Chapter 7: Forms of Marriage and Divorce

BY: Vaidehi Patel, Jasmin
Lee, Cindy Okrah, and Alaa
Monogamy is the form of marriage north Americans are most familiar with
Among the Kapauku of western New Guinea, the ideal is to have as many wives as
Among the Turkana, the number of animals at a family’s disposal is directly related to
the number of adult women available to care for them
In cultures practicing wealth-generating polygyny, most men and women do enter
into polygynous marriages, although some can do this earlier in life than others.
Another reason for a man to take a secondary wife is to demonstrate his high
When he does, it is usually of the sororal type, with the cowives being sisters.
Equestrian hunters, such as the Blackfoot, were able to kill
many bison in a short period of time,
Polygyny on the plains was viewed as an economic feature
of production, rather than a social construct.
Polyandry, the marriage of one woman to two or more men
simultaneously, is known in only a few societies perhaps in
part because men’s life were shorter.
The eastern Inuit, Marquensan islanders of Polynesia, and
Unlike, monogamy is also retrains population growth,
thereby avoiding increased pressures on resources.
Group marriage, in which several man and women have
sexual access to one another, also occurs rarely.
If a husband dies, leaving a wife and children, it is
often the custom that the wife marries one of the
brothers of the dead man. This custom called the
When a man marries the sister of his dead wife, it is
called the sororate.
The relationship between the two families is maintained
even after a spouse’s death.
 To confirm that there are brothers and sisters
available to get married after one’s death,
“cousins’ are classified as brothers and sisters.
Serial monogamy is a marriage form in which a man or woman marries or
lives with a series of partners in succession
It is increasingly common in the North American society and middle-class
people because of:
 the increasing necessity for women to seek work outside the home
 rising divorce rates
Women begin to bear children by men who are not married to them
To support herself and her children, a woman must look for work outside
the household
She must seek help from other kin, most commonly her mother
Households are frequently headed by women (about 32% are
so headed in the West Indies)
Under poverty conditions, women are driven to seek male
 owing to the difficulties of supporting themselves and
their children while fulfilling their domestic obligations
The standard of living for women drops dramatically, whereas
that of men increases
One solution for unmarried women is to marry, or
remarry, to get the assistance of another adult
The Western egalitarian ideal that an
individual should be free to marry
whomever he or she chooses has
contributed to the apparent instability of
marital relationships
Part of the problem is the emphasis placed
on the importance of youth and glamour,
especially of women and romantic love
Female youth and beauty are glaringly
exploited by women’s fashion, cosmetics,
movies, recorded-music as well as
advertisements for cigarettes and
 not all North Americans are taken
in by this, but it does influence marriage
The most serious matter of marriage is the
making of allies of two families through the
marriage bond
Marriages tend to be arranged for the economic and political advantage of
the family unit because:
 marriage involves the transfer of rights between families, including:
 rights to property
 rights over the children
 sexual rights
Arranged marriages still occur among first-generation immigrants and ethnic
immigrants who serve to preserve traditional values that they fear might be lost
 ex. India
Among families of wealth and power, marriages may be arranged by
segregating their children in private schools to carefully steer them toward
“proper” marriages
Patrilateral parallel cousin marriage is a
marriage of those in which a man marries
his father’s brother’s daughter or of a
women to her father’s brother’s son
All these societies are hierarchical in
nature; some people have more
property than others, and property of
interest to men is inherited by daughters
as well as sons
When patrilateral parallel cousin
marriage occurs, property is retained
within the male line of descent
 The greater the property, the
more this form of parallel-cousin
marriage is apt to occur
Matrilateral cross-cousin marriage is the marriage of a woman to her
father’s sister’s son or of a man to his mother’s brother’s daughter (a cross
cousin is the child of a mother’s brother or a father’s sister)
 ex. Preferred among Australian Aborigines, the Haida of
Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands and various people of South India
These marriages help establish and maintain ties of solidarity between social
Patrilateral cross-cousin marriage is the marriage of a man to his father’s
sister’s daughter
 ex. The young men of the Columbia and southwestern Alaska
prefer this marriage
Marriage to a close relative keeps wealth within the family and enables
individuals to marry someone of equal rank
When a couple decides to get
married, they sit in public on the man’s
Groom’s father and mother’s brother
collect valuables to give to the wife’s
maternal kin and father
After first year of marriage, the bride’s
mother provides the meals
This gift giving between families is to
bind the family’s together so that
people respect/ honour the marriage
and for the woman’s kin to take care
of her husband in the future
Marriages are formalized by an
economic exchange (gift giving)
Marriages are formalized by economic exchanges such as a bride price
(bride wealth) which is giving money or other valuables to a bride’s
Another form of compensation is “my son will marry your daughter if your
son will marry my daughter” (exchange of women between families) or
bride service, when the groom works for the bride’s family
In many cultures where economy is based on intensive agriculture,
women bring a dowry with them at marriage
Dowry: Payment of woman’s inheritance at the time of her marriage,
either by her or her husband
Dowry can ensure that a woman is supported should she ever become a
widow or divorced
Dowry also shows the economic status of the women in societies where
the differences in wealth are important
Marriage is a form of economic exchange, creating alliances between
two families as it helps each kin group’s chance of survival and creates a
support network between the families
Divorce in non-Western cultures is a concerning matter and can be done for a
variety of reasons
 ex. #1Gusii of Kenya: Being sterile/impotent = divorce
 ex. #2 Chenchu of Hyderabad and First nations of northern Canada: divorce
is discouraged and the couple is encouraged to work out their problems
 ex. #3 In Contrast, a Hopi woman of the United States can divorce her
husband by putting his stuff outside, meaning that he’s not welcome
 ex. #4 Yahgan of South America: divorce is common and was justified if the
husband was cruel or did not provide properly
Divorce rates are high in the West
North American marriage is supposed
to be enduring, supportive, full of love/
affection but in societies where people
only seek their personal gains at
someone else’s expense, marriage
does not always live up to that ideal
Harsh treatment / neglect of spouses
(towards wives) is not rare and people
are more tolerant of violence towards
spouses and kids than of violence
against outsiders
People are no longer willing to “stick it
out at all costs”
Divorce is increasingly practiced
towards marriages that do not work