How are marriages affected by a culture's economics and subsistence?

Essay by mdsabrinaCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 2008

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Marriage, in anthropological terms, refers to the culturally sanctioned union between two or more people that establish certain rights and obligations [1]. This definition, being broader than the culture-bound versions often published in dictionaries, allows flexibility and accuracy for the variations among the matrimonial affairs of different cultures. In fact, it is this variation that makes marriage such a complex field of study; endogamy, exogamy, monogamy, polygamy, group marriage, levirates, sororates, patrilateral parallel-cousin marriage, matrilateral cross-cousin marriage, and same-sex marriage are all types of marriages performed around the world. Within these categories are subcategories, such as the division of polygamy into polygyny and polyandry. The practices of subsistence, including economy, determine what type of marriage a society or culture may perform. Often times, a particular form of marriage is chosen that suits the environment and society in which it is taking place, so in that sense, marriage supports adaptation. The differences in society and subsistence practices are what allow so many different forms of marriage to take place around world.

Two kinds are marriages are monogamy and polygamy; these terms, generally, refer to the amount of mates a specific culture may find acceptable in marriage. Monogamy is the custom of having only one mate in a marriage. When broken up into its word parts, monogamy, directly translates to "one marriage or union". Serial monogamy, a branch of monogamy, is the condition of having only one partner at a time, but having many partners within a lifetime. Monogamy is common within the United States, in which, it is the only legally recognized form of marriage. Economically, this can be due to the fact that one must acquire a certain amount of wealth to support more than one wife, and it is not necessary to have more than one spouse, since an...