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Theories Of Mate Selection Sociology Essay

The present study focuses on the perceptions of university students regarding their marriages and selection of marriage partner. Marriage is the foundation of social relations which further constitutes family. The focus of the study is to analyze the perceptions of marriage among highly educated people with special reference of late marriages. The understanding how highly educated people relate marriage to their lives will provide a holistic view about marriage as social institution. It will also elaborate the factors involved in transition of marital patterns in our society especially with reference of higher education. Certainly attainment of higher education among both sexes has a direct impact on peoples’ preferences of marriage. Therefore, the trend of late marriages has become more acceptable in Pakistani society than the past decades.

1.1 Background of the Study

When people consider spouse selection, it is generally not only a personal matter rather a cultural one. Various factors influence this process round the globe such as educational background, parental influence, religion, socioeconomic status and occupation, etc. Thus, marriage decisions, available choices in marital market and preferences for desired mates reflect the whole spectrum of societal norms. From sociological perspective marriage can be defined as:

“The act by which a man and woman unite for life, with the intent to discharge toward society and one another those duties which result from the relation of husband and wife. The act of union having been once accomplished, the word comes afterward to denote the relation itself (Schouler, 1982, p. 19)”.

According to Reiss (1980), marriage is:

“A socially acceptable union of individuals in husband and wife roles with the key function of legitimating of parenthood” (p. 50).

By these definitions it is obvious that marriage is a universal and as institution it performs almost similar set of functions in different societies. It is foundation of all social relations of human society. Man is social by nature and cannot live in isolation. But marriage is the only institution which recognizes and certifies these relationships with legal authority. Therefore, in spite of varied cultural patterns, religious orientations and ethnic consideration, significance of marriage is universally accepted.

1.2 Theories of Mate Selection

A number of researchers have proposed various theories explaining the factors hat influence mate selection. Generally, these theories incorporate the idea that “humans seek rewards and avoid costs to achieve the most profitable or least unprofitable outcomes” (Nye, 1980, p.480). The Winch (1971) theory of Complementary Needs, for example, says that individuals marry those who can provide them with maximum need gratification. Further, the needs of one partner tend to complement the needs of the other. The classic example of this theory can be a dominant man who marries a submissive woman.

Kerckhoff & Davis’s (1962) Filter Theory adds social and cultural homogamy and value consensus to Winch’s idea of need complement and gratification. They found that when couples had all three components, they could move toward a more permanent commitment in this relationship. The Exchange Theory sees mate selection as a business transaction. Simply it states that your profits or benefits from a relationship exceed your losses; you will stay in the relationship. If a relationship changes and you perceive that you have a net loss, you may want to get out of the relationship. Farber (1964) calls this movement in and out of the marital marketplace “permanent availability”. A person may at any time leave a relationship for one that appears more rewarding.

Murstein’s (1970) Stimulus-Value-Role Theory emphasizes free choice in selecting a mate. Everyone, according to this SVR theory, has both open and close fields of eligible from which to choose. In an open field, male and female do not know each other but are free to relate to each other with no roles assigned. In a close field, they relate to each other in assigned roles. In the second (value) stage, the partners learn about each other through self – disclosure. They can find out what they have in common and what they disagree on. If they find that they are compatible, they move on to the next stage. Finally, in the role stage, the partners work on their marital roles and their expectations. Researchers have found that when a couple agrees on marital roles, the chances of marital satisfaction are increased (Bahr, Chappell, & Leigh, 1983).

Nye (1980) proposes a general theory called Choice and Exchange Theory, which incorporates the other isolated theories. “Humans”, he says, “seek the most profitable long – and short – term outcomes. People tend to seek relationships that provide them with social approval, autonomy, predictability, a mate with similar beliefs and values, conformity to norms, and money. Therefore, they make choices and exchanges based on these sources of rewards”.

