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Marriage and Alternative Family Arrangements Essay

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Updated: Apr 11th, 2019

Introduction

Marriage is one of the fundamental cultural aspects that are practiced by all societies in the world. Conventionally, marriages have been described as the process of union of female and male gender. The union must be acceptable socially and legally and supported by the societal obligations and expectations. However, changes in the practice have occurred making the definition irrelevant. Currently, marriage does not occur in the opposite sexes only but of the same sexes.

In addition, such marriages are not universally accepted. In essence, marriage can be defined as the union of partners who mutually agree to cohabit and fulfill the functions of the married couples[1]. The institution of the family is derived from the marriage arrangements. Therefore, the marriage and the institution of the family cannot be separated. In most instances, the family and marriage are understood to mean the same thing.

The close link between the marriage and family explain why while discussing the marriage system, the family as a basic unit of society is greatly considered. Most of the conventional societies had a tradition that emphasizes on having children only in marriage. Individuals having children outside marriage were greatly condemned. Currently, the types of families are defined within the confines of the marriage[2].

The belief is that the married couples can only bring up children. Moreover, the fundamental functions of the married couple are the procreation and socialization of the children. All these factors provide an explanation why marriage and the family arrangements cannot be divorced.

Marriage

The establishment of marriage is common among the entire human race across the world. The institution of marriage is a procedure that is characterized by two individuals openly declaring love for each other thereby entering into a serious, official and permanent relationship and establishes a bond that can last until death or can be brought to an end by divorce[3]. In addition, the institution must be legitimized and recognized by the general society.

In the selection of the marriage partners, individuals are required to adhere to the rules of endogamy as well as the rules of exogamy. The former restricts the male partner from the confines within which he is able to select the woman to be married. On the same note, the latter requires that the matrimonial couples should adhere to the cultural norms that dictate that an individual married a partner from the exterior of the cultural precincts[4].

The institution of marriage deviates from other forms of unions in a number of ways. For instance, considering civil unions and domestic partnerships in the United States, gay couples are allowed to say publicly that they are mutual recipients among themselves. As such, the gays are provided with hospital home visitation as well as access to their partners’ medical data thereby providing them with the equivalent of spouses’ privileges.

Nevertheless, whereas the federal government does not acknowledge civil unions, the marriage act of 1996 defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman[5]. In essence, the federal laws are applies in the entire United States while the civic unions are only applicable at different states.

Generally, away from the legal security, which bestows constitutional rights and duties on the couples as well as their families, the couples are also provided with indefinable acknowledgment as a family. Conversely, the gay and lesbian families are prevented with restricted ways of protecting themselves. In other words, such families are only offered with construction of wills, healthcare alternatives and co-parent espousals.

To ensure happiness among the matrimonial couples, romantic love is significant. The availability of romantic love among the partners brings about the sensation of a one and only love at first sight, admiration of the partner, love being the ultimate winner as well as immoderation of the passions. Based on such dimensions, the partners develop feelings of concern, connection and closeness for each other[6].

America’s rules for marriage

One of the most important points to note is that marriage is governed by set of rules and regulations. Each society has its own definitions and limits of marriage. In other words, the cultural aspects that governed marriage are different across all cultures.

Even with the current transformations, each society has its own definitions of cultural aspects that regulate the marriage process. In the context of the American society, marriage remains an integral segment[7]. Actually, with the societal dynamics, several changes have been enacted in the marriage laws to accommodate the transformations.

For instance, interracial marriages are allowed in the contemporary society. Additionally, several states such as Connecticut have passed laws legalizing same-sex marriages. Further, many Americans continue to marry their partners while considering cultural equivalence. In other words, within the context of the American society, homogeny continue to be associative mating structure that enables individuals to select their mates based on status, gender, ethnicity as well as socialization customs[8].

The nature of a family

Over the years, colossal deviations have been realized across diverse family cultures all over the world. However, with the discrepancies, there are main premises that have not been influenced by the variations. In other words, a family is an amalgamation of biological, emotional, social, economic and legal primary relationships among adults of both sexes.

In essence, a family refers to a common assemblage that is exemplified by universal dwelling as well as economic assistance. In addition, reproduction is a significant attribute of a family. Further, the relation encompasses mature people of both male and female gender who sustain a sexual affiliation that is accepted by the general social order[9].

The family plays diverse important roles in the society. To begin with, the family unit plays a significant function in the fulfillment of sex desires. In this regard, the male and female partners living together as a family are able to fulfill their sex intuitions in a comfortable manner and easily.

