Arranged Marriages Essay, Research Paper
A Study of Arranged Marriages
?An Arranged Marriage refers to a situation in which marriage partners are
chosen primarily by someone other than the partners themselves. These other persons are
usually parents, but they may also be other kin, a matchmaker, or an agency. Because the
marriage partners may or may not be consulted, this situation implies a strong sense of
family loyalty.? (Patricia Uberoi, p.15)
An arranged marriage is a type of mate selection in which the individual getting married
has little or no choice in selecting a spouse because family members?usually parents?
are more influential in the process.
In sociology, arranged marriages are viewed and studied as a particular form of mate
selection. Arranged Marriages add to the understanding of the functions of marriage,
types of social authority, and the nature of the families living in traditional societies.
However, arranged marriages are considered by North American standards, to
be unacceptable in principle when compared to choices available based on romantic love.
But arranged marriages are certainly not rare, as a large percentage of the worlds
population engages in this practice. Nonetheless, the concept of arranged marriage is
viewed differently by different people.
In the Middle Ages, the kinship unit was very important in the transmission of
property and the protection of the individual and the family. The bride and the groom
were the least important unit in forming of a marriage because parents, other kin, the
church, and the community all played major roles. Accordingly, marriages could be
contracted in order to implement an alliance between feuding families.
Not only would this practice continue to enhance the value of the kinship group, but also
it would help keep the tradition of endogamy (a societal expectation that individuals
should marry partners very much like themselves in terms of race, ethnicity, and class).
Marriage in traditional Japan meant that a couple became permanent members of
an extended household and were expected to fulfill familial obligations. They were
providing a vital link to ancestors by bringing infants into the world and taking care of
elders soon to leave the world. Because of these important cultural mandates, it made
sense that parents, rather than sons and daughters, would select marriage partners.
Recent studies done in India and Bangladesh listed a number of functions that
arranged marriages serve. According to the studies, arranged marriages helped to
maintain social stratification, to affirm and strengthen parental power over children, to
keep family traditions and value system intact, to consolidate and extend family property,
to enhance the value of the kinship group, to maintain the tradition of endogamy (a
societal expectation that individuals should marry partners very much like themselves in
terms of race, ethnicity, and class), and to aid young people in finding mates. (B.
Goswami, J.Sarkar, and D. Danda, pg.156)
In looking at China?s modern-day society, it is possible to see how the communist
government attempted to eradicate such aspects of traditional society by declaring
arranged marriages to be invalid in the 1950s. Individuals in China were encouraged to
select their own mates without parental consent, thus greater loyalty to the state than to
the family. However, China?s policy was not accepted by many of the older generation.
They maintained control over their children?s marriages because they had the economic
resources to do so. The children could legally win the right to select their own spouse, but
it was difficult to disobey parents with whom they might have had to live after marriage.
The authority of parents cannot be overemphasized. When the young live close to
their parents and are dependent on them, parental power remains strong. If parents can
arrange their children?s marriages while they are young, children will have fewer
resources with which to oppose their parents. They are also more likely to be molded into
a family culture with strict requirements.
Looking at the North American society arranged marriages were common before
the twentieth century. Parents in those times had more authority over their children, and
marriages involved more practical considerations than they do today. It was when the
institution of dating came into existence in the North American society, young men and
women began making their own choices in mate selection. However, it should be noted
that the introduction of the automobile, the telephone, the existence of coeducational
schools and colleges gave young men and women greater mobility and more
opportunities to meet and communicate on their own.
Although the majority of American parents do not, strictly speaking, arrange
marriages for their children, both parents and society influence the choices that young
people make in selecting mates in a number of ways. For example, individuals within the
same social class are more likely to go to similar social functions and the same schools,
and to live in the same neighborhoods. Some parents may also show strong disapproval
of dating partners selected by their children. The trend still seems that the control of
parents is likely to be stronger in families of higher social class, and is also dependent on
how traditional the ethnic culture is.
Although arranged marriages have been in existence from the past several years,
the concept of the institution has taken a sort of a liberal approach in the North American
society, if not in the third world countries. (http://www.indolink.com/humor/aunt/html)
An excellent example can be taken of the South Asian youths in the North American
society. The younger generation residing in the current society have not totally blocked
off the idea of arranged marriages, nor have they completely adapted the North American
ways of mate selection. These youths are trying to strike a balance between the Eastern
and the Western cultures, and come up with a plan which is a combination of the Western
and eastern way of choosing their mates.
