Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

9: Family and Marriage

  • Page ID
    56446
  • Learning Objectives

    • Describe the variety of human families cross-culturally with examples.
    • Discuss variation in parental rights and responsibilities.
    • Distinguish between matrilineal, patrilineal, and bilateral kinship systems.
    • Identify the differences between kinship established by blood and kinship established by marriage
    • Evaluate the differences between dowry and bridewealth as well as between the types of post-marital residence.
    • Recognize patterns of family and marriage and explain why these patterns represent rational decisions within the cultural contexts.

    • 9.1: Family
      Family and marriage may at first seem to be familiar topics. Families exist in all societies and they are part of what makes us human. However, societies around the world demonstrate tremendous variation in cultural understandings of family and marriage. Ideas about how people are related to each other, what kind of marriage would be ideal, when people should have children, who should care for children, and many other family-related matters differ cross-culturally.
    • 9.2: Kinship and Descent
      While there is quite a bit of variation in families cross-culturally, it is also true that many families can be categorized into broad types based on what anthropologists call a kinship system. The kinship system refers to the pattern of culturally recognized relationships between family members.
    • 9.3: Kinship Systems and Terms
      Another way to compare ideas about family across cultures is to categorize them based on kinship terminology: the terms used in a language to describe relatives. In some kinship systems, brothers, sisters, and all first cousins call each other brother and sister. In such a system, not only one’s biological father, but all one’s father’s brothers would be called “father,” and all of one’s mother’s sisters, along with one’s biological mother, would be called “mother.”
    • 9.4: Marriage
      Families can be created in many different ways. Most cultures have ideas about how marriages should be arranged ( whether by families or by the individuals involved), at what age this should occur, what the married partners should have in common (including economic status, religion, ethnicity and so on), and what cultural, religious and legal processes make a marriage valid.
    • 9.5: Families and Households
      When anthropologists talk of family structures, we distinguish among several standard family types any of which can be the typical or preferred family unit in a culture. Cultural rules generally define not only who makes up a family but also how many people should be in it as well as where newly married couples will reside.
    • 9.6: Families and Cultural Change
      Families are adaptive groups that help address common societal concerns related to child-rearing, sexual relationships between adults, and gender roles within the household. While there are norms and ideals, expectations and understandings regarding families in all cultures, there are also always situations that represent variations on that norm.
    • 9.7: End of Chapter Discussion
    • 9.8: About the Author