Here is your essay on marriage, it’s meaning, functions and forms!
Marriage and family sociologically signifies the stage of greater social advancement. It is indicative of man’s entry into the world of emotion and feeling, harmony and culture. Long before the institution of marriage developed, man and woman may have lived together, procreated children and died unwept and unsung. Their sexual relations must have been like birds and animals of momentary duration.
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Marriage as an institution developed over the time. It may have been accepted as a measure of social discipline and as an expedient to eliminate social stress due to the sex rivalry. The growing sense and sensibility may have necessitated the acceptance of norms for formalising the union between man and woman.
Meaning of Marriage:
Marriage is the most important institution of human society. It is a universal phenomenon. It has been the backbone of human civilisation. Human beings have certain urges like hungers, thirst and sex. Society works out certain rules and regulation for satisfaction of these urges.
The rules and regulations, which deal with regulation of sex life of human beings, are dealt in the marriage institution. We can say that the Marriage is as old as the institution of family. Both these institutions are vital for the society. Family depends upon the Marriage. Marriage regulates sex life of human beings.
Marriage creates new social relationships and reciprocal rights between the spouses. It establishes the rights and the status of the children when they are born. Each society recognises certain procedures for creating such relationship and rights. The society prescribes rules for prohibitions, preferences and prescriptions in deciding marriage. It is this institution through which a man sustains the continuity of his race and attains satisfaction in a socially recognised manner.
Sociologists and anthropologists have given definitions of marriage. Some of the important definitions are given below. Edward Westermark. “Marriage is a relation of one or more men to one or more women which is recognised by custom or law and involves certain rights and duties both in the case of the parties entering the union and in the case of the children born of it.
As B. Malinowski defines, “Marriage is a contract for the production and maintenance of children”.
According H.M. Johnson, “Marriage is a stable relationship in which a man and a woman are socially permitted without loss of standing in community, to have children”.
Ira L. Reiss writes, “Marriage is a socially accepted union of individuals in husband and wife roles, with the key function of legitimating of parenthood”.
William Stephens, the anthropologist, says that marriage is:
(1) A socially legitimate sexual union begun with
(2) A public announcement, undertaken with
(3) Some idea of performance and assumed with a more or less explicit
(4) Marriage contract, which spells out reciprocal obligations between spouses and between spouses and their children.
William J. Goode, the famous family sociologist has tried to combine the two objectives of marriage i.e. to regulate sex life and to recognize the newborn. It was perhaps for this reason that American sociologists came out with the statement that no child should be born without a father.
Although different thinkers have tried to provide definition of marriage, but there is no universally acceptable definition of marriage. There seems to be, however, a consensus that marriage involves several criteria that are found to exist cross-culturally and throughout time. For example, Hindu marriage has three main objectives such as Dharma, Progeny and Sexual Pleasure.
Individual happiness has been given the least importance. It is considered to be sacrament, a spiritual union between a man and a woman in the social status of husband and wife.
In Western countries, marriage is a contract. Personal happiness is given the utmost importance. People enter into matrimonial alliances for the sake of seeking personal happiness. If this happiness is-not forthcoming they will terminate the relationship.
Marriage is thus cultural specific. The rules and regulations differ from one culture to another. We can, however, identify certain basic features of this institution.
(1) A heterosexual union, including at least one male and one female.
(2) The legitimizing or granting of approval to the sexual relationship and the bearing of children without any loss of standing in the community or society.
(3) A public affair rather than a private, personal matter.
(4) A highly institutionalized and patterned mating arrangement.
(5) Rules which determine who can marry whom.
(6) New statuses to man and woman in the shape of husband and wife and father and mother.
(7) Development of personal intimate and affectionate relationships between the spouses and parent and children.
(8) A binding relationship that assumes some performance.
The above discussion helps us to conclude that the boundaries of marriage are not always precise and clearly defined. It is, however, very important institution for the society as it helps in replacement of old and dying population.
Functions of Marriage:
Marriage is an institutionalized relationship within the family system. It fulfills many functions attributed to the family in general. Family functions include basic personality formation, status ascriptions, socialization, tension management, and replacement of members, economic cooperation, reproduction, stabilization of adults, and the like.
Many of these functions, while not requiring marriage for their fulfillment, are enhanced by the marital system”. In fact, evidence suggests marriage to be of great significance for the well-being of the individual. Researchers have shown that compared to the unmarried, married persons are generally happier, healthier, less depressed and disturbed and less prone to premature deaths. Marriage, rather than becoming less important or unimportant, may be increasingly indispensable.
The functions of marriage differ as the structure of marriage differs. ‘For example, where marriage is specially an extension of the kin and extended family system, then procreation, passing on the family name and continuation of property become a basic function. Thus, to not have a child or more specifically, to not have a male child, is sufficient reason to replace the present wife or add a new wife.
Where marriage is based on “free choice,” i.e. parents and kinsmen play no role in selecting the partner, individualistic forces are accorded greater significance. Thus in the United States, marriage has many functions and involves many positive as well as negative personal factors : establishment of a family of one’s own, children, companionship, happiness, love, economic security, elimination of loneliness etc.
The greater the extent to which the perceived needs of marriage are met, and the fewer the alternatives in the replacement of the unmet needs, the greater the likelihood of marriage and the continuation of that marriage. At a personal level, any perceived reason may explain marriage, but at a social level, all societies sanction certain reasons and renounce others.
