Cultural Anthropology/Marriage, Reproduction and Kinship

Sexuality edit

Sexual Orientation and Cultural Perspectives edit

Sexual orientation is the pattern of sexual and emotional attraction based on the gender of one's partner. In the contemporary American culture, heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation that receives complete social legitimacy. Since June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage has been legal in all 50 States and American territories except American Samoa and Native American land.[1] [2] Though heterosexuality is viewed as the social "norm" in the United States, many other cultures maintain a very diverse perspective on sexuality and sexual orientation. Various types of sexual orientation are defined below and can be found in many different cultures across the globe.

  • Heterosexuality: refers to the emotional and sexual attraction between men and women.
  • Homosexuality: refers to the emotionally and sexually attracted to those of the same sex. "Lesbian" refers to specifically homosexual women; "Gay" refers to both homosexual men and women. It is completely interchangeable with the word "homosexual" but is generally used more casually.
  • Bisexuality: Being attracted to two or more genders. It is a common misconception that bisexual people are attracted to their own and the "opposite" gender, specific preferences

vary from person to person and are not limited to cisgendered "men" and "women".[2]

  • Pansexuality: Is the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Pansexuality is defined differently from other sexual orientations by explicitly including people who are intersex or outside the gender binary.
  • Asexual: One that does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality exists on a spectrum that varies person-to-person, from individuals who are disgusted by the idea of having sex (called Sex Repulsed) to individuals that can and do feel sexual attraction, but only under specific circumstances (called Demisexuality or Gray-Asexual) and every option in between. [3]

Transgender in the United States

The term transgender refers to people who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. There is an embedded stigma within American culture that erases the validity and existence of the transgender community. Oftentimes, transgender people are either highly-sexualized or demonized. Starting in the early 1990s, political activists began challenging the opprobrium associated with being transgender and started to put pressure on the government to recognize the rights of gender variants. The term that these activists use, transgender, refers to someone whom society has assigned a gender at birth, but chooses to perform as another because it is what they feel is appropriate to their mind and being. However, according to American Anthropologist David Valentine, many individuals resist the label "transgender" because it is overly inclusive. While some "cross-dress" to receive erotic pleasure, others have undergone serious and potentially fatal sexual reassignment surgery in order to be their preferred gender. Additionally, these activists are primarily white and middle-class, which contributes to the erasure of racial minority transgenders. While the meaning of "transgender" is still in formation, it is still very clear that American culture still resists accepting people who identify as neither male nor female, instead, they prefer to just be a person. This may be due in part to the idea that Americans view transgenderism as an expression of perverse sexuality, but, regardless, it is imperative that we acknowledge the rights and legitimacy of the transgender community.

Romantic Orientation edit

Romantic Orientation, also known as Affectional Orientation, indicates the sex or gender with which a person is most likely to have a romantic relationship or fall in love. It is used both alternatively and side-by-side with the term sexual orientation. It is based on the perspective that sexual attraction is but a single component of a larger dynamic. For example, although a pansexual person may feel sexually attracted to people regardless of sex or gender identity, they may be predisposed to romantic intimacy with females. For polyromantic people, they are attracted to many but not all genders, also known as asexual. For asexual people, romantic orientation is often considered a more useful measure of attraction than sexual orientation.[3]

People may or may not engage in purely emotional romantic relationships. The main identities relating to this are:

  • Aromantic: Lack of romantic attraction towards anyone (aromanticism)
  • Heteroromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of one gender other than their own (heteroromanticism).
  • Homoromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of the same gender (homoromanticism).
  • Biromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of two genders (biromanticism).
  • Panromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of any and all genders (pan romanticism).
  • Polyromantic: Romantic attraction toward multiple people, but not all genders.
  • Gray-romantic: Individuals who do not often experience romantic attraction.
  • Demiromantic: Romantic attraction towards any of the above but only after forming a deep emotional bond with the person(s) (demiromanticism).[4]

Cultural Examples of LGBTQ Relationships edit

2007 Pride parade in Buenos Aires with LGBQT visible in a groups' banner (top right of image)

Two-Spirit edit

In many North American indigenous tribes, a person could be two-spirit. These people were generally viewed as having two spirits within them; both masculine and feminine. They dressed using both male and female garments and filled an essential and respected role in society. They generally took on this role around puberty. Male-bodied two-spirit's could be gravediggers, conductors of rituals, nurses during the war, craftspeople, storytellers, etc. Female-bodied two-spirit's could be traders, warriors, chiefs, hunters, guides, etc. Both could be diviners or medicine people. It was generally accepted that two-spirit's had a special power; they could have relationships with people of any sex, and the relationship was viewed more as "hetero-gender" than specifically homosexual or heterosexual. In today's world, the role is being reclaimed by Native Americans who identify as such.

