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Marriage and Family Structure Essay

“Marriage is not a ritual or an end. It is a long, intricate, intimate dance together and nothing matters more than your own sense of balance and your choice of partner. ” These were words of Army Bloom while commenting on the topic of marriage (Sardone 2010). Human race is a product of a family in one way or another. However, not all can be said to exist in the planet as result of marriage. They are those that were born out of wedlock and either live with one parent or have never known any of their parents. Nevertheless, marriages still take place and families continue to exist.

With the development of society, both the marriage and family structure have undergone transformation and many have veered off from the traditional definitions of the same. This paper is aimed at showing that marriage and family are important parts of any culture despite there being different types of marriage and family structure. According to Goepfrich (2007, p 3) in his book “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, marriage can be defined as “the social institution under which man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments or religious ceremonies among others.

” Goepfrich acknowledges that for people to be recognized as married, they must have witnesses and the ceremony conducted by either a civil servant or a religious minister. However such a statement by the author ignores the fact that there are so many people who claim to be happily married yet they have never been legally married. In some cultures especially in the places such as Africa, a marriage can be validated by traditional elders without the necessity of the couple being awarded a marriage certificate.

However, one thing agreeable to all is that a marriage will lead into a family; since any couples get married to form a family. Types of Marriages Authors have classified marriage into different categories depending on the context. The Sociology Guide (2010) divides marriages in several types; polygyny (polygamy), polyandry, group marriage, monogamy; under monogamy there is serial monogamy and straight monogamy. Polygyny (Polygamy) In this type of marriage, a single man has more than one wife at a particular period (Sociology Guide 2010).

There are different cultures that do not view this type of marriage as valid and therefore it is not encouraged. Civil laws in many countries do not recognize polygamous families and this leads the man to either live with the other wives secretly or without valid wedding certificate. Christianity as a religion teaches that a marriage should be “one-man one-wife” and thus one is required to declare that he has never married before and if he had done so, the wife had died. Some Christian denominations do not even join divorcees in the holy matrimony.

However in Islamic cultures as well as in societies in South Africa, polygamous marriages are recognized. A good example is that of the incumbent president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma who has more than four wives. Sororal polygyny or sororate is a situation where one man has married blood sisters, while in non sororal polygyny, the wives are not blood sisters (Sociological Guide, 2010). Polyandry Though not as common as polygamous marriage, this type of marriage entails one woman having more than one husband.

This is not recognized in many cultures and therefore those who involve themselves in such do not do it in open. However, some cultures allow blood brothers to share wives especially if the husband is impotent or he only sires children of one sex. This type of marriage is referred to as fraternal or alelphic polyandry and is very common among the Todas. In non fraternal polyandry, the husbands are not related in any way and the other men cannot claim the woman as their wife at that particular time when he is living with one of them (Sociological Guide, 2010). Monogamous Family

This type is regarded as the ideal type of marriage in addition to being the most common and acceptable by nearly all cultures and religions, even those that accept the other types of marriage. It is a one-man one-husband marriage. Under this type of marriage, there is the serial marriage where a husband remarries after the demise of his wife. In such a situation, this is not regarded as polygamy. Of recent, it has become common for the spouse to get another wife/husband after divorce. However, some people chose to remain single after the departure of their spouses.

In what is referred to as a straight marriage, the spouse may not be allowed to remarry under any circumstances (Sociology Guide, 2010). Forced Marriages In this type of marriage, the woman is abducted and the husband rapes her. In those cultures where forced marriages are practiced, there is a belief that once a man has intercourse with a woman, he automatically becomes her husband. This practice however is not very common in many societies of the world and is therefore detested in those cultures that do not practice it.

In some African cultures, girls are married off to elderly men while they are still toddlers in exchange of livestock. The child continues to stay with her family until she reaches puberty and this is when she is taken to the husband by the parents, whether willingly or unwillingly (Sfetsu, 2009). Same sex Marriage The issue of same sex marriage has generated more heat than light in the contemporary society, with some supporting it while others demonizing it. However, same sex marriage has been legalized in different states of the world.

Sexologists have used the term homosexuality to refer to people who have “a same sex gender sexual orientation” However, in the community, the term ‘gay’ has been used to refer to male homosexuals with the term ‘lesbian’ referring to female homosexuals; sometimes ‘gay’ refers to both women and men. There are some who are attracted to people of both genders and are referred to as heterosexuals (Cantor, 2006, p. xiii). Those who oppose the same sex marriage argue that they are unnatural and that they provide the nonconductive environment for the raising of children.

