Perhaps its strongest function concerns procreation, the care of children and their education and socialization, and regulation of lines of descent.Through the ages, marriages have taken a great number of forms.Until the late 20th century, marriage was rarely a matter of free choice.In Western societies love between spouses came to be associated with marriage, but even in Western cultures (as the novels of writers such as Henry James and Edith Wharton attest) romantic love was not the primary motive for matrimony in most eras, and one’s marriage partner was carefully chosen.Cultural pressures to marry within one’s social, economic, and ethnic group are still very strongly enforced in some societies.Exogamy, the practice of marrying outside the group, is found in societies in which kinship relations are the most complex, thus barring from marriage large groups who may trace their lineage to a common ancestor.Although these laws and rituals are as varied and numerous as human social and cultural organizations, some universals do apply.
They also assert a familial or communal sanction of the mutual choice and an understanding of the difficulties and sacrifices involved in making what is considered, in most cases, to be a lifelong commitment to and responsibility for the welfare of spouse and children.
In societies in which the large, or extended, family remains the basic unit, marriages are usually arranged by the family.
The assumption is that love between the partners comes after marriage, and much thought is given to the socioeconomic advantages accruing to the larger family from the match.
In some legal systems, a contract in conventional form is the core of the constitution of marriage.
The contract may be complex, with a variety of clauses, as in…