Forms of Marriage:
Societies evolved mannerism and method for selection of the spouses, according to their peculiar socio-economic and political conditions, and in accordance with their levels of cultural advancement. This explains on the one hand the origin of the various forms, of marriage and on the other the differences in the attitude of societies towards the institution of marriage.
Some have accepted it as purely a contractual arrangement between weds, while others hold it as the sacred union between man, and woman. Forms of marriage vary from society to society. Marriage can be broadly divided into two types, (1) monogamy and (2) polygamy.
Monogamy is that form of marriage in which at a given period of time one man has marital relations with one woman. On the death of the spouse or one of the partners seek divorce then they can establish such relationship with other persons but at a given period of time, one cannot have two or more wives or two or more husbands.
This one to one relationship is the most modern civilized way of living. In most of the societies it is this form, which is found and recognized. It should be noted that on a societal basis, only about 20 per cent of the societies are designated as strictly monogamous, that is, monogamy is the required form.
When monogamy does not achieve stability, certain married persons end their relationship and remarry. Thus, the second spouse, although not existing simultaneously with the first, is sometimes referred to as fitting into a pattern of sequential monogamy, serial monogamy or remarriage.
Keeping in view the advantages of monogamy the world has granted recognition to monogamous form of marriage. The following are its advantages:
1. Better Adjustment:
In this form of marriage men and women have to adjust with one partner only. In this way there is better adjustment between them.
2. Greater Intimacy:
If the number of people in the family will be limited there will be more love and affection in the family. Because of which they will have friendly and deep relations.
3. Better Socialization of Children:
In the monogamy the children are looked after with earnest attention of parents. The development of modes of children will be done nicely. There will be no jealously between the parents for looking after their children.
4. Happy Family:
Family happiness is maintained under monogamy which is completely destroyed in other forms of marriage because of jealousy and other reasons. Thus, in this form of marriage, family is defined as happy family.
5. Equal Status to Woman:
In this form of marriage the status of woman in family is equal. If husband works she looks after the house or both of them work for strengthening the economic condition of the family.
6. Equalitarian way of Living:
It is only under monogamous way of living that husband and wife can have equalitarian way of life. Under this system husband and wife not only share the familial role and obligations but also have joint decisions. The decision making process becomes a joint venture.
7. Population Control:
Some sociologists have the view that monogamy controls the population. Because of one wife children in the family will be limited.
8. Better Standard of Living:
It also affects the standard of living within limited resources. One can manage easily to live a better life. It helps in the development of independent personality without much constraint and pressure.
9. Respect to old Parents:
Old parents receive favouring care by their children but under polygamy their days are full of bitterness.
10. Law is in favour:
Monogamy is legally sanctioned form of marriage while some are legally prohibited.
11. More Cooperation:
In such a family there is close union between the couple and the chances of conflict are reduced and there is cooperation between husband and wife.
It is more stable form of marriage. There is better division of property after the death of parents.
Monogamy is a marriage between one husband and one wife. So if the partner is not of choice then life loses its charm. They have to adjust between themselves but now-a-days divorce is the answer to their problem.
According to Sumner and Keller, “Monogamy is monopoly.” Wherever there is monopoly, there is bound to be both ‘ins and outs’.
Some inpatients can’t have kids or some barren cannot have kids. If one of the partners has some problem couples cannot have children. They have to suffer from childlessness.
4. Economic Factors:
Marriage in monogamy does not play part of income. They have to depend upon their own occupation for living. If they are poor they will remain poor. So monogamy effects the economic condition of man and woman.
5. Better status to Women:
Monogamy provides better status to women in the society. They are counted equal to men. Some people do not like this form of marriage.
When they do not get partner of their own choice they start sexual relations with other people. This also leads to the problem of prostitution.
Distinguished from monogamy is polygamy. Polygamy refer to the marriage of several or many. Polygamy is the form of marriage in which one man marries two or more women or one woman marries two or more men or a number of men many a number of women. According to F.N. Balasara, “The forms of marriage in which there is plurality of partners is called polygamy”.
Polygamy, like other forms of marriage is highly regulated and normatively controlled. It is likely to be supported by the attitudes and values of both the sexes. Polygamy itself has many forms and variations. Polygamy is of three types: (i) Polygyny, (ii) Polyandry and (iii) Group marriage.
Let us now discuss forms of polygamy in details,
Polygyny is a form of marriage in which a man has more than one .wife at a time. In other words it is a form of marriage in which one man marries more than one woman at a given time. It is the prevalent form of marriage among the tribes, Polygyny also appears to be the privilege of the wealthy, in many African societies the rich usually have more than one wife.
This type of marriage is found in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda. In India, polygyny persisted from the Vedic times until Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Now polygyny is visible among many tribes of India.
Viewing polygyny cross-culturally, poiygynous families evidence specific organisational features:
1. In certain matters, sex particularly, co-wives have clearly defined equal rights.
2. Each wife is set up in a separate establishment.
3. The senior wife is given special powers and privileges.
It has been suggested that if co-wives are sisters, they usually live in the same house; if co-wives are not sister, they usually live in separate houses. It is believed that sibling can better tolerate, suppress and live with a situation of sexual rivalry than can non-siblings.
