Arranged Marriages


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. (

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//

?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



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