Like other corners of the globe, in Pakistan also people have specific criteria for mate selection. They also have certain filters through which possible spouses are screened. Similarly, perspectives of social exchange and homogamy also exist in Pakistani culture (Masood et al, 2007). Pakistan is a patriarchal society where caste, family traditions and religion have more influences on mate selection process. Usually cultural traditions of Pakistan do not encourage young adults to make their marital decisions independently rather arranged marriages are still order of the day (Hamid et al, 2011). Therefore, filters and choices and exchanges for spouse selection are changed in Pakistan as compared to any western country. Here, caste, sect and propinquity are more important considerations (Banerjee et al, 2010). Similarly, dowry is considered as best bargaining option in exchange of better social status or even better caste. However, because of cultural variations these theories are not as applicable in Pakistan as in any other developed countries. For instance, Murstein’s (1970) Stimulus-Value-Role Theory is not as applicable to Pakistani society as it is in Iranian society, etc.

1.3 Types of Marriages

Different ethnic groups and social classes might have different patterns of marriage and different evaluations on spouse selection. Therefore, by studying marriage and family formation, fundamental forms and networks of human organizations, social stratification and mobility within various societies can be learned. Besides, the general norms and value systems of various societies and communities also can be learned indirectly through examining the standards of spouse selection of their members. That’s why marriage and family studies have been major fields in Sociology. Forms of marriage can be classified as following.

Forms of marriage

Monogamy –– In Mono gamy, a person has only one spouse at a same time. This is the most common form of marriage round the globe. Almost 85% of the world societies are monogamous (Murdock, 1967).

Polygamy –– marriage of one woman to several men or one man to several women. Polygamy is a practice whereby person is married to more than one spouses at the same time (Pocs, 1989). There are three forms of Polygamy:

Polygyny –– marriage of one man to several women. Polygyny is a form of plural marriages, in which a man is permitted to have several wives. This type of marriage ranks second after Monogamy throughout the world (Pocs, 1989).

Polyandry –– Polyandry is a form of plural marriage, where a woman has more than one husband. Polyandrous marriage is relatively rare and is concentrated in Himalayan areas of South Asia. It is sporadically found in America, Africa, Oceana and Arctic (Lienhardt, 1964).

Group marriage –– marriage of several men to several women, i.e. some combination of polygyny and polyandry. It is rarely practiced in traditional societies, for instance, the Kaigang people of Brazil practiced it (Murdock, 1949).

Of these forms, only Monogamy and Polygyny have been known to exist with any great frequency.

The system of marriage practices in Pakistan derives its source from ancient cultural background (Masood et al, 2007). Although Pakistan is primarily an Islamic state but a continuous contact with other cultures, particularly the Hindu culture, has influenced the various processes of marital union. These are undergoing and have undergone radical changes with the influence of various factors such as modernization. As regards the forms of marriage, Pakistani society is both monogamous and polygamous. But only one form of polygamy is practiced that is polygyny. Other forms of marriages are religiously and legally prohibited. Under normal circumstances and in the presence of the first wife a husband cannot have a second wife. If the couple is without issue or the wife has no objection to her husband’s second marriage then there is no legal restriction and polygamy is allowed. However, according to Muslim Family Laws Ordinance promulgated in 1961, the husband needs to obtain written permission from the first wife. Eventually, the rate of such marriages in Pakistan is low (about 7 percent) (PDHS, 2008), instead cross-cousin marriages and endogamy are common (Donnan, 1988).

Two more terms related to marriage are Exogamy and Endogamy. The practice of marrying outside one’s own group is called Exogamy. It is a type of marriage outside the original social group, which makes it possible to establish relations with other groups (Segalen, 1986). Whereas the practice of marrying within one’s own group is called Endogamy (Pocs, 1989). Historically, marriages had been ‘conventionally arranged’ in the Indo- Pak society (Ahmad, 1976). One of the most salient aspects of marriages in Pakistan is frequency of marriages between blood relatives (i. e., consanguineous marriages). First cousin marriages, watta-satta, and consanguineous marriages had always been preferred when looking for a suitable marriage partner (Shaw, 2000). From this perspective, Pakistan is an interesting and important nation to conduct demographic research on consanguinity because the practice of marriage among close relatives is deeply rooted in Pakistani culture, dating back several centuries (Farooq & Abbas, 2000).