Actually, the satisfaction of sex needs depend on the availability of the family unit. In addition, through family, the pertinent means by which sexual manners of the female together with the male partners is effectively synchronized[10]. Secondly, the family unit is imperative in enabling procreation. In reality, the pleasure from sexual intercourse lays a justifiable foundation for reproduction.

Through reproduction, the family ensures the permanence as well as continual of family and the human race in general. Third, the offspring need protection and care. Based on this, the family plays an important role in the provision of care, fortification, physical and mental security as well as gratifying other diverse requirements that enable the children to fit well in the society.

The family also acts as a driving force of socialization. In this regard, the family plays a key role in instructing the children with the customs, ethical values, beliefs as well as the principles of the society[11]. As such, the offspring are able to differentiate the good and bad deeds. Further, the children are able to expand their understandings of habits, characteristic attributes, thoughts as well as the ideals of the society.

Of more importance, the family is also imperative in the transmission of culture across diverse generations of the society. In essence, through the course of socialization, the elder members of the family transmit the family traditions to the children. Another important role of a family is the provision of habitation for the members thereby enhancing comfort, protection and peace among family members.

Family Structures

The constitution of the family has critical insinuations for parental as well as economic assets. In fact, many studies assert that long-standing modifications in the configurations of families have led to the decrease in the number of offspring cohabiting with both matrimonial parents.

On the other hand, single-parent family circles have increasingly become widespread for many offspring in the United States. Several family configurations exist. For instance, the nuclear family arrangements consist of connubial pairs together with their offspring whether biological or adopted[12].

Another form of family structure is the polygamous family unit arrangements. In this family structure, the focal individual is the husband with matrimonial associations with multiple wives. However, there are cases where a single woman is sexually related to several males. Such situations are referred to as polygamous families. There also exist extended family structures that consist of the couples’ parents, siblings of the couples, the siblings’ other halves as well as the in-laws.

According to the US current population survey releases, in the year two thousand and twelve, sixty-four percent of offspring under the age of eighteen cohabited with their two matrimonial children[13].

The figure shows a thirteen percent decrease in the number of children staying with their two married parents compared to the 1980 statistics. Further, in the years two thousand and twelve, the number of offspring living single mothers accounted for 23.7 percent, 5 percent with single fathers and 3.8 percent with the members of the extended families.

Moreover, the whites and non-Hispanic account for a higher population of children that cohabit with their two matrimonial parents in the year twenty twelve with seventy three percent followed by Hispanic with 58.5 percent and Blacks with 34 percent. The figures depict that the number of the Hispanic children living with their two married parents has significantly decreased by over sixteen percent compared to the 1980 data.

Considering the number of offspring living their two matrimonial parents, over ninety percent cohabit with either their natal or the adoptive parents. Additionally, the number of children living real or adoptive parents as well as stepparents accounted for seven percent. Further, offspring cohabiting with the single mothers account for the highest proportion of single parents with about fifteen percent.

Blended family structures characterized couples cohabiting together with offspring from their preceding sexual associations with other partners are also common in the US. In such arrangements, the officially authorized explanation of the blended as well as stepparent family structures is insubstantial[14].

In the US, several systems are applied to trace the generation of the family arrangements as well as the connections among the members. For instance, through the patrilineal system, the family generations are connected together through the male members of the family arrangement. On the other hand, the matrilineal ties the members of the family generation to the females. Further, the bilateral system is also used in passing tracing the generation from both sexes of the family.

The Transformation of the Family

The transformations in the economic structures in the United States in the periods between the years 1960 and 1970 had far-reaching implications on the maintenance of family units. For instance, with the industrialization, many workers were incapable of supporting their nuclear family set-ups on distinct earnings[15].

In addition, with the rise in industrialization, human resources had to be geologically movable to access industries. Based on these factors, both females and males postponed marriage ages by spending more time in the learning institutions. Therefore, the individuals earned education levels that enable them to survive without looking upon others for support.

Alternative family arrangements

As indicated, marriage result in families that can be described in many forms. However, there are many alternative family arrangements that are different from the common forms of families that come about because of normal marriages. Studies indicate that the traditional forms of family arrangements such as the extended and nuclear are on the decline.

In addition, the number of divorce cases is also increasing considerably particularly in developed countries such as the US. The meaning of the new arrangement is that alternative forms of family systems are on the rise. Even though the numbers of divorce cases are ever-increasing, studies also indicate that the cases of cohabitation as unmarried couples are also increasing[16].

Most of American unmarried couples chose to live together out of wedlock. These types of marriage arrangements give rise to the alternative family arrangements far different from the traditional nucleated family arrangements. In fact, the researches that have conducted recently on the changing patterns of the family indicate that the alternative family arrangement is high in America than any other country in the world.