Lesbianism in Mombasa edit

Anthropologist Gill Shepherd [5] explored female sexual relationships among Swahili Muslims in Mombasa, Kenya, and found that relationships between females were perfectly acceptable, as were relationships between men. Women are allowed to choose other women as sexual partners after they are married. Many such women also have a husband at home, are widowed, or divorced. Both sexes are open about their homosexual relationships, and it is considered normal. In contrast to some Western cultures, people generally do not think that homosexual relationships would damage a person's piety or moral fiber. Having a woman for a lover is less important than a woman's rank, and her being a good Muslim. A relationship may be set up in a number of ways. A young woman can go around to wealthy lesbian circles in order to find a lover. A wealthy woman may not want her autonomy diminished by a husband and so establishes a relationship with another woman so that she may continue in her independence. A wealthy woman may set up a marriage of convenience with a man for a poorer woman so that when they are divorced soon after the poorer woman will live with her lesbian benefactress. The relationships are not stigmatized and having a lesbian relationship, while less respectable than being married to a man, is nonetheless better than not being married at all. The relationships can or cannot include a sexual relationship, but a sexual relationship is more likely when one woman pays a bride-price, the exchange of a bride for money, land, or other property from the fiance's family, and constructs her own compound.

Sexuality in Ancient Greece edit

In Ancient Greece, same-sex relationships between men were considered the highest form of love; they were just as common and accepted as heterosexual relationships of today. This male-male relationship was based on love and reciprocity and typically called for the older man to initiate the relationship. He would give gifts to the younger man as a promise of love.[6] These relationships were thought to be the highest form of love because they showed that the men regarded furthering themselves in knowledge and intelligence rather than just a physical connection. Some who did not attempt to make this connection were seen as "shallow." The older man would become the mentor and lover to the younger man, and the two would form a close emotional bond. The youth would be taught his duties as a citizen, and skills to further his place in society by the older man, and once the youth reached adulthood, the sexual relationship between the two men evolved into a very strong friendship. As an adult, the youth would then marry a woman, and initiate a relationship with another adolescent.

An exclusively homosexual relationship was discouraged, however, and not considered a substitute for male-female marriage. Marriage and the children that would be produced within it was required to maintain both the family and society. The wives were viewed by their husbands as domestics and child bearers.[4]. While the men were away with their young lovers, women raised children and took care of the household. Women were discouraged from taking lovers outside of the marriage to bed.

Ritual Homosexuality of the Sambia edit

In 1981, the American anthropologist, Gilbert Herdt described the pseudonymous "Sambia" people, a tribe located in Papua New Guinea. They are remarkable for their beliefs about human fertility cycles and the rites of passage they constructed, as a result, .[5] Rites of passage being rituals that are carried out inorder for an individual to transition from one state in life to another. In this case the Sambia people of Papua New Guinea have a rite of passage that allow young boys to become men, and viable husbands in the future. The Sambia place the onus of reproductive vitality on the male, believing that the baby is formed in the mother's womb by the father's life-giving semen. The child then gets all nourishment from the mother's milk, which causes them to grow and develop in the early stage of life. At the onset of puberty, however, it is believed that to develop any further the child must be reintroduced to the life-giving semen—the male's analog to milk. However, since they view semen as a highly scarce, albeit necessary resource for development, it must be carefully distributed among their people. Thus, from ages seven to ten, boys are taken from their mothers and initiated into highly secret and complex ritual associations whereby the boys are taught to fellate older boys and bring them to orgasm, thereby ingesting their life-giving semen. It's thought that by doing this they will develop into strong and reproductively viable human beings. Around the age of 14, the boys switch places and become the fellated, providing the necessary sustenance for the next generation to develop. Interestingly, the cultural practices of secret initiations diminished across the 1980s and by 1990 the secret initiation rituals were no longer practiced.[7]

Rights of Sexuality edit

Family Rights of LGBQT Couples edit

In March 2016, U.S. District Judge, Daniel Jordan, ruled that Mississippi's long-held ban on same-sex parents adoption was unconstitutional. He cited the Supreme Court's decision in the Obergefell vs. Hodges court case that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in 2015. Mississippi was the last state with such a ban, meaning that it is now legal for gay parents to adopt children in all 50 states. The ban, which simply states "adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited" had been in place since 2000. Overturning this law was a long, overdue change that even the man who signed it into being, Former Mississippi Governor, Ronnie Musgrove, believed should be overturned. He has said that "this decision that all of us made together has made it harder for an untold number of children to grow up healthy and happy in Mississippi -- and that breaks my heart."[8]

Obergefell vs. Hodges

Obergefell vs. Hodges is the supreme court case that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states on June 26, 2015. It was decided by a 5-4 vote between Judges, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayer voting in favor of same-sex marriage, and judges Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissenting.[9] LGBTQ+ American's throughout the country celebrated, many buildings including the White House, the Empire State Building, and the Space Needle were lit up in rainbow colors. It was a huge victory for all of the people throughout history who have fought for equal marriage rights and for the millions of LGBT people in the United States.