Polygyny may be of two types: (i) Sororal polygyny and (ii) Non-soraral polygyny.
Sororal polygyny is one in which all the wives are sisters. Non-sororal polygyny means the marriage of one man with many women who are not sisters.
Causes of Polygyny:
1. Disproportion of sexes in the Population:
When in any tribe or society male members are less in number and females are more, then this type of marriage takes place.
2. Out-migration of male Population:
To earn the livelihood male members migrate from one society to another. This way there is a decrease in the number of males than females and polygyny takes place.
Hypergamy also gives rise to polygyny. Under this system the parents of lower castes or classes want to improve their social status by marrying their daughters in the higher caste or classes.
4. Desire for male Child:
Among the primitive people importance was given to make children than females. Thus man was free to have as many marriages as he liked on the ground to get male children.
5. Social Status:
In some societies number of wives represented greater authority and status.
Particularly the leaders of primitive society increased number of wives in order to prove their superiority. A single marriage was considered a sign of poverty. So where marriage is taken as sign of prestige and prosperity the custom of polygyny is natural.
6. Economic Reason:
Where the people of the poor families were unable to find suitable husbands for their daughters they started marrying their daughters to rich married males.
7. Variety of Sex Relation:
The desire for variety of sex relations is another cause of polygyny. The sexual instincts become dull by more familiarity. It is stimulated by novelty.
8. Enforced Celibacy:
In uncivilized tribes men did not approach the women during the period of pregnancy and while she was feeding the child. Thus long period of enforced celibacy gave birth to second marriage.
9. More Children:
In uncivilized society more children were needed for agriculture, war and status recognition. Moreover, in some tribes the birth rate was low and death rate was high. In such tribes polygyny was followed to obtain more children.
10. Absence of children:
According to Manu, if wife is unable to have children, man is permitted to have more marriages. He further says if a wife takes her husband then he should live with her one year and take another wife.
11. Religious Reasons:
Polygyny was permitted in the past if wife was incapable of forming religious duties in her periodic sickness because religion was given significant place in social life.
12. Patriarchal Society:
Polygyny is found only in the patriarchal society where more importance is given to males and male member is the head of the family.
(1) Better status of children:
In polygyny children enjoy better status. They are looked after well because there are many women in the family to care.
(2) Rapid growth of Population:
In those societies where population is very less and birth rate is almost zero, for those societies polygyny is best suited, as it increases the population at faster rate.
(3) Importance of Males:
In polygyny males occupy higher status. More importance is given to husband by several wives.
(4) Division of Work:
In polygyny there are several wives. Therefore, there is a proper division of work at home.
(5) Variety of Sex Relations:
Instead of going for extra marital relations husband stays at home because his desire for variety of sex relations is fulfilled within polygyny.
(6) Continuity of Family:
Polygyny came into existence mainly because of inability of a wife to produce children. Polygyny provides continuity to the family tree. In absence of one wife other women in the family produce children.
1. Lower status of Women:
In this form of marriage women have very low status; they are regarded as an object of pleasure for their husbands. They generally do not have a right to take decisions about their welfare; they have to depend upon their husband for fulfillment of their basic needs.
2. Jealousy as stated by Shakespeare:
“Woman thy name is jealousy”. When several wives have to share one husband, there is bound to be jealousy among co-wives. Jealousy leads to inefficiency in their work. They are not able to socialize their children in a proper manner in such atmosphere.
3. Low Economic Status:
Polygyny increases economic burden on the family because in many cases only husband is the bread winner and whole of the family is dependent on him.
4. Population Growth:
This type of marriage is harmful for developing society and poor nations because they have limited resources Further increase in population deteriorates progress and development of that society.
5. Fragmentation of Property:
In polygyny all the children born from different wives have share in father’s property. Jealousy among mothers leads to property conflicts among children as a result property is divided and income per capita decreases.
6. Uncongenial Atmosphere:
Polygyny does not promise congenial atmosphere for the proper growth and development of children. There is lack of affection among the members. As such families have large number of members. They fail to provide proper attention to all of them. This gives rise to many immoral practices in the society.
It is a form of marriage in which one woman has more than one husband at a given time. According to K.M. Kapadia, Polyandry is a form of union in which a woman has more than one husband at a time or in which brothers share a wife or wives in common. This type marriage is prevalent in few places such as tribes of Malaya and some tribes of India like Toda, Khasi and Kota etc. Polyandry is of two types:
(i) Fraternal Polyandry and
(ii) Non-Fratemai Polyandry.
(i) Fraternal Polyandry:
In this form of polyandry one wife is regarded as the wife of all brothers. All the brothers in a family share the same woman as their wife. The children are treated as the offspring of the eldest brother, it is found in some Indian tribes like Toda and Khasis. This type of marriage was popular in Ceylon (Srilanka at present).
(ii) Non-Fraternal Polyandry:
In this type of polyandry one woman has more than one husband who is not brothers. They belong to different families. The wife cohabits with husbands in turn. In case of Fraternal Polyandry, the wife lives in the family of her husbands, while in case of non-fraternal polyandry, the wife continues to stay in the family of her mother. This type of polyandry is found among Nayars of Kerala.
