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Importance of Marriage Essay

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    Marriage has been one of humanity’s oldest rituals since the time of the caveman. Why is that? The question posed here is why is marriage, or the bonding of two people, so important to human development? The easiest answer is that we are pack animals by our very nature. We long for companionship and seek it out. There are few human beings that truly live by the ‘lone wolf’ standard. American culture is rife with single young men and women seeking someone else out. We’ve even developed applications for our phones to help in this endeavor such as Tinder and websites like Match.com to make the pursuit of a potential mate easier.

    “We need food. We need water. We need warmth. And the lover feels he/she needs the beloved. Plato had it right over two thousand years ago. The god of love “lives in a state of need.”” (Fisher, 2004, page 41)

    The importance of love and unions (marriage) is supported by many psychosocial theorists, including Abraham Maslow and Erik Erikson. For Maslow, marriage or the importance of marriage (bonding) is represented as the third step in the pyramid of his hierarchy of needs. This stage is known as affection (love) and belongingness. According to his theory, a person would need to achieve this stage of life before they could self-actualize or become the best person they could possibly be (reach the top of the pyramid). (Berger, 2019)

    The article Renovating the Pyramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations take Maslow’s pyramid and reinvents it, placing mate acquisition, mate retention, and parenting towards the top. (Kenrick, et al., 2010)

    “Following this perspective, the top of the pyramid includes three types of reproductive goals: mate acquisition, mate retention, and parenting. And consideration of a proximate level of analysis along with life-history theory led us to change the way in which the goals are depicted in the pyramid: Rather than depicting the goals as stacked on top of one another, we instead depict them as overlapping (see Fig. 2). This change explicitly reflects the assumption that early developing motives are unlikely to be fully replaced by later goals but instead continue to be important throughout life, depending on individual differences and proximate ecological cues.” (Kenrick, et al., 2010).

    [bookmark: _Hlk38123700]This reinventing of Maslow’s pyramid is interesting because it highlights relationships (mate acquisition), the continued support of those relationships (mate retention), as being some of the most crucial steps towards self-actualization. For a lot of people all over the world, this self-actualization comes in the form of raising their children (parenting). These concepts are reflected in the sixth and seventh stages of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development intimacy versus isolation stage and generativity versus stagnation. (Berger, 2019; Kenrick, et al., 2010)

    According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, marriage is most likely to happen in the intimacy versus isolation stage, which can be notably reflected in Maslow’s third stage of his pyramid. This stage takes place during young adulthood and success at this stage leads to fulfilling relationships. Failure can result in feelings of loneliness and isolation, which may also occur after the death of a loved one or divorce. (Berger, 2019)

    This leads into the last or top of the pyramid, self-actualization (parenting), and Erikson’s seventh stage generativity versus stagnation. During this time, adults strive to create or nurture things that will outlast them, such as parenting their children or being role models to others.

    It is during this stage that contributing to society and doing things to benefit future generations are important needs. (Berger, 2019; Kenrick, et al., 2010)

    The earlier question on whether marriage (or bonding) is important, has been answered with yes, it is very important. But there is emerging data that suggests that legal marriage might not appear to be as important to American culture as it once was. People are cohabitating longer or entering ‘common law’ marriage. If they marry at all, they marry later in life and those that do marry stay married, driving the divorce rate down in the U.S. (Wood, 2018)

    “Analysis of American Community Survey (ACS) data by Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, suggests young people are doing things differently to previous generations. Unlike baby boomers who married young regardless of their circumstances, millennials – and some Gen Xers – are choosing to marry once they have completed their education, have established their careers and have sound finances.” (Wood, 2018)

    “Alongside the falling marriage rate is a rise in cohabiting couples. Increasingly, American couples are opting to live together before marriage, or choosing not to tie the knot at all.” (Wood, 2018)

    “… in the United States, marriage is no longer the standard starting point for having an ongoing sexual relationship, for having a child or having a home together. The decision to begin the lifecycle stages of marriage is a choice for today’s young adult in the face of other popular options. Those who choose to marry have, to some degree, made a countercultural decision.” (Markey, 2005)

    It’s established that belonging, love, and the need to be married (bonded) are important to human development. The next question to ask is what’s different between the United States and other countries? One of the strongest contrasts can be found in how marriage is done in India.

    India remains one of the top countries who participate in arranged marriages, a concept that is found both archaic and abhorrent to mainstream American thought. It can be said that for most American people, the idea that a parent would pick the person they would spend the rest of their life with is considered, by and large, ludicrous if not outright terrifying.

    Commonly, marriage in the United States is a legal, sanctioned union between two people out of adolescence. Recently, in 2016 President Obama made same-sex marriages legal in the United States, though there are church organizations that refuse to recognize those unions. Marriage in the United States are made up largely by ‘love matches’ and while arranged marriages do happen within the U.S., it is considered outside the norm. Very rarely does anyone marry for wealth, prestige, or to increase their social status anymore.

