Sociology � Marriage and Family Chapter

MARRIAGE� This is a socially approved sexual and economic relationship between two or more persons that is assumed to be permanent and includes mutual rights and obligations.

FAMILY�This is any sexually expressive or parent-child relationship in which people have a sense of mutual commitment, provide mutual aid and support and identify with other members of the group.


Marriage is governed by societal norms (rules and guidelines to our everyday behaviors)

INCEST TABOO�This is a norm that forbids people from having sexual relations with and marrying close kin.

--Universally, this applies to sexual intercourse and marriage between father and daughter/mother and son/ brother and sister.

-- Some societies expand the taboo to include more distant relatives such as cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews.

-- In the US it is illegal for individuals to marry their grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, or nieces, BUT, in more than � the states, it is legal to marry your first cousin.

EXOGAMY�a norm which requires people to find marriage partners outside their own group or social category

--Societies that need to gain access to scarce goods or social/political networks beyond their immediate borders practice this norm more than societies that do not� (example, Viet Nam war)�

--As an example of Exogamy, again, there are approximately 25 states that require you to marry outside of your family beyond the first cousin relationship.Another one is the universal incest taboo itself, which requires you to find partners outside of your immediate family.

ENDOGAMY� a norm that requires people to find marriage partners within their own group or social category.

n       Rules of endogamy reflect any society�s traditional distaste for relationships that cross identified social boundaries.In many societies, these are formalized and codified by law.

n       In the U.S., an example of endogamy formalized and codified by law are our laws in 48 states related to heterosexuality and the inability for people to marry outside of this gender preference.

n       In the U. S, we practice endogamy by informal rules regarding multiple social groups.

n       Religion

n       Race/Ethnicity

n       Social Class

n       Educational background

n       Age

Monogomy�This is a norm that requires the marriage and partnership of one woman and one man for a lifetime.

n       In the US., this is our stated form of marriage, and it is what we aspire to.

n       Most Western societies aspire to this form of marriage.

n       Fully 70% of societies in the world do not aspire to this form of marriage exclusively.

Serial Monogamy�This is a norm that permits a person to have multiple spouses over his or her lifetime but only one at a time.

n       Because 51% of all first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, (80% of these remarry), 66% of second marriages end in divorce (80% of these remarry), and 73% of all third marriages end in divorce (and so on), this is the form of marriage that we predominantly practice in this country.

n       Again, this is not our ideal or stated norm in this country, but it is what we actually do.

Polygamy�This is a norm which permits and encourages a person to have multiple spousesat the same time.

n       70% of the societies in the world either permit or prefer this form of marriage.

n       There are two types�POLYANDRY (marriage of one woman to multiple men at the same time) and POLYGYNY (marriage of one man to multiple women at the same time).

These norms help determine who marries whom and how people marry.But even after relationships form, there are cultural forces and informal rules of expectation that continue to exert influence on people�s lives who have partnered up in marriage.These expectations are as follows.


n       This is the degree to which partners rely on each other to provide affection, companionship, sex, money

n       Each marriage relationship defines this entirely from the self perception of both partners, and this interdependence and its self definition is often what leads to marital dissolutionwhen the defined expectations are not fulfilled.


n       This is the level of perceived fairness and justice that exists in a relationship

n       The equity of a relationship is often defined around the INVESTMENT that each person has made in the relationship (definition: anything that a person can offer to a relationship such as time, money, interest, or personal characteristics that then creates feelings of entitlement or deservedness.

n       Not every relationship is perfectly equitable, and when things becomes disproportional, feelings of unfairness often result. This too is entirely related to self definition and perception.

n       There are two types of inequity.UNDERBENEFITED INEQUITY, (you think you are not getting out of the relationship what you think you deserve) and OVERBENEFITED INEQUITY (you think you are getting too much from the relationship for what you think you deserve).


n       This is the personal dedication to a relationship that exists. It is a desire to maintain and improve it for the benefit for both partners.

n       A genuine concern for the partner�s well being, not just you own, and a feeling of responsibility for each other are what characterize committed relationships.�We are responsible for each other, for each other�s health and financial stability. We are each other�s keeper. We have a responsibility to go to a fair amount of trouble in order to make sure that we stay together and continue to be responsible for each other.�

n       In highly committed relationships, partners are willing to tolerate some powerlessness or inequity because they believe things will balance out in the long run� (ex. Going back to school of one partner while the other works).


n       Expectations of permanence widely vary among social groups.Sociallyconservative groups tend to be opposed to divorce and encourage people to stay in unsatisfying marriages based on moral terms.

n       Other groups feel that permanence is not desirable if other factors do not exist.

Sexual Access

n                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The first act of sexual intercourse , usually accomplished on the wedding night, ratifies the marriage.This is called �consummation of the marriage.

n                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Because of sexual access, married individuals tend to have more sex than single individuals.

n                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 After a time, it is a normal development for the frequency of sex to diminish in marriages, but the expectation of sexual access continues and causes conflict.

Sexual Exclusivity

n                         This is a kind of sexual possessiveness that characterizes long term relationships.Marriage is considered a contract for exclusive rights between two spouses.

n                         This expectation is applied more rigidly in our society to women than to men, with greater social stigma attached to women who are not sexually exclusive within a marriage.

n                         The vast majority of individuals in this country, as many as 9 out of 10, believe extramarital sex is wrong.

n                         Marital infidelity is defined among heterosexual couples almost exclusively by the sex act, and emotional infidelity seems to be only a secondary concern.