Causes of Polyandry:
1. Lesser number of Women:
According to Westermark, when the number of women is lesser than the number of males in a society, polyandry is found. For example, among Todas of Nilgiri. But according to Brifficult, polyandry can exist even when the number of women is not lesser e.g. in Tibet, Sikkim and Laddakh polyandry is found even though there is not much disparity in the number of men and women.
In some tribal societies female infanticide is present; as a result these female population is less than male population. Further males do not enjoy good status. Therefore, one female is married to a group of brothers and polyandry exists.
3. Matrilineal System:
Just in contrast to above noted point, it has also been argued that polyandry exists in matrilineal system where one woman can have relationship with more than one man and the children instead of getting the name of father are known by mother’s name.
Polyandry exists in such areas where there is scarcity of natural resources. It is for this reason many men support one woman and her children.
5. Bride Price:
In societies where there is bridge price, polyandry exists. Brothers pay for one bride who becomes wife of all of them.
6. Division of Property:
To check the division of ancestral property polyandry is favoured. When all the brothers have one wife then the question of division of property does not arise.
7. Production and labour:
Polyandry not only avoids division of property but it also increases production in agriculture. All the brothers work together because they have to support only one family. Thus production and income increases, further there is no expenditure with regard to labour because all the husbands contribute their share of work.
8. Social Custom:
Polyandry exists in some societies mainly because of customs and traditions of that particular society. Generally, polyandry is found in such areas which are situated far away from modern developed areas.
(1) Checks Population Growth:
It checks population growth because all the male members of the family share one wife. As a result population does not increase at that rapid rate, the way in which it occurs in polygyny Therefore, it limits the size of the family.
(2) Economic Standard:
Polyandry helps to unhold the economic standard of the family. It strengthens the economic position of the family because all the members work for the improvement of the family.
(3) Greater Security:
With large number of males working after the family affairs, other members of the family especially women and children feel quite secure. Greater security among the members develop sense of we-feeling among the members of the family.
(4) Property is kept Intact:
In polyandry family does not get divided. The property of the family is held jointly and thus it is kept intact.
(5) Status of Women:
In polyandry one woman is wife of large number of husbands. As a result she gets attention of all the members and thus enjoys a good status in the family. She feels quite secure because in the absence of one husband other males are there to fulfill her basic needs.
When all the men have to share one woman, family quarrels and tensions are ought to be there. Husbands feel jealous of one another which adversely effect congenial atmosphere of the family.
(2) Lack of Model:
When children have large number of fathers they fail to select appropriate model for themselves. This adversely effects their personality configuration.
(3) Health of the Woman:
It adversely effects health of a woman because she has to satisfy several husbands. It not only has negative effect on the physical health but also on mental health of the woman.
According to biologists if the same woman cohabits with several men, it may lead to sterility, further lack of sex gratification give rise to extra-marital relationship of husbands.
(5) Status of Men:
In matrilineal system where polyandry is found husbands do not enjoy high status. They do not give their name to the children.
(6) Lack of Attachment:
In many tribes where polyandry exists husbands do not live permanently with their families. They are visiting husband who visit the family for a specific period. They do not get love and affection of their children because children feel unattached to their fathers.
(7) Less Population:
This form of marriage decreases population growth. In some tribal societies where polyandry continues to exist may get extinct after a gap of few years.
(8) Loose Morality:
This is another outcome of this practice.
(iii) Group Marriage:
Group marriage is that type of marriage in which a group of men marry a group of women. Each man of male group is considered to be the husband of every woman of female group. Similarly, every woman is the wife of every man of male group. Pair bonded or Multilateral marriage are the substitute term for group marriages.
This form of marriage is found among some tribes of New Guinea and Africa. In India group marriage is practised by the Toda Tribe of Nilgiri Hills. Except on an experimental basis it is an extremely rare occurrence and may never have existed as a viable form of marriage for any society in the world.
The Oneida community of New York State has been frequently cited as an example of group marriage experiment. It involved economic and sexual sharing based on spiritual and religious principles. Like most group marriage on record, its time span was limited. Rarely do they endure beyond one or two generations.
Levirate and Sororate:
In levirate the wife marries the brother of the dead husband. If a man dies, his wife marries the brother of her dead husband. Marriage of the widow with the dead husband’s elder brother is called Senior Levirate. But when she marries to the younger brother of the dead husband, it is called Junior Levirate.
In Sororate the husband marries the sister of his wife. Sororate is again divided into two types namely restricted Sororate and simultaneous Sororate. In restricted sororate, after the death of one’s wife, the man marries the sister of his wife. In simultaneous sororate, the sister of one’s wife automatically becomes his wife.
Concubinage is a state of living together as husband and wife without being married. It is .cohabitation with one or more women who are distinct from wife or wives. Concubinage is sometimes recognised by various societies as an accepted institution. A concubine has a lower social status than that of a wife. The children of a concubine enjoy a lower status in the society.
This article is about monogamous human relationships. For monogamy in animal mating, see monogamous pairing in animals. For the film, see Monogamy (film).
Monogamy (mə-NOG-ə-mee) is a form of relationship in which an individual has only one partner during their lifetime or at any one time (serial monogamy), as compared to polygamy, polyandry, or polyamory. The term is also applied to the social behavior of some animals, referring to the state of having only one mate at any one time.
