The main topics that I will be focusing on is marriage and family. I chose them in particular because out of all the topics in anthropology these were the two that interested me the most. I am aware that they are quite complex and broad but that is essentially why they interested me in the first place. I am looking forward to delving into these topics and analyzing them because they are very interesting. In this paper, I intend to analyze different kinds of families as well as marriage in different cultures. My main thesis is: Marriage is heavily influenced by both culture and family. I believe that through analysis of marriage and family I will prove my thesis to be correct. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
What is a Family?
My main focus is to analyze different kinds of families, but before we analyze something it’s essential that we have a basic understanding of what it is, so I’d like to present a basic overview of what a family is. Upon looking up the definition of family, I came across several different definitions. This makes sense because while a family was traditionally thought of as only consisting of parents and children, people, myself included, have to come to realize the truth which is that there are many different kinds of families. There’s not just one kind of family. However, for a basic definition of family that covers all different kinds, a good one is that a family is a group of individuals living under one roof. Whether these people share common ancestry or not, does not matter in the least. I also feel the need to add that what makes people consider other people their family is rooted how much they care about and love these other people. There is a sense of intimacy and closeness between people you consider your family whether they’re your actual family or not. Now that I’ve presented a basic understanding of what a family is, I can begin analyzing the many different kinds of families there are.
What are the different kinds of families?
Now that we’ve established just what a family is, we can now explore and get to know the different kinds of families. As you can probably imagine, there are quite a few of them. There’s nuclear, single-parent, cross-generational, adoptive/foster, unmarried, blended, grandparents acting as parents, and same-sex parent families. Nuclear families consist of two parents and children. Half of all families with children under 18 fall in this category. Single-parent families, as the name suggests, consists of only one parent and, of course the children. 27% of these families have children under the age of 18. Cross-generational families are a bit more complex. 670,000 of cross-generational families consist of children under 18 and at one person over the age of 65 in the same household. On the other hand, two and a half million children under 18 live in their grandparents home but with one or both of their biological parents. For adoptive families, there are 120,000 children adopted each year. The exact number of adoptive families is uncertain. For foster families, 6.3 out of every 1,000 children live in out-of-home foster care. Unmarried couples with children under 15 account for 1.5 million households. Blended families consisting of two parents account for 20% of all children. Additionally, 1.3 million children under 18 live with their grandparents. Lastly, two million children have parents that are the same gender meaning they’re gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Clearly, we can see that there are all different kinds of families and probably even more different living situations we’re not even aware of. However, it is important to point out that all of the different kind of families there are there are based on one: the nuclear family. For a long time, people thought that was the only kind of family but many others were discovered to exist. These other kinds of families appear to be different, and in a way they are, but, in another way, they’re all the same. They are different in the way that role of the parents varies from household to household and in some cases, they may be the actual biological parents. Also, the children may not be related to the adults raising them, most often the case in adoptive or foster families. They’re the same in the way that while the children and the adults may not always be biologically related in a lot of cases, the roles they’re taking on are exactly the same as the nuclear family. The adults take on the authority of being the parents while the children take on the role of the daughter or son, depending on their gender. So we’ve gotten a understanding of what a family is and what kinds of families there are as well as some background information. Now, we will explore the other end of the spectrum: marriage.
What is a Marriage?
The main goal of this paper is to prove that marriage is heavily influenced by culture and family. However, in order to do that, we must first have an understanding of what a marriage is. A good definition is that marriage is a union between two people which establishes rights and obligations between those people as well as any children that result whether biological or not. It is important to note that while a marriage was traditionally thought of as only between a man and a woman, it has expanded to include people of the same sex as well. This has been very controversial, which makes sense when you consider that up until recently, people have thought of marriage as occurring between a man and a woman. The idea of same-sex marriage hadn’t even been established yet. But now it has been well-established and although there will always be naysayers, many states have legalized it and recognized it as a legitimate union. Although marriage is commonly known as occurring only between two people, there are societies outside the U.S. in which it is the exact opposite. Basically, in these societies, the practices of polygyny and polyandry are quite common. Polygyny is the practice of a man being married to more than one woman at the same time. On the other hand, polyandry is the practice of a woman being married to more than one man at the same time. Of course, for Americans these practices might strike us as odd or strange especially since such practices are illegal in the United States. However, it is important to remember that in every society there are different rules, laws, practices, and ideas. If these societies were to take a glimpse at our society, they might think our idea of marriage, which is a union between only two people, is bizarre or strange. But that’s only because the ideas and practices in their society is completely different. When it comes to marriage, there is no right or wrong. It’s just a matter of what the ideas and practices exist in each society. Now that I’ve fully established what a marriage is, it’s time to explore the influence of family and culture on marriage.
