The marriage institution has been in the process of constant evolution. The marriage is a very basic building block of any society. The bonding of a male and a female into a pair, or what is commonly known as pair-bonging, began in the Stone Age. As explained by the structural-functionalist perspective, marriage institutions exist because of their importance in bringing up a stable society, by the fact that they perform several necessary functions. During Stone Age, it was a way of organizing as well as controlling people’s sexual conduct to fulfill their sexual desires without causing any conflict. It was also a way of providing a stable structure for the rearing of children as well as other tasks of their daily life (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006). Besides, marriage institutions gave people a way of feeling loved as well as feeling the sense of belonging, which made them more likely to be productive members of the society. However, that fundamental concept has taken many forms across the different cultures and eras.
In the late 1930’s, young people placed more emphasis on the personality of their potential mates. They expected more affection, understanding, and compatibility in marriage. By then, marriage was no longer viewed as an obligation and duty. Rather, it was regarded as an arrangement with more interest in intimacy and feelings. Therefore, the arrangement was just easy and simple such that one could break it whenever feelings changed. Most probably, the most fundamental thing with marriage nowadays is that people’s attitudes towards the institutions of marriage have changed. The necessity of marriage as per the traditions or as a sacred duty has declined significantly, making marriage now appear as a choice.
However, people are still coupling-up even with the drop in the marriage institutions. It means that cohabitation has now increased. The cohabiting couples are highly likely to break up, making the relationships more unstable. There are also high levels of divorce that have created single parent households, a single person household, as well as more reconstituted families. That has also contributed to the changes in the marriage institutions in the society.
Also, the family structure has changed. The history of marriage reveals that the forms of the family we see today are as a result of the evolution of the household, arising out of an important shift in the culture of marriage. In the 19th century, the family took a more formal structure, with the husband as the breadwinner and the wife as the homemaker. The families that married while young remained married and had many children. Later in the century, real wages for women increased while those for some men fell. The economy weakened. Wives got access to the workforce. Legal rights, education, paid work and birth control (Coltrane & Collins, 2001). With the many changes in marriage, fertility and divorce, the structure of the families are changing and becoming more diverse. However, with the many structures and forms of the family available, the family itself is not disappearing.
Diversity has also brought changes in the family structure. As opposed to the past, where the roles of husbands and wives were well defined, today, things have changed. Wives are becoming breadwinners. There are no longer defined roles for either wives or husbands, except the idea of giving birth. Diversity has also made things different in the family structure, with there being many single-parent families, children living arrangements changing randomly from both-parented children to single-parented children, to even having a new parent later in their lives.
Finally, couples with higher religiosity levels invest more in their marriages, creating a higher quality of marital life with a lower likelihood of divorce, domestic violence, or other family issues (Mahoney, et al. 1999). They tend to adjust more to their marriage and collaborate more in resolving their disagreements. On the other hand, education has made things different for many marriages. When the husband and wife are educated, they are likely to be both earning, creating the feeling of personal freedom and sustainability. Again, they are both sensitive to their legal rights among other things, as opposed to the past. That impacts negatively to the many marriages and the family structures at large.
- Coltrane, S., and Collins, R. (2001). Sociology of Marriage & the Family: Gender, Love, and Property. Fifth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
- Giddens, A., & Griffiths, S. (2006). Sociology. Cambridge, UK [u.a.: Polity Press.
- Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., Jewell, T., Swank, A. B., Scott, E., Emery, E., & Rye, M. (1999). Marriage and the spiritual realm: The role of proximal and distal religious constructs in marital functioning. Journal of Family Psychology,13(3), 321-338. doi:10.1037//0893-3184.108.40.2061