The term monogamy is used to describe for different relationships. Biologists, biological anthropologists, and behavioral ecologists often use the term monogamy in the sense of sexual, if not genetic, monogamy. Modern biological researchers, using the theory of evolution, approach human monogamy as the same in human and non-human animal species. They postulate the following four aspects of monogamy:
- Marital monogamy refers to marriages of only two people.
- Social monogamy refers to two partners living together, having sex with each other, and cooperating in acquiring basic resources such as shelter, food and money.
- Sexual monogamy refers to two partners remaining sexually exclusive with each other and having no outside sex partners.
- Genetic monogamy refers to sexually monogamous relationships with genetic evidence of paternity.
When cultural or social anthropologists and other social scientists use the term monogamy, the meaning is social or marital monogamy. Marital monogamy may be further distinguished between:
- marriage once in a lifetime;
- marriage with only one person at a time (serial monogamy), in contrast to bigamy or polygamy;
Human monogamy's legal aspects are taught at faculties of law. There are also philosophical aspects in the field of interest of e.g. philosophical anthropology and philosophy of religion, as well as theological ones.
The word monogamy comes from the Greek μονός, monos which means alone, and γάμος, gamos which means marriage.
Frequency in humans
Distribution of social monogamy
According to the Ethnographic Atlas, of 1,231 societies from around the world noted, 186 were monogamous; 453 had occasional polygyny; 588 had more frequent polygyny; and 4 had polyandry. However, this does not take into account the relative population of each of the societies studied, and the actual practice of polygamy in a tolerant society may actually be low, with the majority of aspirant polygamists practicing monogamous marriage.
Many societies that we consider monogamous in fact allow easy divorce. In many western countries divorce rates approach 50%. Those who remarry do so on average 3 times. Divorce and remarriage can thus result in "serial monogamy", i.e. multiple marriages but only one legal spouse at a time. This can be interpreted as a form of plural mating, as are those societies dominated by female-headed families in the Caribbean, Mauritius and Brazil where there is frequent rotation of unmarried partners. In all, these account for 16 to 24% of the "monogamous" category.
Prevalence of sexual monogamy
The prevalence of sexual monogamy can be roughly estimated as the percentage of married people who do not engage in extramarital sex. The Standard Cross-Cultural Sample describes the amount of extramarital sex by men and women in over 50 pre-industrial cultures. The amount of extramarital sex by men is described as "universal" in 6 cultures, "moderate" in 29 cultures, "occasional" in 6 cultures, and "uncommon" in 10 cultures. The amount of extramarital sex by women is described as "universal" in 6 cultures, "moderate" in 23 cultures, "occasional" in 9 cultures, and "uncommon" in 15 cultures. These findings support the claim that the reported amount of extramarital sex differs across cultures and across genders.
Recent surveys conducted in non-Western nations have also found cultural and gender differences in extramarital sex. A study of sexual behavior in Thailand, Tanzania and Côte d'Ivoire suggests about 16–34% of men engage in extramarital sex while a much smaller (unreported) percentage of women engage in extramarital sex. Studies in Nigeria have found around 47–53% of men and to 18–36% of women engage in extramarital sex. A 1999 survey of married and cohabiting couples in Zimbabwe reports that 38% of men and 13% of women engaged in extra-couple sexual relationships within the last 12 months.
The issue of extramarital sex has been examined frequently in the United States. Many surveys asking about extramarital sex in the United States have relied on convenience samples. A convenience sample means surveys are given to whoever happens to be easily available (e.g., volunteer college students or volunteer magazine readers). Convenience samples do not accurately reflect the population of the United States as a whole, which can cause serious biases in survey results. It should not be surprising, therefore, that surveys of extramarital sex in the United States have produced widely differing results. These studies report that about 12–26% of married women and 15–43% of married men engage in extramarital sex. The only way to get scientifically reliable estimates of extramarital sex is to use nationally representative samples. Three studies have used nationally representative samples. These studies have found that about 10–15% of women and 20–25% of men engage in extramarital sex.
Research by Colleen Hoffon of 566 homosexual male couples from the San Francisco Bay Area found that 45% had monogamous relationships. That study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. However, the Human Rights Campaign has stated, based on a Rockway Institute report, that "GLBT young people... want to spend their adult life in a long-term relationship raising children." Specifically, over 80% of the homosexuals surveyed expected to be in a monogamous relationship after age 30.
A majority of married people remain sexually monogamous during their marriages. The number of married partners who engage in extramarital sex never exceeds 50% in studies using large or nationally representative samples. Yet, the incidence of sexual monogamy varies across cultures. People in some cultures are more sexually monogamous than people in other cultures.
Prevalence of genetic monogamy
The incidence of genetic monogamy may be estimated from rates of extrapair paternity. Extrapair paternity is when offspring raised by a monogamous pair come from the female mating with another male. Rates of extrapair paternity have not been extensively studied in people. Many reports of extrapair paternity are little more than quotes based on hearsay, anecdotes, and unpublished findings. Simmons, Firman, Rhodes, and Peters reviewed 11 published studies of extra-pair paternity from various locations in the United States, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and among the Yanomamo Indians of South America. The rates of extrapair paternity ranged from 0.03% to 11.8% although most of the locations had low percentages of extrapair paternity. The median rate of extrapair paternity was 1.8%. A separate review of 17 studies by Bellis, Hughes, Hughes, and Ashton found slightly higher rates of extrapair paternity. The rates varied from 0.8% to 30% in these studies, with a median rate of 3.7% extrapair paternity. A range of 1.8% to 3.7% extrapair paternity implies a range of 96% to 98% genetic monogamy. Although the incidence of genetic monogamy may vary from 70% to 99% in different cultures or social environments, a large percentage of couples remain genetically monogamous during their relationships. A review paper, surveying 67 other studies, reported rates of extrapair paternity, in different societies, ranging from 0.4% to over 50%.
