Heider Chapter 8
Marriage and Family
• There is no single definition of marriage that is adequate to account for all of the diversity found in
• Generally, it is (exceptions exist):
o Socially recognized union of a male and a female
o Marked by some sort of public wedding ceremony
o Establishes a family
Functions of Marriage
• Sexual regulation
o Generally, marriage confers exclusive sexual access to woman on her husband
o Women have less claim on husband's sexuality What people say they do is not always what they
do: extra-marital relations
• Economic cooperation
o Division of labor by gender leads to interdependence (especially in subsistence cultures)
• Education of children
o Children need to be educated in order to function as productive members of society
Children educated at home, then school
Children educated by multi-family households
Educated by siblings, other children, parents, elders, relatives
• Some anthropologists argue that same-sex marriages are legitimate unions between two individuals
because like other kinds of marriage, same-sex marriage can allocated all of the rights discussed by
o In the US, since same-sex marriage is illegal, same-sex couples are denied many of these rights
(e.g. rights to the labor of the other, over the other’s property, relationships of affinity with the
o This does not mean that same-sex marriages, like any other cultural construction, are not capable
of meeting these needs; only that in the US laws prevent it from doing so.
• There are many examples in which same-sex marriages are culturally sanctioned (e.g. the Nuer, the
Azande, the Igbo, and the Lovedu).
• Marriage schema
o Set of ideas about marriage
o For example, marriage can be constructed
• Romance schema
o Set of ideas about romance
o For instance, love conquers all
Forms of Marriage
• Arranged vs. love marriages
o Cultural variable of groupism vs. individualism shows up in marriage
o Is marriage a group concern or an individual concern?
In many societies, marriage is a part of political and economic processes
Where groups are primary, groups use individuals in its overall strategy
In the United States, marriage is reflective of Autonomous individuals should look for
Emphasize feelings of love and romance
Schema of Love and Marriage
Some cultures insist on arranged marriages
Others have a mix of arranged and independent marriage
o Importance of wealth and family position sometimes leads to arranged marriage. Second
marriages are sometimes independent marriages
o Ideal marriage in most cultures
• More individualistic
• Found in almost every culture
• Romantic love
o Ideal marriage in West
o Thought to be a Western development until recent studies
• Most cultures are a mixture
• Within one culture, many different ways to get a marriage partner
o Older people - arranged marriage pattern
o Younger people - romantic love model
• Elopement is a way to have a love marriage when pressured for elaborate arranged marriage
Monogamy versus Polygamy
• Polygamous families (more than one spouse)
o More common the one might think
o Polygyny (more than one wife) [gyn="female"]
• Some men can have many sons through many wives; forms a cohesive core
• Common in tribal horticultural societies where man's wealth is dependent upon number of wives in
• Some men then have no wives and this can cause warfare
• Puts a strain on familial relations co-wives don't always get along
• The most preferred form of marriage is polygyny
o 75% of world's societies prefer it
o Only 43/238 cultures strictly monogamous
o Concubinage is found in many cultures
• Still most marriages are monogamous in all cultures
o Most common in cultures that support themselves by growing crops and where the bulk of the work
is done by women
o Women valued both as laborers and child-bearers
• Where men are the producers, polygyny is not common
o Women valued as child-bearers
o Too vulnerable to be producers
o When they have second wives it is very hard to support
• Polyandry (more than one husband) rare; best-known in the Himalayas
o Polyandry is usually practiced in response to specific circumstances, and in conjunction with other
o In other cultures, polyandry resulted from the fact that men traveled a great deal, thus multiple
husbands ensured the presence of a man in the home.
o Polyandry: the marriage of one women and several husbands
o Rare, in part as man lives shorter time, men die more and in shorter supply.
o Few societies, but widely distributed
o Allows population growth
• Among the Paharis of India, polyandry was associated with a relatively low female population, which was
itself due to covert female infanticide.
• In Tibet brothers marry to retain land
o Fraternal polyandry (marrying brothers)
o Brothers are often away
o All husbands responsible for all children
Property doesn't have to be divided
• Marriage as Exchange
• Transaction between two kin groups
o Involves goods and services exchange
o Ties the two groups together
• Includes bride wealth, dowry, and bride service
Bride Wealth (Brideswealth)
• Bride wealth (husband's group pays or compensates the wife's group)
o Goods are removed from husband's kin group to bride's kin group
o in exchange for her services
o Bridewealth is a gift from the husband’s kin to the wife’s, which stabilizes the marriage by acting as
an insurance against divorce.