Though Pakistan has one of the highest reported rates of consanguineous marriages in the world, however, it should be noted that data on such marriages in Pakistan was not available on national level before 1991. The PDHS (1992) presented first ever data on consanguineous marriages. Supported by the study of Bittles (1990, Bittles at al 1991) it reported the prevalence of such marriages sixty one percent of the total marriages in Pakistan, which was the highest rate of consanguineous marriages in the world. Furthermore, Shami (1994) reveals that in decade of 90s, almost 50% of marriages in urban areas of Pakistan were between blood relatives, with 80% of these being between first cousins. Even today, this frequency is the same. As Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (2006 – 07) states that more than half of all marriages (61 percent) are between first and second cousins. It also reveals the fact that first cousin marriages occur more frequently on father’s side (32 percent), but also occur between first cousins on mother’s side (21 percent). Eight percent of marriages are between second cousins, seven percent are between other relatives, and one third is between non relatives.

Especially in rural areas, endogamy and exchange marriages, etc. are common. Exchange of sisters and daughters for marriages between two families is considered as ‘exchange marriage’ and watta satta and adal badal in the local Punjabi language in Pakistan (Zaman, 2011). In such marriages women are given and taken by the same families to each other within a particular social group (Jacoby & Mansuri, 2006). Remarkably, watta satta now accounts for about a third of all marriages in rural Pakistan, and is even more prevalent in parts of Sindh and southern Punjab province (Jacoby & Mansuri, 1991). However, like Pakistan, developing societies all around the world know such traditions of exchange marriages (Tapper, 1991; Urlin, 1969).

Though Pakistan is primarily an Islamic state, however, certain customs related to marriage are taken from Hinduism. Ironically such marriages are justified by religious leaders irrespective of the fact that civil laws do not permit all this. One of these forms of marriage is child marriage, a common practice among lower class in rural areas and even in the elites in tribal areas (Khan, 200?). Another form of such marriages is Swara, a tribal custom in which a girl is given to compensate for the wrong deeds of a family member. Such traditions which entirely pose violence on female intimate partners prevail across Pakistan in various forms such as Watta satta, bride price and marriage with Quran.

Besides dynasty and number of people all cultures also have other rules regarding mate selection. Many societies encourage either homogamy or heterogamy. Homogamy refers to marriage between individuals with similar social and personal characteristics, whereas Heterogamy refers to marriage between individuals with different social or personal characteristics. Heterogamy is like “opposites attract” which means that for marriage decisions people think in terms of binary opposites --- such as high and low, rich and poor, etc. (Strauss, 1963, 67).

1.4 Marital Marketplace or Marriage Market

Mate selection is the most important event in the life of a person. Various factors influence this process round the globe such as educational background, parental influence, religion and occupation, etc (Maliki, 1999). In most societies, the mate-selection process involves what social scientists call a marriage market (Anderson, 1994). The husband and wife come together out of a wide range of possible partners. In Western societies social rules have gradually changed to permit more freedom of choice for the couple and a greater emphasis on love as the basis for marriage (Ryan, 2004). In most contemporary industrialized societies, marriage is certified by the government. These practices vary from one culture to another (Chaudhry, 2004). All societies have rules about, who is eligible to marry whom, which individuals are forbidden to marry one another and the process of selecting a mate.

In contrast to assumption in recent theory and research on human mating that individuals freely choose mates (e.g., Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Gangestad & Simpson, 2000), anthropologists have long noted that in most societies and historical periods, marriage has been at least partly arranged and has been based on a series of familial considerations rather than on the desires of the individual concerned (e.g., Apostolou, 2007; Chagnon, 1992; Harris, 1995; Murstein, 1974; Reiss, 1980). Even today, individuals report that close genetic kin attempt to influence their mating behaviour (Faulkner & Schaller, 2007).

There are many socialization agents regarding preferences in mate selection. Goode (1982) notes that mate selection is controlled by kin or family and that this control is greater as socioeconomic status increases. The family is but one of these socialization agents. Other agents, such as the media, peers, religion, socioeconomic status, and racial socialization, also impart mate selection related scripts to youth. Therefore, many of these scripts become internalized. Russell et al. (1992) noted that socialization and especially the media reinforces both ideal models for beauty and status. While considering mate selection, Pocs listed race, religion, age, social class, education as major social units for mate selection (Pocs, 1989).