How Do Different Cultures and Family Influence Marriage?
I’ve defined family and marriage and provided some background information on each one. Now is where I’m going to provide plenty of evidence in order prove my thesis to be correct, that family and different cultures heavily influence marriage. Let’s start first with how family influences marriage. There are a few different ways marriage is influenced by family. For instance, our parents can influence the way we interact and get along with our spouses. This happens when we lived at home and we saw on a pretty routine basis a lot of facets of our parents relationship. We saw how they talked to each other, how often they fought, how they resolved conflicts, things they did for each other, etc. and we carry those interactions and patterns we witnessed so often into our own marriages. This makes sense because everything we know about marriage we know from watching our parents so, more often than not the way we treat our spouse is how our parents treated one another. Another way family influences marriage and this is a big reason, is children, if you have any. This is a big factor because it has been proven that kids who grow up in a household with both biological parents do better in many aspects of their lives than kids who grow up in a single-parent household. It’s important to point out, however, that this is not true in all cases, but a good number of them. It also makes sense that parents, themselves would not want to put the children through a divorce. It is indeed a very trying process and can take a big toll on someone, emotionally speaking, especially for children. Another way family can influence marriage is through extended family in very negative ways. These can include trying to sabotage the marriage, relying on the married couple for money, housing, or other necessities, causing fighting within the family, drug or alcohol abuse, and a lack of respect for the married couple. Some of these things affect the couple directly while others cause tension which can lead to conflict for the couple. A lack of respect is something that’s so subtle because often it’s something that’s not said and it could take some time before you realize it’s happening. This is one of those things that’s indirect and once discovered can cause tension and drama. Drug or alcohol abuse is obviously a more direct thing. This kind of abuse affects the whole family because everyone’s trying to help and worried about the abusers as well. Obviously, there are more ways I could talk about but for the sake of this paper, I think I’ve provided enough examples. Now, it’s time to talk about how different cultures influences marriage. One way is the concept of jealousy and how it is perceived in different cultures. For example, in some cultures a woman will get angry if another woman smiles at her boyfriend. Though it is jealousy, it will be viewed by some men as being protective and they will appreciate it. In our culture, jealousy is viewed more negatively. If that same scenario were to play out here, say in New York, people would probably say that the woman overreacted and is acting overly possessive and insecure. Another example is in Arab culture, if a man were to express his jealousy it would be looked at as caring behavior. Another way culture influences marriage is food and what kind of it you eat. In every culture, there are different staples that are eaten on a regular basis. In chinese culture, for example, they place a big emphasis on vegetables and rice. In the italian culture, they place a large emphasis on pasta, vegetables, and olive oil. So, if two people from two entirely different cultures get married, one of the causes for disagreement will be what to have for dinner and what kind of food to keep in the house. This makes sense because they both have different ideas of what is healthy and what tastes good in comparison to their spouse who has a entirely different view of what foods is healthy or not. Another way culture influences marriage is how people express themselves. In certain cultures, people talk in a loud tone of voice even if they’re having a regular conversation. If two people married, one from our culture in the United States and one from another culture in which they talk and express themselves differently, you can imagine the fights and arguments that could lead to. This would happen because in our culture, if someone uses a loud tone of voice, it’s usually because they’re angry or upset. So it would be natural to assume that if your spouse is talking in a loud tone of voice that something has made him or her angry or they’re angry at you. However, it could simply be they were simply talking to you in the tone of voice they’re used to speaking in. While all these examples of family and culture influences are very real and legitimate, it is important to realize that most of these things are simply habits that we will get used to or things that can be fixed. The bottom line is we all come from different cultures and have different families which are all unique and special in their own way. Also, just because we don’t understand something, no matter if it’s culture or a family doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
So, now’s the time to ask, Did I prove my thesis to be correct? I believe I did. I did research and came across information that was completely new to me, so not only did I prove my thesis correct, I learned some new tidbits of information as well. We never really stop and think about how much influence culture and family have, not just in marriage but in a lot of aspects of our life. It affects and influences us a lot more than we realize. I was definitely surprised by some of the information I came across. However, to wrap things up, culture and family do have a lot of influence in our lives and relationships and while it seems overwhelming, we should remember that as long as we’re aware of the influence we can do our best to control it.