• Particularly in descent-based societies, marriage partners represent an alliance of larger social units.
o Fertility is often considered essential to the stability of a marriage.
o Polygyny may be practiced to ensure fertility
• Bride price is rejected as an appropriate label, because the connotations of a sale are imposed; but
progeny price is considered an equivalent term.
• Dowry (woman brings wealth to new family)
o Woman keeps this as her own property
o Dowry, much less common than bridewealth, correlates with low status for women.
o Sometimes, after the marriage, the bride is harassed to get more money from her family
If more money doesn't come in, she is burned to death
Laws to abolish dowry have been unsuccessful
Dowry should strengthen a bride's base and the laws to abolish may have weakened the
o Change inheritance laws to be more favorable for women
o However, splitting property could destabilize the family
• Bride service societies
o Hunter and gatherer bands or horticultural and hunting groups
o !Kung San, Yanomamo, or Dani
• Work is performed by the groom (bride wealth is exchanged by elders)
• Younger generation is dependent upon older generation, therefore conflicts resolved by elders' conference
• Exogamy (marrying out) ("exo" = "exit; "gamy" = "marriage") prohibits people of same social group from
o In China, you cannot marry someone with the same last name
• Endogamy (marrying in) ("endo" = "in") marriage must take place within a group
o India - must take place within a the same caste
• Homogamy (marrying same)
o Marriage within same religious group, social class, or socially-defined racial (social race) category
Endogamy and exogamy may operate in a single society, but do not apply to the same social unit.
Endogamy can be seen as functioning to express and maintain social difference, particularly in stratified
o India’s caste system is an extreme example of endogamy.
o It is argued that, although India’s varna and America’s “races” are historically distinct, they share a
caste-like ideology of endogamy
Incest and Exogamy
Exogamy is the practice of seeking a spouse outside one's own group.
o This practice forces people to create and maintain a wide social network.
o This wider social network nurtures, helps, and protects one's group during times of need.
Incest refers to sexual relations with a close relative.
o The incest taboo is a cultural universal.
o What constitutes incest varies widely from culture to culture.
Incest Taboos -- Suggested Reasons
o If people really were genetically programmed to avoid incest, a formal incest taboo would be
o This theory cannot explain why in some societies people can marry their cross cousins but not their
o Argues that the incest taboo developed in response to abnormal offspring born from incestuous
o Human marriage patterns are based on specific cultural beliefs rather than universal concerns
about biological degeneration several generations in the future.
Attempt and Contempt
o Malinowski (and Freud) argued that the incest taboo originated to direct sexual feelings away from
one’s family to avoid disrupting the family structure and relations (familiarity increases the chances
o The opposite theory argues that people are less likely to be sexually attracted to those with whom
they have grown up (familiarity breeds contempt).
Marry Out or Die Out
A more accepted argument is that the taboo originated to ensure exogamy.
o Incest taboos force people to create and maintain wide social networks by extending peaceful
relations beyond one's immediate group.
o With this theory, incest taboos are seen as an adaptively advantageous cultural construct.
This argument focuses on the adaptive social results of exogamy, such as alliance formation, not simply on
the idea of biological degeneration.
Incest taboos also function to increase a group's genetic diversity.
Incest and Exogamy
• In societies with unilineal descent systems (patrilineal or matrilineal), the incest taboo is often defined
based on the distinction between two kinds of first cousins: parallel cousins and cross cousins.
o Sexual relations with a parallel cousin is incestuous, because they belong to the same generation and
the same descent group.
o Sexual relations with a cross cousin is not incestuous because they belong to the opposite group or
Kinship Terms (Cousins)
Cousin Marriage 1
• Cross-cousin marriage
o Marriage between children of brother and sister
o Results in lineage exogamy
o Strengthens ties between the two groups as the children of your sister reenter the clan of the
o Over the generations, this creates a circle pattern if two lineages marry back and forth
• Patrilateral cross cousin marriage: If a man is expected to marry his father's sister's (FZ) daughter
• Matrilateral cross cousin marriage: If a man is expected to marry his mother's brother's (MB) daughter
o Preferred in a variety of cultures
o In Australian aborigines because it maintains ties
o In South India with intensive agriculture to keep land in family
Cousin Marriage 2
• Parallel cousin marriage
Marriage between children of same gender siblings
Results in lineage endogamy so it seems to ignore the issue of exogamy generally seen with
Less common than cross-cousin marriage
Patrilateral parallel cousin marriage: If a man is expected to marry his father's brother's (FB) daughter
“Marrying a patrilateral parallel cousin potentially strengthens extended family
solidarity and reduces obligations beyond the family “ (O’Neill tutorial)
Generally the more property the more this form of marriage
Common among Bedouin Arabs and Balinese, for instance
It allows the woman to stay in her natal home, even after marriage.
