized by the community as constituting a single household and as having the responsibility for rearing children.

Murdock (1949) defines the family as a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction.

Theories or Perspectives on the Family

There are three theories which give unique and valuable insights into human family life. They are as follows:

1. The Functionalist Perspective

Functionalists say that if a society is to survive and maintain itself across time, certain essential functions must be performed. Their performance cannot be left to chance. If they were, the society would run the risk of disintegration. Functionalists view institutions as the principal structures for organizing and directing people’s activities so that key tasks are executed. They consider the family to be the institution responsible for the following functions:

  1. Regulation of sexual behaviour;
  2. Reproduction;
  3. Biological maintenance;
  4. Socialization;
  5. Care and protection function;
  6. Social placement or group status;
  7. Social control.

2. The Conflict Perspective

Conflict theorists such as Jetse Sprey (1979), agree with the functionalists’ position that the family institution and other groups in society are organized systems of species survival. But they also point out that human societies operate under conditions of perpetual scarcity for most of the reasons that people need or want. Scarcity in turn leads to competition both within and between groups, and people enter a great many relationships as real or potential competitors. Viewed from this perspective, families do not differ from one another so much as to the presence or absence of conflict but rather in its forms and intensity.

Much family conflict involves negotiating and bargaining rather than fighting. The terms “negotiating” and “bargaining” imply that some matters are in dispute and the parties are attempting to reach a collective agreement. The family is also a system for regulating conflict so as to enjoy processes of “give and take”. Thus, family members develop patterns for confronting each other while simultaneously structuring intricate modes of cooperation.

3. The Symbolic Interactionist Perspective

The symbolic interactionists direct considerable attention to the symbolic environment in which people carry out their daily activities. They point out that human beings differ to learn, think and communicate symbolically (Burn et. al, 1979). The symbols that people employ have meaning and allow them to mentally evaluate and formulate various courses of action. As such, individuals fit and align their actions in married and family relationships by evolving shared definitions of the situation.

Symbolic interactionists stress that a couple’s relationship undergoes a continuous process of definition or redefinition. Hence, marital and family life consists of an ongoing process of attributing meaning to situations and fashioning relationships based on these interpretations.

Patterns of Family Organization

Sociologists and anthropologists distinguish different patterns of family organizations among societies of the world.

a. Based on Internal Organization or Membership

1. Nuclear Family – is composed of a husband and his wife and their children in a union recognized by the other members of the society. Murdock (1949) states that every normal adult in a society belongs to two kinds of nuclear families, namely; the family of orientation and the family of procreation.

a.) The family of orientation is the family into which a person is born and where he is reared or socialized. It consists of a father, a mother, brothers and sisters.

b.) The family of procreation is the family that such person established through marriage and consists of a husband, a wife, sons and daughters.

2. Extended Family – is composed of two or more nuclear families, economically and socially related to each other. The extensions may be through parent-child relationships, when the unmarried children and the married children with their families live with the parents. Another type of extension is through the husband and wife relationship, as in a polygynous marriage. In polygyny the man keeps a number of nuclear families and unites them under a larger family group.

Linton (Murdok 1949) distinguishes two types of family structures corresponding to the nuclear and extended families, namely, the conjugalfamily and the consanguinealfamily.

The conjugalfamily corresponds to the nuclear family where priority is given to marital ties. The core family consists of the spouses and their offsprings: blood relatives are functionally marginal and peripheral.

The consanguinealfamily corresponds to the extended family where priority is given to blood ties (those between parents and children or between brothers and sisters). The core family consists of blood relatives, with spouses being functionally marginal and peripheral.

b. Based on Descent

Descent implies family genealogical ties of a person with a particular group of kinsfolk.

  1. Bilateral descent – involves the reckoning of descent through both the father’s and mother’s families.
  2. Patrilineal descent – involves the reckoning of descent through the father’s family only.
  3. Matrilineal descent – involves the reckoning of descent through the mother’s family only.

c. Based on Residence

This refers to the arrangements on where the newlyweds will reside.

  1. Patrilocal. The married couple live with or near the husband’s family
  2. Matrilocal. The husband leaves his family and sets up housekeeping with or near his wife’s family.
  3. Neolocal. The married couple establish a new home; they reside independently of the parents of either groom or bride.
  4. Bilocal. It gives the couple a choice of staying with either the groom’s parents or the bride’s parents.

d. Based on Authority

This refers to whom the power and decision-making is vested in the family.

  1. Patriarchy. It is one in which the authority is vested in the oldest male in the family, often the father.
  2. Matriarchy. It is one in which the authority is vested in the mother or the mother’s kin.
  3. Equalitarian or egalitarian. It is one in which the husband and the wife exercise a more or less equal amount of authority.
  4. Matricentric. It is one in which the authority is vested in the mother due to prolonged absence of the father.
Alternatives to Marriage and the Family

Nontraditional alternatives to marriage and the family include single parenthood, non-marital cohabitation, renewable contract on marriage, multiple marriages, commuter marriages, same sex marriage, communal living, affiliated families, voluntary childless families, and female as provider and head of the family. These alternative forms are based on the individualistic notion that neither the church, the community or the society are the source of authority in marriage and establishing a family but the person alone; each individual is responsible for his or her own success or failure in marriage without regard to the community structure or the social conditions in which he or she operates.