Religion is more important in marriage decisions especially for many students. In fact, greater religiousness is associated with less hostility between spouses (Pittman et al., 1983). Levi-Strauss (2006) also found the same trend when he surveyed college students. His survey indicated that students will not marry from another religious group that is not theirs but from the same religious group. Arranged marriages have been very common throughout the world. Barbara Ryan (2004) states that this is due to two principal considerations:

First, a marriage unites two families not just two people. All of a family's members become obligated by the marriage of one of its members. In addition, marriages can be valuable tools in creating alliances and therefore, must be considered carefully and even negotiated.

Secondly, mate selection is seen as being too important a decision to be left up to inexperienced young people, especially if they have had little contact with members of the opposite gender. In some countries; the legal system encourages arranged marriages. In Pakistan, for instance, the law prohibits women from marrying without parental consent (Latif, 1993).

Educational qualification is also considered as an important factor in marriage partner choice. Observations have shown that graduates who marry partners of lower educational qualification or no education at all have difficulties not only in interpersonal but the public communications as well. This could thus result into problem in the marriage. This is supported by the studies carried out by Kalmijin (2001) and Levi- Strauss (2006). They revealed that college graduates prefer to marry college graduates like themselves.

Caste-based preference is another significant factor in many countries, India, for instance. In a recent opinion poll in India, 74 percent of respondents declared to be opposed to inter-caste marriage. This is despite the fact that the population in sample was highly educated {85% had a college degree}, urban and relatively well off, and highly educated. Interestingly, this preference for caste seems much more horizontal than vertical: it portrayed little interest in \marrying up" in the caste hierarchy among both men and women, but a strong preference for in-caste matches (Banerjee, et al, 2010).

Age similarity is another factor considered important especially by educated class. Because it is assumed that people of same age have same level of understanding and exposure to the world. Glenn (2000) revealed that the desire for similarity in age becomes greater in modern societies because intimacy and companionship are much more salient goals in relationships in modern than in most traditional societies. Glenn explained further that as social and cultural changes have become more rapid in modern societies, the formative experiences of persons born only few years apart have become substantially different, and thus partners in age discrepant relationships tend to be dissimilar because of age cohort based influence as well as the developmental stage influence.

Population in Pakistan is divided in rural and urban segments as 64% and 36 % (UNICEF: 2010) respectively. This demographic distribution also reveals the variations of cultural patterns and degree to deviate from the existing patterns of social relations especially marriage as an institution of social bond. There is also a clear relationship between residence and consanguinity. As Sathar & Ahmed (PDHS, 1992) revealed that women residing in major urban areas are least likely to have married a cousin, and those living in rural Pakistan are most likely to have done so. The difference is more pronounced for marriage with a cousin from the father's side, indicating stronger adherence to the traditional marriage pattern in rural areas. Rural residents may also have a greater desire to keep the dowry on the father's side of the family. Consanguineous marriages are relatively less popular in KPK; although even in that province a majority of women marry a close relative.

Sultan & Baqai (PDHS, 2006 – 07) also confirmed that differences in marriage patterns are visible by urban-rural residence. First cousin marriages are most common in rural areas constituting 57 percent of the total. And are less common in major cities where about 40 percent of marriages are between first cousins. Sathar & Ahmed (PDHS, 1992) also found that there is a negative association between current age and marriage between relatives. The incidence of consanguineous marriage is higher among younger couples than older ones. More specifically, women age 35 and above are more likely to have married nonrelatives than women under age 35. It appears, therefore, that the traditional pattern of cousin marriage continues to be adhered to on a wide scale. The continued popularity of cousin marriage may be related to the increasing size of dowries. Some parents may not be able to afford a large dowry, but if a daughter marries her cousin, the size of the dowry may be smaller and the dowry can be kept within the family. Further investigation of this phenomenon is needed.

In rural areas, due to affiliation with customs, joint family system and influences of kin and blood relations, marriages are bound to the decisions of parents and grand parents. Patriarchal authority is the existing norm in such marriages where class, clan, and caste marriages within the same ethnicity and cousin marriages are dominant (Jejeebhoy & Sathar, 2001). Conversely in urban areas, nuclear family system is common with impersonal relationships between neighbours and weak social ties with kins. Ultimately, exogamy is common in this population. In his research Shah Jamal Alam (2011) found that social reasons and individual preferences motivate the choice of spouse selection.