Matrilateral parallel cousin marriage: If a man is expected to marry his mother's sister's (MZ) daughter
I could find no examples of this when I went looking for an example.
I suggest this is because his mother’s sister’s daughter is treated like a sister to him.
Social Repairs (Preserve Line)
• Levirate is custom of a widow marriage a brother of her dead husband
o Provides social security for the widow and children
o Way of husband's family to maintain rights over her sexuality and her future children
• Female husband and ghost marriage (Nuer)
o Female husband if only daughters, one becomes a husband
Marries a woman and daughter becomes social father
Children become part of lineage of the female husband
If female husband also marries a man, her biological children are of her husband's line
o Ghost marriage among the Nuer
o A man dies without sons
o Male member of his lineage marries the widow and their children become the dead man's
Social Repairs (Saving Alliance)
• Sororate (preferential sororate) is a custom of a widower marries his dead wife's sister
o The wife givers give to the wife takers to retain relationship
o Sister can be a cousin in kin structure (seen as sister)
o One researcher found 100 of 159 societies practices some form of sororate
• This is not sororal polygyny - marrying sisters
Families and Household Structures
o Father and mother joined by marriage (not descent or kinship)
o Biological family
Composed of parents and sexual intercourse
Birth of children
o Cultural family has many forms
• Types of families
o Nuclear: biologically, the basis of social organization (mother, father, children)
Not the most common family type cross-cultural
o Extended family
More than two generations
May include siblings and spouses
Nuclear and Extended Families
• The nuclear family is ego-centered, and impermanent, while descent groups are permanent (lasting
beyond the lifespans of individual constituents) and reckoned according to a single ancestor.
• One’s family of orientation is the family in which one is born and grows up, while one’s family of procreation
is formed when one marries and has children.
• Claims made for the universality of the nuclear family, based upon the universality of marriage, do not hold
up—the nuclear family is widespread, but not universal.
Nuclear and Extended Families
• In societies where the nuclear family is important, this structure acts as a primary arena for sexual,
reproductive, economic, and enculturative functions, but it is not the only structure used by societies
• In many societies, the extended families are the primary unit of social organization.
o Among the Muslims of western Bosnia, nuclear families are embedded within large extended families
called zadrugas headed by a male household head and his wife.
o The Nayars are a matrilineal society in which extended families live in compounds called tarawads
headed by a senior woman.
Postmarital Residence Patterns
• Patrilocal (living with husband's kin group)
o Related men can form important social groups
o 80% of societies are patrilocal and patrilineal
• Matrilocal (living with wife's kin group)
o Advantage: matrilineal societies have less internal warfare
o Compare to matrifocal (woman and her children)
• Neolocal (establish independent residence)
• Avunculocal (living with uncle)
Changing Family Forms in Western Cultures
• Ending marriage: divorce
o Probably all societies have some form of ending marriage
o Form and permissible reasons vary
o Old family ties may be maintained or broken off
• Single-parent family rates have increased
• Cohabitation has increased
o New "unclear families" are created
o Increasingly large number of Western families
o New families, new kinship
o Heterosexual couples can live together and have children
• Same-gender couples asking for marriage
o 19th c. America "Boston Marriages"
o Women with long-term living arrangements but not of blood kin
o Ignored sexual implications
• Technological changes complicate matters (in vitro, etc)
o genitor (biological father) ("genes")
o pater (social father)
• Divorce is found in many different societies.
• Marriages that are political alliances between groups are harder to break up than marriages that are more
• Payments of bridewealth also discourage divorce.
• Divorce is more common in matrilineal societies as well as societies in which postmarital residence is
• Divorce is harder in patrilocal societies as the woman may be less inclined to leave her children who as
members of their father’s lineage would need to stay with him.
• In foraging societies forces act to both promote and discourage divorce.
• Promote divorce:
o Since foragers lack descent groups, marriages tend to be individual affairs with little importance
placed on the political alliances.
o Foragers also have very few material possessions.
• Discourage divorce:
o The family unit is the basic unit of society and division of labor is based on gender.
o The sparse populations means that there are few alternative spouses if you divorce.
• Serial monogamy is a marriage form in which a man or women lives with a series of partners in succession
• Divorce in the US
o The US has one of the world’s highest divorce rates.
o The US has a very large percentage of gainfully employed women.
o Today, with divorce men's income increases by 42%, women down by 73%
• Remarriage is one option
o In US 4/5 of men remarry, usually within 5 years
o Younger women also remarry
o Men more likely to remarry than women
• Choice of spouse:
o United States ideal is personal choice, but is associated with great problems
o In other societies marriage is not a love match, but a social and economic tie.
o Americans value independence.