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Marriage Patterns

Marriage Patterns

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This lesson will differentiate and discuss endogamy, exogamy, monogamy, polygamy, and homogamy in relationships.

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Tutorial

What's Covered

This tutorial will cover the topic of marriage patterns, through the definition and discussion of:

  1. Endogamy
  2. Homogamy
  3. Exogamy
  4. Monogamy and Polygamy

1. ENDOGAMY

Consider the following question and answer in society:

Individual A: “Who can I marry?”

Culture: “Only one person, and more than likely, that person will be a lot like you.”

There are several societal concepts that help to explain this answer, and break down the overall concept of marriage.

Endogamy is a marriage norm requiring a person to marry someone from inside his or her group, which can be any kind of group.

ExampleYou might have an endogamous marriage with respect to religion or class, meaning you can only marry somebody in the same religion or class.

Did You Know

In caste societies, like in India, it's frowned upon to marry outside your group, or caste. It’s very rare for a person to marry someone from a different caste, which is an example of an endogamous cultural sanction on marriage. In some societies, it’s the same way with certain ethnic groups. Culture commonly dictates who can marry in endogamous fashion.

Term to Know

Endogamy

A marriage norm requiring someone to marry a person from inside his or her group.

2. HOMOGAMY

A similar term to endogamy is homogamy. Homogamy is a marriage between two people who are culturally and socially similar. This term sounds a lot like endogamy, and is related, but it's not the same thing. Homogamy differs because it refers to marriages where people voluntarily marry someone who is similar. Sociologists have found that people tend to want to marry somebody who is similar in terms of race, class, age, interests, hobbies, etc., which is homogamy.

ExampleThe following are examples of homogamous relationships. Note, two people could be of the same age and therefore homogamous, but they might be different races or classes, so are therefore not homogamous along those lines.

    • A Harvard Ph.D. in marketing marries a Stanford MBA; they share education likely and interests.
    • A black man marries a black woman; they share a racial homogamy.
    • A hairdresser marries a farmer from her hometown high school, from her hometown.

Hint

Endogamy and homogamy are related, but they are distinct conceptual ideas.

Term to Know

Homogamy

A marriage between two people who are socially and culturally similar.


3. EXOGAMY

What about the opposite, marrying somebody who is different? That is called exogamy, ‘ex’ meaning outside. Exogamy is a marriage between people who belong to different social categories.

ExampleIn some places in India, people must marry somebody from a different village for cultural reasons. This is an exogamous restriction on marriage.

Exogamy, having to marry outside, is historically more common in smaller, land-based societies, because you need to put some kind of restriction on marriage so that people ensure they marry outside of the gene pool. If you continually marry and have children within the gene pool in a small population, this can create problems, so cultural sanctions on exogamy developed.

Term to Know

Exogamy

A marriage norm requiring a person to marry someone from outside his or her group.


4. MONOGAMY AND POLYGAMY

A second question you might have is not just who can you marry, but how many people can you marry? Can you marry five people if you want to? You can marry five people, culture says, but you can't do it at the same time. You have to get married, then get a divorce, then you can get married again, and so on. In American society, a marriage between two people is called monogamy. It's not legal to have more than one wife or husband at a time.

On the hand, marriage to multiple people at the same time is called polygamy. There are two types of polygamy:

  • Polygyny occurs when a man has multiple wives, as is the case in some religious sects in this country, though it is illegal broadly.
  • Polyandry occurs when a woman has multiple husbands, and this is historically very rare.

Polygamy does happen in society. You can likely think of people you know who have had multiple partners at the same time, but this is not legal within marriage.

ExampleHugh Hefner, of Playboy fame, has had many female partners in his life, yet he's not been married to them all at the same time. To obtain the legal designation of marriage, you have to be in a monogamous relationship.

Terms to Know

Monogamy

A marriage between two people exclusively.

Polygamy

A marriage to multiple people at the same time.

Summary

Today you learned about culture and the way it relates to marriage and marriage conventions and taboos. You also learned about the different types of marriage: endogamy, homogamy, exogamy, monogamy and polygamy.

Good luck!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Zach Lamb.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Endogamy

    A marriage norm requiring someone to marry a person from inside his or her group.

  • Homogamy

    A marriage between two people who are socially and culturally similar.

  • Exogamy

    A marriage norm requiring a person to marry someone from outside his or her group.

  • Monogamy

    A marriage between two people exclusively.

  • Polygamy

    A marriage to multiple people at the same time.