ANTH 2200 Chapter 10: Ember 10

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7 Feb 2017
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Ember 10 - Marriage and the Family
Marriage
o Marriage is customary in nearly every known society, even though humans
can survive and reproduce without marriage
o Although its forms varies, marriage everywhere is understood to be a socially
approved sexual and economic union, usually between a woman and a man
o Marriage is presumed, by both the couple and others to be more less
permanent, and it subsumes reciprocal rights and obligations between the
two spouses and between spouses and their future children
Why is marriage nearly universal?
o Various traditional explanations for marriage suggest that marriage solves
problems found in all societies how to share the products of a gender division
of labor; how to care for infants, who are dependent for a long time; and how
to minimize sexual competition
o Marriage is not the only way to share the products of their labor, to support
the prolonged dependency of infants, or to minimize sexual competition, so
those explanations cannot explain near universality of marriage
o Comparative evidence on female-male bonding in mammals and birds does
not support the traditional theories explaining near universality of marriage
o Bird and mammal species in which mothers cannot feed themselves and their
babies at the same time do typically form male-female bonds, which may be
true also for humans and may support a reason for marriage
How Does One Marry?
o How one marries varies considerably across cultures
o Marking the onset of marriage seems to be important, whether or not an
actual ceremony takes place. Marriage ceremonies may symbolize hostility
between the two families or promote harmony between them
o Marriage involves economic factors, explicit or not, in about 5 percent of the
societies known to anthropology. Bride price is the most common form; bride
service is second most common. Other forms include exchange of females,
gift exchange, and forms of the dowry.
Restrictions on Marriage: The Universal Incest Taboo
o The incest taboo, found in all cultures, may be the most rigid regulation. The
incest taboo prohibits sexual intercourse or marriage between some
categories of kin, most universally, between mother and son, father and
daughter, and brother and sister
o Childhood familiarity theory says that people who have been closely
associated with each other since earliest childhood are not sexually attracted
to each other and would avoid marriage with each other, but it does note
explain incest taboos for first-cousin marriage.
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