Meaning of Marriage

Marriage as an institution has developed over a long period of time. There cannot be one comprehensive definition of marriage which finds the consent of all sociologists. Marriage as an institution can have varied implications in varied societies and cultures. It can be defined as a socially-sanctioned sexual relationship between a man and a woman whose relationship is expected to lead to the birth of children. Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski defined marriage as a contract for producing children and rearing them. Sociologists P. B. Horton and C. L. Hunt defined marriage as an approved social pattern where two or more individuals set up a family.

Marriage is a social institution under which a man and a woman establish their
decision to live as husband and wife by law, often through religious commitments and
ceremonies. It is a secure association between a man and a woman who are permitted by the society to have children, without affecting their reputation in the society.

Marriage is a universal social institution. It is a deep personal commitment to another human being, and a public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, fidelity and family. Marriage is a socially approved way of acquiring a family. It is only
through the establishment of culturally controlled and sanctioned marital relations that a family comes into being. The institutionalized form of sexual relations is called marriage. Marriage and family are two sides of the same social reality. From a broader and more collective perspective, marriage ensures survival of the species of the group and its culture.

Functions of Marriage

Marriage brings about a sense of discipline in not just the individual but also the society.
The functions of marriage are as follows:

(a) Functional division of labour: With marriage, there is a functional division of
labour. The wife may take care of the household work and the children, while the
husband goes out to work. This way, both can devote time fully to their

(b) Financial security: When two people get married, they bring together all the
savings and assets accumulated over the years. This combined wealth increases
the purchasing power and subsequently leads to a higher standard of living.

(c) Emotional support: When a partner is depressed, he or she will have the spouse
who will provide support through words of encouragement. In fact, it is believed
that married people live substantially longer and have better health compared to
individuals who never marry.

(d) Rearing children: There is no better option than getting married in order to
have children. The children benefit in that environment and grow up into healthy
adults. They get emotional support from their parents, which is very healthy for
their psychological development. Generally, the father ensures discipline, while
the mother offers intimacy and affection.

(e) Social and legal recognition: Marriage is an institution accepted by law and
society, unlike live-in relationships. Marriage is also recognized by the law. If the
partners want to split, there are specific procedures to follow related to division
of assets, child custody, and so on, apart from the divorce itself.