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Marriage Types and Norms

Marriage Types and Norms

Marriage is one of the universal social institutions established to control and regulate the life of mankind. It is closely associated with the institution of family.Infact both the institutions are complementary to each other. It is an institution with different implications in different cultures. Its purposes, functions and forms may differ from society to society but it is present everywhere as an institution. Westermarck in 'History of Human marriage' defines marriage as the more or less durable connection between male and female lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of offspring. According to Malinowski marriage is a contract for the production and maintenance of children. Robert Lowie describes marriage as a relatively permanent bond between permissible mates. For Horton and Hunt marriage is the approved social pattern whereby two or more persons establish a family.

  • Types and norms,
    • Types of marriages
    • Rules of Marriage
  • Hindu Marriage
  • Muslim Marriage
  • Types of Tribal Marriage
  • Marriage as contract and as a sacrament

Types of marriages


It is a form of marriage in which one man marries more than one woman at a given time. It is of two types --- Sororal polygyny and non sororal polygyny

Sororal polygyny:

It is a type of marriage in which the wives are invariably the sisters. It is often called sororate.

Non-sororal polygyny:

It is a type of marriage in which the wives are not related as sisters.


It is the marriage of one woman with more than one man. It is less common than polygyny. It is of two types---- Fraternal Polyandry and non fraternal polyandry.

Fraternal polyandry:

When several brothers share the same wife the practice can be called alelphic or fraternal polyandry. This practice of being mate, actual or potential to one's husband's brothers is called levirate. It is prevalent among Todas.

Non - fraternal polyandry:

In this type the husband need not have any close relationship prior to the marriage. The wife goes to spend some time with each husband. So long as a woman lives with one of her husbands; the others have no claim over her.


It is a form of marriage in which one man marries one woman .It is the most common and acceptable form of marriage.

Serial monogamy:

In many societies individuals are permitted to marry again often on the death of the first spouse or after divorce but they cannot have more than one spouse at one and the same time.

Straight monogamy:

In this remarriage is not allowed.

Group Marriage:

It means the marriage of two or more women with two or more men. Here the husbands are common husbands and wives are common wives. Children are regarded as the children of the entire group as a whole.

Rules of Marriage

No society gives absolute freedom to its members to select their partners. Endogamy and exogamy are the two main rules that condition marital choice.


It is a rule of marriage in which the life-partners are to be selected within the group. It is marriage within the group and the group may be caste, class, tribe, race, village, religious group etc.We have caste endogamy, class endogamy, sub caste endogamy, race endogamy and tribal endogamy etc.In caste endogamy marriage has to take place within the caste. Brahmin has to marry a Brahmin. In sub caste endogamy it is limited to the sub caste groups.


It is a rule of marriage in which an individual has to marry outside his own group. It prohibits marrying within the group. The so-called blood relatives shall neither have marital connections nor sexual contacts among themselves.

Forms of exogamy:

Gotra Exogamy: The Hindu practice of one marrying outside one's own gotra.

Pravara Exogamy: Those who belong to the same pravara cannot marry among themselves.

Village Exogamy: Many Indian tribes like Naga,Garo,Munda etc have the practice of marrying outside their village.

Pinda Exogamy: Those who belong to the same panda or sapinda( common parentage) cannot marry within themselves.

Isogamy: It is the marriage between two equals (status)

Anisogamy: It is an asymmetric marriage alliance between two individuals belonging to different social statuses. It is of two forms - Hypergamy and Hypogamy.

Hypergamy: It is the marriage of a woman with a man of higher Varna or superior caste or family.

Hypogamy: It is the marriage of high caste man with a low caste woman.

Orthogamy: It is the marriage between selected groups.

Cerogamy: It is two or more men get married to two or more women.

Anuloma marriage: It is a marriage under which a man can marry from his own caste or from those below, but a woman can marry only in her caste or above.

Pratiloma marriage: It is a marriage of a woman to a man from a lower caste which is not permitted.

Hindu Marriage

The Hindu community has been giving great importance for marriage since time immemorial. There are different forms of marriage -

  • Brahma Vivaha is where a father marries his daughter to a learned man of good moral character.
  • Asura Vivaha is marriage by paying bride price.
  • Rakshasa Vivaha is by capture or abduction without obtaining the consent of a girl or her parents.
  • Gandharva Vivaha is based on mutual love.
  • Prajapatya Vivaha is where no ceremony is performed but the groom is honoured.

  • Arsh Vivaha is where the groom gives a pair of cattle or bull to the bride's father before the marriage.
  • Daiva Vivaha is where the girl is given in marriage to a priest instead of dakshina or a gift.