Essentially, the increase in the new alternative forms of family arrangements can be attributed to the decline of traditional forms of family due to high divorce rates and postponement of the marriages resulting into many children being brought up outside the wedlock. Studies also indicate that many American married couples do not have children.

The reason is that most of the American women at the age of bearing children are postponing their marriages and child bearing. The belief is that the postponement of child bearing is the only way through which most of the women can secure good jobs as well as be empowered economically.

Divorce is the major common factor contributing to the rise in the alternative family arrangements. In most cases, the alternative family arrangement in the United States is the single-parent families. Studies indicate that most of divorcees in America results from violence. The consequences of violence among the couples are not only exhibited on the rise of divorce cases but also on the growth and development of the children[17].

In fact, most researches associate aggression behaviors in young adult relationships to violence relationship their parent had while they were young. In other words, children descending from violent families are likely to develop aggressive behaviors in their adulthood. Even though violence is associated with poor families or families at low status levels in the society, aggressions cut across all levels of society.

Factors that result in low birth rates such as postponement of marriages have also been found to contribute to the reduction of family violence[18]. In other words, factors such as marrying later, having few children and be involved in the labor force contribute to the reduction of family violence which by extension result into the reduction of divorce cases. Other factors that can lead to divorce include adultery, desertion, physical and mental cruelty, drunkenness as well as long imprisonment due to serious felony.

As indicated, divorce has been sighted as the major cause alternative family arrangements. Under these arrangements, children are brought up in single families. Under the circumstances that the couples involve in remarriage arrangements, children are bred in stepfamilies settings.

In fact, most of the stepfamilies are made up of couples that are divorcees. Such kind of family arrangement result into parenthood and kinship that is achieved instead of ascribed statuses, which in affects have substantive influence in the growth and development of the children.

However, it should be clear that divorce do not mean that the couples reject the family institution rather the particular partner in marriage. Blended or stepfamilies resulting from the remarriage of the divorcees are actually changing the relationships within the family set ups. Apart from the step and the single-parent families, there are also families consisting of the same sex partners.

Conclusion

Marriage and the family institution have changed overtime. The current family arrangements and the marriage systems are greatly different from the traditional perceived forms of family. In as much as majority of the population still hold into the traditional forms of family arrangements, the economic, political, social and cultural changes have transformed the nature and functions of the family.

References List

Barry, V, Bioethics in a cultural context: Philosophy, religion, history, politics: Philosophy, religion, history, politics, Cengage Learning, Stamford, CT, 2010.

Edgell, P, Religion and family in a changing society, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006.

Freeman, E, The wedding complex: Forms of belonging in modern American culture, Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 2002.

Moen, P & P Roehling, The career mystique: Cracks in the American dream, Rowman & Littlefield publishers, Lanham, MA, 2005.

Tischler, HL, Introduction to sociology, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2006.

Footnotes

  1. HL Tischler, Introduction to sociology, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2006.
  2. V Barry, Bioethics in a cultural context: Philosophy, religion, history, politics: Philosophy, religion, history, politics, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2010.
  3. V Barry, Bioethics in a cultural context: Philosophy, religion, history, politics: Philosophy, religion, history, politics, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2010.
  4. E Freeman, The wedding complex: Forms of belonging in modern American culture, Duke University Press, Durham, 2002.
  5. P Edgell, Religion and family in a changing society, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006.
  6. V Barry, Bioethics in a cultural context: Philosophy, religion, history, politics: Philosophy, religion, history, politics, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2010.
  7. P Edgell, Religion and family in a changing society, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006.
  8. HL Tischler, Introduction to sociology, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2006.
  9. HL Tischler, Introduction to sociology, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2006.
  10. P Moen, & P Roehling, The career mystique: Cracks in the American dream, Rowman & Littlefield publishers, Lanham, 2005.
  11. P Moen, & P Roehling, The career mystique: Cracks in the American dream, Rowman & Littlefield publishers, Lanham, 2005.
  12. P Edgell, Religion and family in a changing society, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006.
  13. E Freeman, The wedding complex: Forms of belonging in modern American culture, Duke University Press, Durham, 2002.
  14. P Edgell, Religion and family in a changing society, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006.
  15. P Moen, & P Roehling, The career mystique: Cracks in the American dream, Rowman & Littlefield publishers, Lanham, 2005.
  16. V Barry, Bioethics in a cultural context: Philosophy, religion, history, politics: Philosophy, religion, history, politics, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2010.
  17. HL Tischler, Introduction to sociology, Cengage Learning, Stamford, 2006.
  18. E Freeman, The wedding complex: Forms of belonging in modern American culture, Duke University Press, Durham, 2002.
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