One of the essential prerequisite of such marriages is class system which is modified shape of caste system of rural areas. It has boosted the trend of exogamy and has removed the cultural barriers between different ethnic groups. It has also removed the hurdles of the ethnocentrism in the usual communications between two ethnic groups or biradaries. The urban middle class has now begun to look for marriage partners who are similar in terms of the upbringing and socio-cultural backgrounds and not just belonging to the same family.

1.5 Trend of late marriages in the world

A trend towards late marriages has been universal throughout Asia over the past half century; and in East and Southeast Asia it has been accompanied by a trend towards less marriage (Jones, 2005; Jones & Gubahju, 2009). This transition of early marriages in the later one is clearly related to the remarkable developments in education, increasing urbanizations and involvement of women in economic activities outside the household (Gavin, 2010). Average age at marriage has been rising in South Asian countries as well – by two and half years between 1970 and 2000 in India, by two years in Bangladesh, by three and a half years between 1970 and 2007 in Pakistan, and by three and a half years between 1990 and 2005 in Iran ((Jones, 2005; Jones & Gubahju, 2009). Specifically in Pakistan, the average age of marriage/ singulate mean of marriage have been increased from 25.7 to 28 for males, and for females it has increased from 19.7 to 21.7 between 1970 to 1991 (PDHS, 1991). Further indication of increasing age at first marriage is that the singulate mean age at marriage for women has increased from 21.7 in 1990 – 91 to 23.1 in 2006-07 (PDHS, 2006-07).

The minimum legal age at marriage in Pakistan is 18 years for males and 16 years for females (PDHS, 2006 – 07). Among Pakistan’s four provinces, the median age is highest in Khaiber Pakhtoonkha and Punjab and substantially low in Balochistan and Sindh. Finally there is a positive association between the median age at marriage for women and their educational attainment: women with no education marry four years earlier, on average, than women with secondary or higher education (Sathar, Ahmed & Tauseef, 1992). Changes in age at marriage have been associated closely with rises in educational attainment in the rest of South Asia (Caldwell et al., 1982). Researches also show that those with higher level of education are more likely to remain single. And that this is generally true both for males and females.

Sathat & Kiani (1998) found that rise in age at marriage is partly due to economic trends and aspirations towards securing a stronger financial base for the newlyweds before entering matrimony. They also found that two demographic factors are likely to have contributed to a change in the marriage market in Pakistan: falls in mortality rate particularly adult mortality and reduced availability of spouses. In decades of 50s and 60s, life expectancy was 47, as compared to 63 in 90s both for men and women in Pakistan. While in the earlier decades women lived shorter lives than men, the situation has equalized and there is less pressure to marry early to initiate the child bearing process as soon as possible to ensure the survival of generations. This is the most important factor underlying a later age at marriage in Pakistan.

Perhaps the most important change, which is likely to occur as a result of the rising age at marriage specifically among females, is change in their status. It is very likely that the cause of postponement of marriage is related with breaks in traditional status of women. Educational attainment of women has been rising and employment patterns too have been changing in recent decades in a large part due to inflationary pressure necessitating women to supplement family income (Kazi, 1999). Furthermore, this educational attainment has increased the decision making among women. A girl who has attained education or participated in paid employment is likely to enter marriage with greater power of decision making and authority than one those who does not.

There is some evidence that a later age at marriage leads to greater decision making powers within the household and enhanced autonomy in carrying out important functions and decisions (Sathar & Kiani, 1997). Thus overall rises in the female age at marriage improve the status of Pakistani women. Besides, the length of time women are exposed to the risk of childbearing affects the number of children women potentially can bear. Thus, an increase in the age at marriage can play a vital role in reducing fertility levels, because it reduces the period of exposure to childbearing (Sultan & Baqai, 2008).

1.6 Students’ perception about marriage

In the last several decades there has been a significant increase in options for both women and men in regard to marriage, parenting, and male/female equality. Most college students see these increased options as positive (Pocs, 1989). The increasing ratios of education have influenced the patterns of marriages in modern society. Especially more female education has changed the boundaries of autonomy of women in each strata of society, which in turn affected the whole structure of marriage as an institution. According to official statistics, the literacy rate of Pakistan is 57 percent. However, PDHS (2006 -07) states that more than half of women and almost one third of males in Pakistan have no education.

