Definitions of Marriage
- (noun) A socially recognized union between two or more people with the notion of permanence.
- (noun) A legal contract between two or more people that establishes certain rights and obligations.
Types of Marriage
- arranged marriage
- common-law marriage
- covenant marriage
- dual-career marriage
- group marriage
- intercultural marriage
- levirate marriage
- open marriage
- sororate marriage
- American English – /mAIR-ij/
- British English – /mAr-ij/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /ˈmɛrɪdʒ/
- British English – /ˈmarɪdʒ/
- Plural: marriages
- Due to the continuum of marriage variations across legal jurisdictions, societies, and cultures, no single definition can encapsulate such a dynamic, nonstandardized term.
- Marriage, along with family, is a primary social unit and a mechanism that governs authority, descent, inheritance, legitimacy of children, and mate selection.
- Marriages typically follow the marriage gradient.
- A marriage is typically marked by a ritual (wedding) to indicate a change in status for the participants that often change their rights and roles.
- A marriage certificate certifies a marriage is legal as determined by an authority.
- Marriages follow various marriage systems, such as asymmetrical and symmetrical exchange. Marriage systems often require a specific postmarital residence, where newly married spouses reside, based on cultural and societal norms, such as the unilocal rule. However, a marriage that does not follow societal rules is agamistic.
- Cross-cultural analysis of marriage forms was studied by George Peter Murdock (1897–1985) in the Ethnographic Atlas (published between 1962–1980), a data set of over 1,000 societies.
- Also called:
- spousal relationship
- “By deinstitutionalization I mean the weakening of the social norms that define people’s behavior in a social institution such as marriage. In times of social stability, the taken-for-granted nature of norms allows people to go about their lives without having to question their actions or the actions of others. But when social change produces situations outside the reach of established norms, individuals can no longer rely on shared understandings of how to act. Rather, they must negotiate new ways of acting, a process that is a potential source of conflict and opportunity. On the one hand, the development of new rules is likely to engender disagreement and tension among the relevant actors. On the other hand, the breakdown of the old rules of a gendered institution such as marriage could lead to the creation of a more egalitarian relationship between wives and husbands” (Cherlin 2004:848).
- “In American society, the basic kinship system consists of parents and children, but it may include other relatives as well, especially grandparents. Each person in this system has certain rights and obligations as a result of his or her position in the family structure. Furthermore, a person may occupy several positions at the same time. For example, an 18-year-old woman may simultaneously be a daughter, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, and a granddaughter. Each role entails different rights and obligations. As a daughter, the young woman may have to defer to certain decisions of her parents; as a sister, to share her bedroom; as a cousin, to attend a wedding; and as a granddaughter, to visit her grandparents during the holidays” (Strong, Devault, and Cohen 2011:19).
- “In France, married but childless women commit suicide half again as often as unmarried women of the same age. We have already noted that generally the wife benefits less from family life than the husband. Now we can see the cause of this; taken by itself, conjugal life is harmful to the woman and aggravates her tendency to suicide. If, nevertheless, most wives have appeared to enjoy a favourable coefficient of preservation, this is because childless households are the exception and consequently the presence of children remedies and reduces the bad effects of marriage in most cases” (Durkheim  2004:75).
- Family and Kinship Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “marriage” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Coltrane, Scott. 2004. Families and Society: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
- Coontz, Stephanie. 1993. The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. New York: Basic Books.
- Lauer, Jeanette, and Robert Lauer. 1992. “Marriages Made to Last.” Pp. 481–86 in Marriage and Family in a Changing Society, edited by J. Henslin. New York: Free Press.
- Murdock, George Peter. 1967. “Ethnographic Atlas: A Summary.” Ethnology 6(2):109–236. doi:10.2307/3772751.
- bride price
- deinstitutionalization of marriage
- marriage certificate
- marriage gradient
- marriage system
Cherlin, Andrew J. 2004. “The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage.” Journal of Marriage and Family 66(4):848–61.
Durkheim, Émile.  2004. “Suicide.” Pp. 65–83 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.
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Cite the Definition of Marriage
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “marriage.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 5, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/marriage/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
marriage. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/marriage/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “marriage.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 5, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/marriage/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“marriage.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 5 Jun. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/marriage/>.