Sexual Harassment edit

The definition of sexual harassment is, "harassment in a workplace or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks" [6]. An example of sexual harassment in schooling could be teasing someone about their body parts, snapping a girl's bra strap, catcalling, touching or slapping private areas, or asking unwanted questions repeatedly.

Although in the U.S laws do not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents, harassment is illegal when it is frequent enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment. The are several consequences for individuals who harass in the workplace such as losing their job or having a restraining order.The International Labor Organization is a specialized United Nations agency that has addressed sexual harassment as a prohibited form of sex discrimination under the discrimination convention [7]. When looking at sexual harassment in culture, it is typical in most cultures that women are the most vulnerable to the abuse. However, in the Kung culture, both men and women are seen as aggressive. Women especially are abusive verbally and tend to tease and provoke others. In Saudi Arabia, in specific the culture and Islam religion (which construct the country's laws) are against sexual harassment and display this in many ways. If an individual harasses a woman then the woman has the right to report it and the punishment for the man is jail time.

Heteronormativity The idea that relationships between men and women are the norm, often resulting in harassment from believers of the idea. This also infers that men and women will follow the social guidelines presented by their gender.


homophobia, [8] is the hatred, prejudice, and fear of someone who is sexually interested in someone of the same-sex. Often this has to do with direct aggression, violence, and discrimination of homosexuals so that their daily lives are directly affected. If someone is a homophobe they tend to treat homosexuals differently, typically looking down on them in society, this causes them to be isolated from society. Homophobia usually leads to homosexuals not receiving the same benefits as heterosexual couples, in many countries homosexuality is illegal. Homophobia can be psychologically as well as physically harmful to those who identify as homosexual.

Acephobia is the discrimination and hatred or mistreatment of asexual people. This is very similar to homophobia, and is often expressed through microaggressions, which are everyday actions or words that are common throughout society and reaffirm the privilege of the aggressor,[9] or identity erasure. These microaggressions can be extremely harmful and oppressive over time. For instance, if an asexual person's relative continually nags them about getting a boyfriend or girlfriend, this will over time wear on the person and cause them to emotional harm and distress. Microaggressions like this are so common because society in the modern United States is highly sexualized; whether talking about branding, advertisement, or popular culture, there's a huge emphasis on sex and sexuality.[10] Acephobia is a direct result of this societal norm. Non-asexual people are not only the statistical majority, they're also the only culturally represented group which leads to a common belief (often proclaimed as "truth") that everyone experiences sex and sexual feelings in the same way. Though the development of that mindset is somewhat explainable, the negative effects it has on asexual people are devastating. Commonly, asexual people are told their identity is "just a phase" that they will "grow out of", or that "plenty of people chose not to have sex". The most major problems with these phrases is that they both erase and invalidate the perfectly valid identity of the asexual individual by implying that asexuality is both a choice and/or a "phase" when in fact it is neither.[11] These types of acephobia are harmful not just to the individual they are addressing but also to young and future asexuals who will grow up with those prejudices taught as truth and will probably believe they are somehow "broken" as most asexuals do before discovering the asexual community.

Gender edit

How Culture Shapes Gender edit

Gender expression can often be shaped by the culture a child is raised in. In the United States, children are often raised with the expectation of following their respective gender norms. This means they are expected to act feminine and motherly if they have a vagina, and tough and 'like a man' if they have a penis. Consequently, children are raised with rigid stereotypes of how they should express themselves, which often leads to confusion and unhappiness. This idea can also be explained by heteronormativity, which is the idea that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation, and that people will follow the gender roles specified by their gender at birth. While this is the unfortunate society we live in, this is not the case around the world, as different cultures have different perspectives of gender expression. For example, the Vezo is a society in Madagascar that determines sexual identity based on the actions of the individuals. Regardless of gender, one who participates in fishing would be considered a man in that society. Views of gender change with adapting culture, and even in the US progress has been made in the importance of breaking gender stereotypes and the fluidity of gender.