Covert illegitimacy is a situation which arises when someone who is presumed to be a child's father (or mother) is in fact not the biological father (or mother). Frequencies as high as 30% are sometimes assumed in the media, but research by sociologist Michael Gilding traced these overestimates back to an informal remark at a 1972 conference.
The detection of unsuspected illegitimacy can occur in the context of medical genetic screening, in genetic family name research, and in immigration testing. Such studies show that covert illegitimacy is in fact less than 10% among the sampled African populations, less than 5% among the sampled Native American and Polynesian populations, less than 2% of the sampled Middle Eastern population, and generally 1%-2% among European samples.
Pedigree errors are a well-known source of error in medical studies. When attempts are made to try to study medical afflictions and their genetic components, it becomes very important to understand nonpaternity rates and pedigree errors. There are numerous software packages and procedures that exist for correcting research data for pedigree errors.
Evolutionary and historical development in humans
Monogamy, or at least social monogamy, does exist in many societies around the world, and it is important to understand how these marriage systems might have evolved. In any species, there are three main aspects that combine to promote a monogamous mating system: paternal care, resource access, and mate-choice; however, in humans, the main theoretical sources of monogamy are paternal care and extreme ecological stresses. Paternal care should be particularly important in humans due to the extra nutritional requirement of having larger brains and the lengthier developmental period. Therefore, the evolution of monogamy could be a reflection of this increased need for bi-parental care. Similarly, monogamy should evolve in areas of ecological stress because male reproductive success should be higher if their resources are focused on ensuring offspring survival rather than searching for other mates. However, the evidence does not support these claims. Due to the extreme sociality and increased intelligence of humans, H. sapiens have solved many problems that generally lead to monogamy, such as those mentioned above. For example, monogamy is certainly correlated with paternal care, as shown by Marlowe, but not caused by it because humans diminish the need for bi-parental care through the aid of siblings and other family members in rearing the offspring. Furthermore, human intelligence and material culture allows for better adaptation to different and rougher ecological areas, thus reducing the causation and even correlation of monogamous marriage and extreme climates. However, some scientists argue that monogamy evolved by reducing within-group conflict, thus giving certain groups a competitive advantage against less monogamous groups.
Paleoanthropology and genetic studies offer two perspectives on when monogamy evolved in the human species: paleoanthropologists offer tentative evidence that monogamy may have evolved very early in human history whereas genetic studies show that monogamy evolved much more recently, less than 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
Paleoanthropological estimates of the time frame for the evolution of monogamy are primarily based on the level of sexual dimorphism seen in the fossil record because, in general, the reduced male-male competition seen in monogamous mating results in reduced sexual dimorphism. According to Reno et al., the sexual dimorphism of Australopithecus afarensis, a human ancestor from approximately 3.9–3.0 million years ago, was within the modern human range, based on dental and postcranial morphology. Although careful not to say that this indicates monogamous mating in early hominids, the authors do say that reduced levels of sexual dimorphism in A. afarensis "do not imply that monogamy is any less probable than polygyny". However, Gordon, Green and Richmond claim that in examining postcranial remains, A. afarensis is more sexually dimorphic than modern humans and chimps with levels closer to those of orangutans and gorillas. Furthermore, Homo habilis, living approximately 2.3 mya, is the most sexually dimorphic early hominid. Plavcan and van Schaik conclude their examination of this controversy by stating that, overall, sexual dimorphism in australopithecines is not indicative of any behavioral implications or mating systems.
The genetic evidence for the evolution of monogamy in humans is more complex but much easier to interpret. While female effective population size (the number of individuals successfully producing offspring thus contributing to the gene pool), as indicated by mitochondrial-DNA evidence, increased around the time of human (not hominid) expansion out of Africa about 80,000–100,000 years ago, male effective population size, as indicated by Y-chromosome evidence, did not increase until the advent of agriculture 18,000 years ago. This means that before 18,000 years ago, many females would be reproducing with the same few males.
Despite the human ability to avoid sexual and genetic monogamy, social monogamy still forms under many different conditions, but most of those conditions are consequences of cultural processes. These cultural processes may have nothing to do with relative reproductive success. For example, anthropologist Jack Goody's comparative study utilizing the Ethnographic Atlas demonstrated that monogamy is part of a cultural complex found in the broad swath of Eurasian societies from Japan to Ireland that practice social monogamy, sexual monogamy and dowry (i.e. "diverging devolution", that allow property to be inherited by children of both sexes). Goody demonstrates a statistical correlation between this cultural complex and the development of intensive plough agriculture in those areas. Drawing on the work of Ester Boserup, Goody notes that the sexual division of labour varies in intensive plough agriculture and extensive shifting horticulture. In plough agriculture farming is largely men's work and is associated with private property; marriage tends to be monogamous to keep the property within the nuclear family. Close family (endogamy) are the preferred marriage partners to keep property within the group. A molecular genetic study of global human genetic diversity argued that sexual polygyny was typical of human reproductive patterns until the shift to sedentary farming communities approximately 10,000 to 5,000 years ago in Europe and Asia, and more recently in Africa and the Americas. A further study drawing on the Ethnographic Atlas showed a statistical correlation between increasing size of the society, the belief in "high gods" to support human morality, and monogamy. A survey of other cross-cultural samples has confirmed that the absence of the plough was the only predictor of polygamy, although other factors such as high male mortality in warfare (in non-state societies) and pathogen stress (in state societies) had some impact.