They also argue that it threatens marriage as an institution in addition to going against religious principles among other reasons. However, proponents of homosexuality state that homosexuals are human beings and thus have their own rights (Bidstrup, 2000). Marriage in the Western Culture In this century, marriage in European and American culture is often legally defined as monogamous. This does not mean that there are no few societies that do still practice polygamy while others are in what is referred to as open marriages.

In latter form of marriage, the spouse has the freedom to leave when he or she feels like. In the Western world, divorce has been made less complicated and thus has increased in rate. Marriage is seen as a legal covenant which recognizes the emotional union of the couples and can be terminated any time the partners feel like. In this world, it is the woman who is granted the custody of child and not the husband in case of a divorce or separation. In addition, all the partners have the duty of supporting their children (Sfetcu, 2009).

When a child has been born out of wedlock, he or she is entitled to enjoy the same rights just like those that are legitimate. In the Western cultures, partners are protected by law from rape by their spouses and those who do so may find themselves in the court of law. Moreover, the law defends wives or even husbands from being physically abused or disciplined. In this culture, wealth that has been acquired since the couple married is often divided among the couple in case of divorce. What one gets however is determined by a court of law or community property law (Sfetcu, 2009).

Marriage in the Eastern World In these cultures, marriage is regarded as being quite different from the way it is regarded in the Western world. For example in the former, polygamy is permitted; in fact men with many wives are generally considered as being wealthier than those with one wife. A large part of the population in the Eastern world is Islamic and though the religion advocates for the marriage of a man and woman, the Quran allows a man to have a maximum of four wives (Sfetcu, 2009). However in such societies, all the wives must be treated as being equal by the man.

In states where the larger part of the population is Muslim, marriage is only permitted when both partners are Muslim; otherwise non Muslims must first denounce their religions and embrace Islam. In some societies in China, a man in the upper class would first be formally married and then later allowed to get concubines. However, the current communist regime does not permit polygamy but only monogamy (Sfetcu, 2009). Family Structure As years have come and gone, the society, including the family, has undergone great transformation.

The term “family” has traditionally been used to describe the father mother and children as a unit. However, this structure has changed over time. The common types of family structure include childless, nuclear, extended as well single (Shelton, 2010). Nuclear Family Shelton (2010) defines a nuclear family as that family that “consists of a mother, father, and their biological or adoptive descendants, often called the traditional family” Many anthropologists usually regard this type of family structure highly than any other type of family and conducive one for the rearing of children.

However, there must be emotional support, environment of love, economic support as well as enough time spent together. Single Parenthood Of the types of the family structures listed, this can be regarded as one the newest. This is because in the olden days, the society could not have imagined that a person could have lived without either a wife or a husband. In case of death or separation, remarriage would either take, place or the woman would be inherited by the brothers. However, with the economic independence of women, many usually decide to stay single after the separation, divorce or death.

Some women are not interested in marriage and therefore choose to have children or one and raise them on their own. Research that has been done has shown that 25% of the children are born by women who are unmarried and mostly teenage mothers. Proponents of this type of family structure have stated that it has less pressure especially if it is formed after a divorce. However, some psychologists have claimed that this kind of marriage is disadvantageous especially to children as sometimes it is associated with juvenile delinquency (Shelton, 2010). Childless Family

It is often the desire of many, if not all, couples to have a child or more after marriage; however, this is not always the case. A couple may also not be able to bear a child because of either social or biological problems. However, others may later get a child of their own in future or just decide to adopt one. Though many of such couples may opt to stick together, in some cultures however, lack of children after marriage is viewed negatively and the man if forced to remarry. The brothers of the husband may also be required to sire children for their brothers if it is realized that he is impotent.

Others may however decide to rear a pet or two who acts as substitutes (Shelton, 2010). Extended Family An extended family can be described as a group of family members that is made up of adoptive or biological parents together with their children as well as other members of that family. In many global societies, an extended family has been described as “the basic family group. ” In some cultures such as those with Asian origin, an entire extended family may live under the same roof. These may include; uncles, aunts, grandparents and even foster children.

Sometimes children of parents who have died or separated may be raise by their grandparents (Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 2009). Conclusion Despite the many types of marriage and family structure, one thing that is clear is that, marriage and family are important part of the human race. This is why all cultures in the world have both. Marriage is often viewed as a gateway into a family, though there are those that form families without marrying formally. It is however important for people to formalize their marriages as it will be easier to deal with some setbacks in the families such as divorces or death. .

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