Overall, females are less educated than males. Twenty seven percent of females and 33 percent of males have attended primary school only, 8 percent of females and 13 percent of males have attended middle, and 7 percent of females and 14 percent of males have attended secondary. Overall, 6 percent of females and 10 percent of males have attended higher than secondary education. The gender differences in education could be attributed to cultural norms and social constraints faced by women in Pakistan. Students’ perceptions about marriage and their marriage partner have been significantly modified especially during the last decade. Especially changes in the age at first marriage are the most evident impact of higher education among young generations.

Large variations exist in median age at first marriage on the basis of educational level. For example, in Pakistan the median age at first marriage is 18 years among women with no education; however, it is almost 25 years among women with more than secondary education (PDHS, 2006–07). Attainment of higher education is also associated with decrease in consanguineous marriages in Pakistan. According to PDHS (2006 – 07) Sindh has the highest proportions of marriages among first cousins (56 percent), followed by Punjab (53 percent), Balochistan (52 percent), and KPK (43 percent). As expected, first cousin marriages are less common among educated women than among women with no education. Among women with more than secondary education, the proportion marrying first cousins falls to below 40 percent. This association with education is more distinct in marriages between non – related spouses. For example, 52 percent of women with more than secondary education marry spouses who are not related compared with only 29 percent of women with no education; similarly, consanguineous marriages are more common among poor women than women who are in upper wealth quintiles. It shows that students have a tendency towards exogamy while considering spouse selection.

It also indicates the differences of exposure between the educated and uneducated people. For example, Minh (2007) stated that both men’s and women’s mean age at first marriage in urban areas is higher than in rural areas. The major factor in this difference is the opportunities which people in urban areas have in comparison to the people living in rural areas. He also revealed that students have different criteria for marriage partners because they are more liberal and independent than uneducated people. However, squeeze of marital market and rising age at first marriage are also its outcomes, which further affects the general characteristics of population concerned.

Sathar & Kiani (1998) reveal that education has a direct relation with rising age of marriage. Students first consider employment opportunities and better financial careers, which ultimately affects the marriage patterns in society. The social and demographic changes which affect men are more related to education and employment choices. In the case of women it seems almost likely that the changes are largely affected by the availability of ‘suitable’ spouses since they have an ever shrinking pool of men to choose from. But to some extent the delayed marriage patterns are enabling women to avail of additional educational and employment opportunities. These in turn lead to profound changes in attitudes towards women in the society generally since they are seen to be enjoying roles in addition to marriage and motherhood.

Occupational preferences also exist among students while explaining about their desired spouses and it is equally applicable for both sexes. For example, in a national level survey of Pakistan, 35% respondents preferred to marry with working women (Hussain, 2001). It shows that education also compel people to delay marriages in search of better choices of career and a secure future. Thus, late marriages are directly associated with career making, which further affect their social status. Studies also had a conclusion that individuals who possess more modern features, such as higher education level, more modern professions, and living in urbanized environments are more likely to get married later than others with less modern features (Hirschman, 1985; Smith, 1980; Smith & Karim, 1980; UNS, 1986).

The most common trend among students is Homogamy. For educated segment of population in any society, all systems of spouse selection have the tendency of ‘marriage of same kind’; it means that people who have similar class status can get married to each other (Goode, 1982:75). This educational homogamy, which have been increased in last decades, have changed the patterns of marriage in many ways. For example, it boosted the pattern of exogamy, and it is true for almost all societies, irrespective of their types. It also decreased the ratios of caste preferences while match making. And it is especially rational for urban people.

It is also observed that for students, economic conditions, educational achievement, and occupations are the major criteria for spouse selection. Besides, there is a clear trend for someone with a “similar background” in education, occupation and family wealth in both urban and rural areas. In other words, the majority of want to be married someone with the same or similar educational achievement, occupation and family background (Ma, 2001). Less arranged marriages are also a prominent feature of marriage of educated people, though its frequency is low in traditional societies. Besides spatial differences, idealism and modernization are also contributing factors in changing the marital market for educated people.

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