Betzig postulated that culture/society can also be a source of social monogamy by enforcing it through rules and laws set by third-party actors, usually in order to protect the wealth or power of the elite. For example, Augustus Caesar encouraged marriage and reproduction to force the aristocracy to divide their wealth and power among multiple heirs, but the aristocrats kept their socially monogamous, legitimate children to a minimum to ensure their legacy while having many extra-pair copulations. Similarly—according to Betzig—the Christian Church enforced monogamy because wealth passed to the closest living, legitimate male relative, often resulting in the wealthy oldest brother being without a male heir. Thus, the wealth and power of the family would pass to the “celibate” younger brother of the church. In both of these instances, the rule-making elite used cultural processes to ensure greater reproductive fitness for themselves and their offspring, leading to a larger genetic influence in future generations. Furthermore, the laws of the Christian Church, in particular, were important in the evolution of social monogamy in humans. They allowed, even encouraged, poor men to marry and produce offspring which reduced the gap in reproductive success between the rich and poor, thus resulting in the quick spread of monogamous marriage systems in the western world. According to B. S. Low, culture would appear to have a much larger impact on monogamy in humans than the biological forces that are important for non-human animals.
Other theorists use cultural factors influencing reproductive success to explain monogamy. During times of major economic / demographic transitions, investing more in a fewer offspring (social monogamy not polygyny) increases reproductive success by ensuring the offspring themselves have enough initial wealth to be successful. This is seen in both England and Sweden during the industrial revolution and is currently being seen in the modernization of rural Ethiopia. Similarly, in modern industrialized societies, fewer yet better-invested offspring, i.e. social monogamy, can provide a reproductive advantage over social polygyny, but this still allows for serial monogamy and extra-pair copulations.
Karol Wojtyła (later, Pope John Paul II) in his book Love and Responsibility postulated that monogamy, as an institutional union of two people being in love with one another, was an embodiment of an ethicalpersonalistic norm, and thus the only means of making true human love possible.
The historical record offers contradictory evidence on the development and extent of monogamy as a social practice. Laura Betzig argues that in the six large, highly stratified early states, commoners were generally monogamous but that elites practiced de facto polygyny. Those states included Mesopotamia, Egypt, Aztec Mexico, Inca Peru, India and China.
Ancient Mesopotamia and Assyria
Both the Babylonian and Assyrian families were monogamous in principle but not entirely so in practice since polygyny was frequently practiced by the rulers.
In the patriarchal society of Mesopotamia the nuclear family was called a "house". In order "to build a house" a man was supposed to marry one woman and if she did not provide him with offspring, he could take a second wife. The Code of Hammurabi states that he loses his right to do so if the wife herself gives him a slave as concubine. According to Old Assyrian texts, he could be obliged to wait for two or three years before he was allowed to take another wife. The position of the second wife was that of a "slave girl" in respect to the first wife, as many marriage contracts explicitly state.
Although an Egyptian man was free to marry several women at a time, and some wealthy men from Old and Middle Kingdoms did have more than one wife, monogamy was the norm. There may have been some exceptions, e.g. a Nineteenth Dynasty official stated as proof of his love to his deceased wife that he had stayed married to her since their youth, even after he had become very successful (P. Leiden I 371). This may suggest that some men abandoned first wives of a low social status and married women of higher status in order to further their careers although even then they lived with only one wife. Egyptian women had right to ask for a divorce if her husband took a second wife. Many tomb reliefs testify to monogamous character of Egyptian marriages, officials are usually accompanied by a supportive wife. "His wife X, his beloved" is the standard phrase identifying wives in tomb inscriptions. The instruction texts belonging to wisdom literature, e.g. Instruction of Ptahhotep or Instruction of Any, support fidelity to monogamous marriage life, calling the wife a Lady of the house. The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq suggests that it is wrong to abandon a wife because of her barrenness.
As against Betzig's contention that monogamy evolved as a result of Christian socio-economic influence in the West, monogamy appeared widespread in the ancient Middle East much earlier. In Israel's pre-Christian era, an essentially monogamous ethos underlay the Jewish creation story (Gn 2) and the last chapter of Proverbs. During the Second Temple period (530 BCE to 70 CE), apart from an economic situation which supported monogamy even more than in earlier period, the concept of "mutual fidelity" between husband and wife was a quite common reason for strictly monogamous marriages. Some marriage documents explicitly expressed a desire for the marriage to remain monogamous. Examples of these documents were found in Elephantine. They resemble those found in neighbouring Assyria and Babylonia. Study shows that ancient Middle East societies, though not strictly monogamous, were practically (at least on commoners' level) monogamous.Halakha of the Dead Sea Sect saw prohibition of polygamy as coming from the Pentateuch (Damascus Document 4:20–5:5, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls). Christianity adopted a similar attitude (cf. 1 Tm 3:2,12; Tt 1:6), which conformed with Jesus' approach.Michael Coogan, in contrast, states that "Polygyny continued to be practised well into the biblical period, and it is attested among Jews as late as the second century CE."