Muslim Marriage

In the Muslim community marriage is universal for it discourages celibacy. Muslims call their marriage Nikah .Marriage is regarded not as a religious sacrament but as a secular bond. The bridegroom makes a proposal to the bride just before the wedding ceremony in the presence of two witnesses and a maulavi or kazi.The proposal is called ijab and its acceptance is called qubul.It is necessary that both the proposal and its acceptance must take place at the same meeting to make it a sahi Nikah.It is a matter of tradition among the Muslims to have marriage among equals. Though there is no legal prohibition to contract marriage with a person of low status, such marriages are looked down upon. The run-away marriages called kifa when the girls run away with boys and marry them on their own choice are not recognized.

Marrying idolaters and slaves is also not approved. There is also provision of preferential system in mate selection. The parallel cousins and cross cousins are allowed to get married. Marriage that is held contrary to the Islamic rules is called batil or invalid marriage.Meher or dower is a practice associated with Muslim marriage. It is a sum of money or other property which a wife is entitled to get from her husband in consideration of the marriage.Muta is a special type of marriage for pleasure which is for a specified period only.Iddat is the period of seclusion for three menstrual periods for a woman after the death /divorce by her husband to ascertain whether she is pregnant or not. Only after this period she can remarry. Muslim marriage can be dissolved in the following ways: Divorce as per the Muslim law but without the intervention of the court: They are of two types-Kula where divorce is initiated at the instance of the wife and Mubarat where initiative may come either from the wife or from the husband.Talaq represents one of the ways according to which a Muslim husband can give divorce to his wife as per the Muslim law by repeating the dismissal formula thrice. The talaq may be affected either orally by making some pronouncements or in writing by presenting talaqnama.Divorce as recognized by Shariah Act 1937 provides for three forms of divorce:Illa,Zihar and Lian.There is also provision of divorce as per the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939.

Tribal Marriage

  • Marriage by exchange.
  • Marriage by capture is where a man forcibly marries a woman.
  • Marriage by intrusion is where a woman forcibly marries a man.
  • Marriage by probation allow a man to stay at woman place for weeks together after which if they decide to get married.
  • Marriage by purchase or giving b ride price. A man is required to give an agreed amount of cash/kind to the parents of the bride as price which usually varies according to the physical beauty and utility of the bride.
  • Marriage by service is where the man serves at his father-in-law's house before marriage.
  • Marriage by trial.
  • Marriage by mutual consent.

  • Marriage by elopement.


The family forms the basic unit of social organization and it is difficult to imagine how human society could function without it. The family has been seen as a universal social institution an inevitable part of human society. According to Burgess and Lock the family is a group of persons united by ties of marriage, blood or adoption constituting a single household interacting with each other in their respective social role of husband and wife, mother and father, brother and sister creating a common culture.G.P Murdock defines the family as a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship and one or more children own or adopted of the sexually co-habiting adults.

Nimkoff says that family is a more or less durable association of husband and wife with or without child or of a man or woman alone with children. According to Maclver family is a group defined by sex relationships sufficiently precise and enduring to provide for the procreation and upbringing of children.Kingsley Davis describes family as a group of persons whose relations to one another are based upon consanguinity and who are therefore kin to one another.Malinowski opined that the family is the institution within which the cultural traditions of a society is handed over to a newer generation. This indispensable function could not be filled unless the relations to parents and children were relations reciprocally of authority and respect. According to Talcott Parsons families are factories which produce human personalities.

  1. Main characteristics of family
  2. Types and forms of the family
  3. Types, functions and changes

Main characteristics of family

Universality: There is no human society in which some form of the family does not appear.Malinowski writes the typical family a group consisting of mother, father and their progeny is found in all communities,savage,barbarians and civilized. The irresistible sex need, the urge for reproduction and the common economic needs have contributed to this universality.

Emotional basis: The family is grounded in emotions and sentiments. It is based on our impulses of mating, procreation, maternal devotion, fraternal love and parental care. It is built upon sentiments of love, affection, sympathy, cooperation and friendship.

Limited size: The family is smaller in size. As a primary group its size is necessarily limited. It is a smallest social unit.

Formative influence: The family welds an environment which surrounds trains and educates the child. It shapes the personality and moulds the character of its members. It emotionally conditions the child.

Nuclear position in the social structure: The family is the nucleus of all other social organizations. The whole social structure is built of family units.

Responsibility of the members: The members of the family has certain responsibilities, duties and obligations.Maclver points out that in times of crisis men may work and fight and die for their country but they toil for their families all their lives.