    How different is it for the people in India? In chapter six of the book The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies, by Shireen J. Jejeebhoy and Shiva S. Halli, cultural differences between a group of Hindu and Muslim cohorts found in northern and southern portions of India concerning marriage are explored. Uttar Pradesh in north India and Tamil Nadu in south India were selected to represent a range of gender and sociocultural conditions. It is firmly stated, as an example, that marrying a daughter off is regarded as one of the most important duties a father has, and this belief is represented in both north and south India.

    Marriage in India is about either increasing wealth, social standing, or ensuring that the bride’s family, notably her parents, will be taken care of as they grow to be elderly. Rarely does a woman get to have much say in who she gets married to. (Jejeenhoy, et al., 2005)

    “Arranged marriage and extensive dowries continue to characterize marriage in much of India, both north and south.” (Jejeenhoy, et al., 2005)

    Religion and prominent patriarchal systems are what fuel the custom of arranged marriages in both Hindu and Muslim families within India. The contrast with the United States is that in the U.S. the individual, not the family or father, decides who they will either co-habitat with or eventually marry. Co-habitation, as an example, doesn’t occur much (if at all) within most Indian villages or cities. In nearly all cases, the woman remains in her familial home until it is time to marry and move in with her husband and his family. This remains true even for women who pick their own spouses. (Jejeenhoy, et al., 2005)

    Another stark contrast between the two counties is the age of marriage. The median range of age for marriage in the United States by the U.S. Census Bureau is now approximately 25 to 34 years, and that is if a couple decide to get married. Arranged marriages in India have young girls, some of them as young as 11 years of age, entering marriage contracts while still in adolescence. Thankfully, this practice is slowing down, and more and more families are waiting for the period of adolescence to be over before marrying their daughters off. All the same, child brides in India as well in other parts of the world, remain a human rights violation and concern. (Jejeenhoy, et al., 2005; U.S. Census, 2018)

    India is home to many religions and one of the youngest is called Sikhism. Sikhism is unique in that it allows the participating individuals to have more say in who they marry and when they marry, and gender doesn’t matter. There seems to be more regard and anatomy given to women within the Sikhism religion. (Thukral, et al., 2013)

    “Given that this religion is one of the youngest, it allows for the decision about marriage to be taken by mutual consent of the families of the prospective bride and the groom, with explicit consent from both the individuals as well. The only prerequisite, however, is that both the partners have to be Sikhs.”” (Thukral, et al., 2013)

    Are there similarities between marriages in India and the United States? Yes, there can be a lot of similarities found. Majority of all unions are between a man and woman, in both India and the U.S, though India still doesn’t allow for same-sex marriage. Religion is as important in the United States as it is found to be in India and plays a huge part in most marriages in either country.

    Both countries are fueled by community and family, and the desire to positively impact and improve on them. The psychosocial theories by both Maslow and Erikson apply as much to India as to any other country and group of people. The ritual or the reason for the ritual may differ but not the essential needs and desires of people. Those will and always have been, universal. We all want love. We all want a home, and to be whole, and we need some combination that allows for our own personal fulfillment as human beings striving to be the best we can possibly be.

    References

    1. Berger, K. S. (2019). Invitation to the lifespan (4th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
    2. Fisher, H. E. (2004). Why we love: The nature and chemistry of romantic love. New York: H. Holt.
    3. Jejeenhoy, S. J., & Halli, S. S. (2005). Marriage Patterns in Rural India: Influence of Sociocultural Context. In The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies (pp. 172–199). Washington , D.C. : The National Academies Of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
    4. Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., Neuberg, S. L., & Schaller, M. (2010). Renovating the Pyramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 5(3), 292–314. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691610369469
    5. Markey, B. (2005). The lifecycle stages of a marriage. A Colloquium of Social Scientists and Theologians. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/upload/Markey-NPIM.pdf
    6. Rosenfeld, M.J. and Roesler, K. (2019), Cohabitation Experience and Cohabitation’s Association With Marital Dissolution. Fam Relat, 81: 42-58. doi:10.1111/jomf.12530
    7. Thukral Mahajan, P., Pimple, P., Palsetia, D., Dave, N., & De Sousa, A. (2013). Indian religious concepts on sexuality and marriage. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, S256–S262. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.105547
    8. U.S. Census Bureau (2008). Living with an unmarried partner now common for young adults. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2018/11/cohabitaiton-is-up-marriage-is-down-for-young-adults.html
    9. Wood, J. (2018). The United States divorce rate is dropping, thanks to millennials. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/divorce-united-states-dropping-because-millennials/

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