Under Judges and the monarchy, old restrictions went into disuse, especially among royalty, though the Books of Samuel and Kings, which cover entire period of monarchy, do not record a single case of bigamy among commoners — except for Samuel's father. The wisdom books e.g. Book of Wisdom, which provides a picture of the society, Sirach, Proverbs, Qohelet portray a woman in a strictly monogamous family (cf. Pr 5:15-19; Qo 9:9; Si 26:1-4 and eulogy of perfect wife, Proverbs 31:10-31). The Book of Tobias speaks solely of monogamous marriages. Also prophets have in front of their eyes monogamous marriage as an image of the relationship of God and Israel. (Cf. Ho 2:4f; Jer 2:2; Is 50:1; 54:6-7; 62:4-5; Ez 16). Roland de Vaux states that "it is clear that the most common form of marriage in Israel was monogamy".
The Mishnah and the baraitot clearly reflect a monogamist viewpoint within Judaism (Yevamot 2:10 etc.). Some sages condemned marriage to two wives even for the purpose of procreation (Ketubot 62b). R. Ammi, an amora states:
Whoever takes a second wife in addition to his first one shall divorce the first and pay her kettubah (Yevamot 65a)
Roman customs, which prohibited polygamy, may have enhanced such an attitude[original research?] - especially after 212 AD, when all the Jews became Roman citizens. However, some Jews continued to practice bigamy (e.g. up to medieval times in Egypt and Europe). Fourth-century Roman law forbade Jews to contract plural marriages.
A synod convened by Gershom ben Judah around 1000 CE banned polygamy among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.
Ancient Greece and ancient Rome
The ancient Greeks and Romans were monogamous in the sense that men were not allowed to have more than one wife or to cohabit with concubines during marriage.
According to Jesus Christ monogamy was a primordial will of the Creator described in Genesis, darkened by the hardness of hearts of the Israelites. As John Paul II interpreted the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees (Gospel of Matthew 19:3–8), Christ emphasized the primordial beauty of monogamic spousal love described in the Book of Genesis 1:26–31, 2:4–25, whereby a man and woman by their nature are each ready to be a beautifying, total and personal gift to one another:
Jesus avoids entangling himself in juridical or casuistic controversies; instead, he appeals twice to the "beginning". By doing so, he clearly refers to the relevant words of Genesis, which his interlocutors also know by heart. (...) it clearly leads the interlocutors to reflect about the way in which, in the mystery of creation, man was formed precisely as "male and female," in order to understand correctly the normative meaning of the words of Genesis.
Western European societies established monogamy as their marital norm. Monogamous marriage is normative and is legally enforced in most of the world's highly developed countries. Laws prohibiting polygyny were adopted in 1880 in Japan, 1953 in China, 1955 in India and 1963 in Nepal.
The women's rights movements in these nations want to make monogamy the only legal form of marriage. The United Nations joined these efforts in 1979 when the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, an international bill of rights for women that over 180 nations have agreed to implement. Article 16 of the Convention requires nations to give women and men equal rights in marriage. Polygamy is interpreted as inconsistent with Article 16 when it extends the right of multiple spouses to men but not to women. The United Nations has established the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to monitor the progress of nations implementing the Convention. The United Nations is thus working through the Convention and CEDAW to promote women's equality by making monogamy the only legal form of marriage worldwide.
People's Republic of China
Main article: Marriage in the People's Republic of China
The founders of Communism believed monogamy oppressed women and had no place in communist society. However, the Communist revolution in China changed these ideas as the communist revolutionaries in China viewed monogamy as a means of giving women and men equal rights in marriage. The newly formed Communist government established monogamy as the only legal form of marriage.
"The 1950 Marriage Law called for sweeping changes in many areas of family life. It forbade any 'arbitrary and compulsory' form of marriage that would be based on the superiority of men and would ignore women’s interests. The new democratic marriage system was based on the free choice of couples, monogamy, equal rights for both sexes, and the protection of the lawful interests of women. It abolished the begetting of male offspring as the principal purpose of marriage and weakened kinship ties which reduced the pressure on women to bear many children, especially sons. With arranged marriages prohibited, young women could choose their own marriage partners, share the financial cost of setting up a new household, and have equal status in household and family decision-making. The Government then initiated an extensive campaign of marriage-law education, working jointly with the Communist Party, women’s federations, trade unions, the armed forces, schools and other organizations."
The African Union has adopted the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol). While the protocol does not suggest making polygamous marriage illegal, article 6 of the protocol states that "monogamy is encouraged as the preferred form of marriage and that the rights of women in marriage and family, including in polygamous marital relationships are promoted and protected." The protocol entered into force November 25, 2005.
Varieties in biology
Recent discoveries have led biologists to talk about the three varieties of monogamy: social monogamy, sexual monogamy, and genetic monogamy. The distinction between these three are important to the modern understanding of monogamy.
Monogamous pairs of animals are not always sexually exclusive. Many animals that form pairs to mate and raise offspring regularly engage in sexual activities with partners other than their primary mate. This is called extra-pair copulation.