Social regulation: The family is guarded both by social taboos and by legal regulations. The society takes precaution to safeguard this organization from any possible breakdown.

Types and forms of the family

On the basis of marriage: Family has been classified into three major types:

  • Polygamous or polygynous family
  • Polyandrous family
  • Monogamous family

On the basis of the nature of residence family can be classified into three main forms.

  • Family of matrilocal residence
  • Family of patrilocal residence
  • Family of changing residence

On the basis of ancestry or descent family can be classified into two main types

  • Matrilineal family
  • Patrilineal family

On the basis of size or structure and the depth of generations family can be classified into two main types.

  • Nuclear or the single unit family
  • Joint family

On the basis of the nature of relations among the family members the family can be classified into two main types.

  • The conjugal family which consists of adult members among there exists sex relationship.
  • Consanguine family which consists of members among whom there exists blood relationship- brother and sister, father and son etc.


Kinship is the relation by the bond of blood, marriage and includes kindered ones. It represents one of the basic social institutions. Kinship is universal and in most societies plays a significant role in the socialization of individuals and the maintenance of group solidarity. It is very important in primitive societies and extends its influence on almost all their activities.A.R Radcliffe Brown defines kinship as a system of dynamic relations between person and person in a community, the behavior of any two persons in any of these relations being regulated in some way and to a greater or less extent by social usage.

Affinal and Consanguineous kinship

Relation by the bond of blood is called consanguineous kinship such as parents and their children and between children of same parents. Thus son, daughter, brother, sister, paternal uncle etc are consanguineous kin. Each of these is related through blood. Kinship due to marriage is affinal kinship. New relations are created when marriage takes place. Not only man establishes relationship with the girl and the members of her but also family members of both the man and the woman get bound among themselves. Kinship includes Agnates (sapindas, sagotras); cognates (from mother's side) and bandhus (atamabandhus, pitrubandhus, and matrubandhus).

Points to Remember

  • A person referred to as the parent of his or her child indicates the practice of Teknonymy.
  • Rivers has given the explanation of kinship terms referring to social usages which are antecedent to their use.
  • The residence rule which gives choice to the newly -weds to live with the parents of either the groom or the bride is known as biolocal.
  • When both patrilineal and matrilineal rules apply jointly it is called double descent.
  • Rivers has defined the clan as an exogamous division of tribe.

  • Social recognition is important in determining consanguineous kinship.
  • In double descent system one inherits fathers' patrilineal relatives and mother's matrilineal relatives.
  • Maclver said that kinship creates society and society creates the state.
  • Weiser stressed that clan is usually associated with totemism.
  • Levi Strauss has regarded preferential mating as a device for strengthening group solidarity.
  • Westermarck has written the history of human marriage.
  • Westermarck has listed various causes of polygyny including variety of women.
  • Murdock has distinguished between the family of orientation and the family of procreation.
  • Morgan suggested historical evolution of the form of marriage and family.
  • Tribes such as Mundas and Nagas do not permit marriage between persons from the same village.
  • According to Westermarck marriage is itself rooted in the family rather than family in marriage.
  • According to D.N Majumdar the Hindu society presently recognizes only two forms of marriage the Brahma and Asura.
  • A Tarawad splits into smaller units called Tavazhis.
  • When one becomes the member of the consanguineal relatives of both father and mother, it is known as bilateral descent.
  • The rule of residence generally followed in India is patrilocal.
  • When not mutual, a joking relationship assumes the form of social control.
  • Where father's sister is given more respect than the mother the relationship is called amitate.
  • Neolocal rule of residence is generally followed in western countries.
  • People bond together in groups based on reproduction refers to kinship.
  • Experimental marriage is known as privileged relationship.
  • Marriage of one man with a woman and her several sisters are called sororal polygamy.
  • The marriage of a Hindu is illegal if his or her spouse is alive.This restriction is according to Hindu Marriage Act.
  • Marriage of a man of high caste with a woman of lower caste is called Anuloma marriage.
  • Levi Strauss believed that no society was perfectly unilineal.
  • Radcliff Brown introduced the term lineage group to designate the living members of a group.
  • Morgan believed the earliest form of kin group to be the clan.
  • Rivers has listed belief in common descent and possession of a common totem as characterizing a clan.
  • Murdock has called the clan a compromise kin group.
  • Radcliffe Brown defines sib as a consanguineous group not sharing a common residence.
  • Horton and Hunt described the marriage as the approved social pattern whereby two or more persons establish a family.
  • A nomenclature of the family function is symbolic of system to reckoning descent.

Attached: Marriage Types and Norms
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