Being a Couple

n                         In our culture, we expect married people to live together, spend time together, pool their resources, and to entertain other couples.

n                         Being a couple means far more than simply acting the part. It also means feeling and thinking like a couple. It basically includes the expectation that two people will create a new identity as a couple.

n                         Third party interactions with the couple validate the new identity (You two make a lovely couple) and lend credence to the continuation of the coupled relationship.


Courtship, Dating, Mate Selection

Film,4 horseman of a relationship

�������� 3 stages of love

�������� Love map

�������� Oxytocin

Factors in Mate Selection�Propinquity, PhysicalAttraction, Shared Social Values, Resources, Shared Interests, others�

Stimulus, Value, Role Theory on mate selection and courtship.

Bill�s Theory on mate selection, courtship

What�s Love Got to Do With It?

1)      The overwhelming majority of societies studied, 88%, recognize romantic love as a component in intimate relationships

2)      Not all societies emphasize romantic love as much as Western Industrial societies

3)      Arranged marriages are often the norm in other societies, and in fact 80% of cultures outside of the West employ arranged marriage to one degree or another

4)      75% of Pakistani and Indian students say they would have no problem marrying someone they did not love

5)      Arranged marriages start out cold and grow hot. Marriages base on romantic love start out hot and grow cold.

6)      The perspective here is that all societies basically know that romantic love exists but many societies do not see it as the driving force behind a successful marriage. Western societies do see it that way.

7)      Those societies that do not view it as the main factor in marriage point to the high divorce rate in the U.S. and the number of our failed marriages as indicators that romantic love is not the best basis to base a lifetime relationship upon.


Violence and Rape in Dating Relationships


1)      With such pressures and conflicting gender expectations, dating is a dangerous business

n       1 in 11 adolescents report being physically abused during a date

n       Adding in verbal and emotional abuse, the number rises to 1 in 4

n       1 in 5 HS girls report being hit, slapped, or shoved by a dating partner

n       60% of all teenagers report knowing someone who has been physically abused during a date

n       This crosses all lines of race, ethnicity, social class, age, and sexual orientation

2)      Rape and sexual assault are the most severe forms of dating violence.

n       210,000 women over age 12 report being sexually assaulted annually, more than double the reported numbers to police

n       On college campuses, 3% of all college women experience being raped during each college year

n       90% of these women know their victims.



Divorce rates in the US increased dramatically over the last � century and are now the highest in the industrial world.

51 % of all first marriages end in divorce

66% of all second marriages end in divorce

73% of all third marriages end in divorce

Cold statistics mask the emotional turmoil and devastating effects of divorce.

Separated and divorced individuals experience:

1)      higher mortality rates

2)      higher injury and accident rates

3)      higher disease rates

4)      significantly more psychological problems

5)      significant loss of income and income status

80% of all women actually drop below the poverty line in terms of income after a divorce within

6)      negative outcomes for children of divorce in the following areas:

a)      juvenile delinquency and legal problems

b)      performance in school

c)       overall life achievement

d)      self esteem

e)      psychological adjustment and testing


Types of Families:

Traditional Nuclear


Child Free Families

Dual Earner-Dual Career Families

Single Parent Families

Blended Families

Gay and Lesbian Families


New Trends

1)      Changing Sexual Patterns

n       Average age we lose our virginity in the United States is now 13.9.

n       Teenage pregnancy is on the rise and many births occur to 15 and 16 year old girls.

n       The double standard for men and women regarding their sexual expression is on the decline.

n       Cohabitation, where two sexually expressive people live together outside of a marriage,is on the rise and increasingly popular

n       4 Factors that are causing this:

a)      Birth control

b)      Reaction to traditional authority

c)       Emergence of feminism

d)      Proliferation of mass media images.

2)      Cohabitation

n       Cohabitating couples nowmake up 5% of all U.S. households, which is a 50% increase over 10 years ago.

n       Average age of marriage in all Western societies is now 31 years old. It used to be 23. Cohabitation is contributing to this change.

n       Most cohabitating relationships are short lived and last a little less than one year on the average. They then break apart and merge into marriage.

n       Cohabitation IS NOT a good predictor for marriage, and while it may be justified as a trial relationship before marriage, there is not a correlation between successful marriages and cohabitation. In fact, the opposite is true.

n       Differences between cohabitating relationships and marriages are as follows:

a)      Cohabitators report significantly lower satisfaction and happiness with their relationships than married couples do.

b)      Cohabitators are twice as likely to report that their relationship was in trouble over the last year than married couples, even when we control forage and duration of relationships.

c)       Male cohabitators are much more likely than husbands to say they overbenefit in their relationships.Both types of men say they benefit more in the relationship than women do.

d)      Cohabitators have poorer relationships with their parents, face more social disapproval, and receive less monetary and social support than married couples.

e)      Young adults become more tolerant of divorce as a result of cohabitating.

f)       Spouses who cohabitated before marriage have higher rates of separation and divorce than those that did not.








Last Updated: 10/15/15