Speaking from a young female South Asian?s point of view living in a North American
society, I think that the understanding of the notion of arranged marriages have taken a
different meaning today. I was introduced to a young man earlier this year by his and
many parents after our families have analyzed our family history. Both of the families
after doing their homework decided that the young man and I would be a good match for
each other. Some of the factors of potential marriage approval were, the similar family
background in India, the same religion, the same caste, similar financial structure, similar
educational background. However to me and to the young man these factors played a
minor role compared to our parents(who thought that these were the most important
factors). I and the young man wanted us to be compatible and understand each other. So
we decided to ?date? for a few months. This institution of dating did not include the
physical aspects or going out late nights, but it comprised of regular talking, going for
lunches, early dinner sometimes under the supervision of an older person in the family.
The ?dating? lasted for 9 months, and in this time period we analyzed many factors which
again were a combination of the Eastern and the Western way of thinking. We finally
decided to go ahead with the marriage, and recently got engaged.
My personal experience is not at all alien to the South Asian youths living in North
America. In fact about eighty to eighty-five percent of the marriages taking place today
are an outcome of this modern view of the arranged marriages. Young men and women
are introduced to each other by their parents, and then the final decision rests unto the
hands of the younger people.
Knowledge gained from the study of arranged marriages is useful in
understanding and comparing the degree of satisfaction found among partners and the
success of marital unions. If we compare arranged marriages with marriages based on
romantic love or free choice by the marital partners, facts prove that arranged marriages
are likely to last longer than love matches, be more satisfying in the long run, be more
realistic and practical, and create more partner compatibility. Moreover, in comparison
with arranged marriages, romantic unions do result in a higher divorce rate, which may
indicate more intense involvement, idealization of the marital partner, and subsequent
disillusionment, leading to marital dissolution.
On the other hand, arranged marriages are scrutinized by those who favor free choice in
mate selection . This group argues that romantic unions result in greater marital happiness
than in family arranged unions because the attraction is more immediate and
compatibility more realistic
Some individuals prefer to steer a middle course between having completely free choice
and having a mate chosen for them; in this way they can seek their own mate yet obtain
family approval to avoid the risks of opposing their parents entirely. Moreover, these
individuals may also want more free choice in seeing and communicating with
prospective mates before the actual marriage. This is the course I undertook, and is
becoming very popular in traditional societies living in the Western part of the world.
From a sociology point of view in understanding how arranged marriages can be
applied in today?s societies, we can see that the study of arranged marriages helps in
analyzing societies going through transitions in which that are influenced by Western
practices. ?The study of arranged marriages makes it possible to see whether cultural
traditions are being maintained or lost?. (http//www.pastornet.net/alt/feb97/arranged.htm)
?In highly traditional societies such as those of India and Pakistan, filial piety is strong,
and females have long been dependent on their families for economic and social support.
As these countries become industrialized, educational levels for both men and women
rise, as do their opportunities for employment. These two factors are associated with a
decrease in arranged marriages.? (B. Goswami, J.Sarkar, D. Danda, p.45)
Consistent with this trend, one finds that areas that are more urbanized have higher rates
of free-choice marriages, while rural areas have a predominance of arranged marriages.
Finally, although it is likely that industrialized nations will have a weaker system of
arranged marriages and a greater prevalence of marriages by choice, this does not mean
that the system of arranged marriages will completely disappear. I think that the concept
of arranged marriages may branch off into many small sub-divisions in which there will
be a range of strictly traditional views and liberal views of arranged marriages. This
emergence of sub-divisions and its study will thus enrich and broaden the concept of
arranged marriages in sociology.
Patricia Uberoi, ?Family, Kinship And Marriage in India?; Oxford University Press, 1993
A.K. Lal, ?The Urban Family? (A study of Hindu Social System); Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, 1991
B. Goswami, J.Sarkar and D.Danda, ?Marriage In India? (Tribes, Muslims and Anglo-Indians); Anthropological Survey of India, 1989
?Marriage?; World Book Encyclopedia, vol. 13, p.219, 1991