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 Chinas 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 1950 s. Individuals in China were encouraged to select their own mates without parental consent, thus greater loyalty to the state than to the family.
However, Chinas policy was not accepted by many of the older generation. They maintained control over their childrens 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 childrens 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. (web) 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 Asians 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 todays 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// web) 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 web web >.