Preferred Pronouns edit

The stigma around talking about people who don't identify with their born gender or any gender at all is starting to disappear as we move into an age where people using pronouns like "They/Them" becomes commonplace. People are now starting to be able to identify by their preferred pronouns. In many liberal colleges, many clubs and organizations will ask for a persons preferred pronouns. The way that people are able to relate to each other when they are allowed to express themselves fully and tell people their identity widens immensely. Commonly preferred pronouns include:

  • She/Her/Hers
  • He/Him/His
  • They/Them/Theirs


Sexual Taboos edit

Taboos are actions that are looked down on from the society as a whole. They are often deemed as inappropriate or illegal especially when regarding sexual behavior. They are the ideals in a culture that are seen as inappropriate such as incest, bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia, and voyeurism. Statutory rape laws also exist where the government has stepped in and enforced norms on society. Incest is considered a taboo in many Western societies, and often cited on the grounds that it can create genetic disorders, via interbreeding. However, this isn't entirely true and is widely circulated to be true (even among scientific communities) because of the strong taboo against incest relationships.[12] There are many cultures where incest via cousin marriage is both accepted and encouraged. Historically speaking, the same western society which now shames incest marriage and sexual relations has a strong past of cousin marriage to keep lineages "pure" and preserve royal blood. But if a genetic mutation occurs within a population, inbreeding will tend to promote that mutation to become more widely distributed.[13]

Incest edit

Incest is sexual relations between closely related people. Incest is perhaps the most culturally universal taboo. However, different norms exist among cultures as to what constitutes as a permissible sex partner or not. Some cultures allow for sexual and marital relations between certain cousins, aunt/uncle and niece/nephew, and in some instances brother-sister marriages by the elites. Parent-child and sibling-sibling unions are almost universally taboo. Much issue arises with the concept of incest due to the high rate of deformities in children as a result of incest, resulting from the combination of very similar genome in the child.

In Islam, according to the actions of Prophet Muhammad, marriage between cousins is explicitly allowed and even encouraged in Islam. Even the Arabic culture support this because the family's last name is favored and valued due to tribal history and upbringing similarities. Marrying in the family (cousins) is considered pure blood.

Nudity edit

Nudity is defined as the state of wearing no clothing. The wearing of clothing is a predominantly human characteristic, likely arising from the functional needs such as climate protection but also from other needs such as decoration or prestige. The amount of clothing worn depends on both functional and cultural circumstances. Social considerations involve modesty, decency, and social norms.

In the current day, to most societies and cultures associate human nudity with sexuality. Nudity is considered an important facet in the expressions and feelings in intimate relationships where there exists physical and/or emotional intimacy, and are considered to be private manners that should be expressed in more private settings. Many cultures which express a level of modesty associate nudity with sexuality and public nudity is seen as taboo depending on the culture’s definition of lewd. Historically though, nudity has been practiced in many cultures without association with sexuality including the Egyptians, Romans, and many hunter-gatherer cultures in warm climates.

Reproduction edit

Reproduction is a basic function of every organism on Earth and passes on the building blocks of life from one generation to another. Every culture in the world has traditions, rules, and ceremonies which preside around reproduction. These may range from sexual practices of Hawaiian nobility to the Supreme Court of the United States in legal disputes such as Roe v. Wade. Reproduction is an ever present variable in anthropology and a prevalent force shaping the world.

Almost all cultures have norms governing sex and reproduction; these range from cultural universals such as the incest taboo to legal concepts such as child support. However, even these taboos are not found to be entirely universal. In many early cultures, such as the Hawaiians, royalty could only be passed down to the child of two royal family members, usually a brother and sister. Different cultures each have individual expectations of women regarding when they begin having children, how many they have, and what age they usually stop having children. For example, women in more male-dominated societies have less or no say in their reproductive processes and health. Reproduction is the biological process by which new individual organisms are produced. Reproduction is a fundamental feature of all known life;

A pregnant woman nurtures her child in the womb for nine months before giving birth.

Reproduction: An Anthropological Definition & Focus edit

According to the Encyclopedia of Anthropology, human reproduction refers to "the process by which new social members are produced- specifically, the physiological process of conception, pregnancy, birth, and child raising". From a larger perspective, reproduction is what allows a whole society to continue thriving into the future and avoid extinction. Political power has come to be the central concern of reproductive studies since those who have power have control over reproduction of large populations, which ultimately leads to power over that population. This is why, since the 1990's, anthropological studies of reproduction have mainly focused on new reproductive technologies. These technologies have been designed to help guide human reproduction. Examples of "new reproductive technologies" include intrauterine devices, birth control pills, artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, and many others which are able to manipulate reproduction. Birth control is a form of contraceptive to limit the chances of pregnancy.

Childbirth edit

This infant is having its umbilical cord clamped using sterile procedure, a western biomedical practice that reduces the risk of tetanus infection.

Childbirth methods vary for women in all different cultures. More industrialized societies, such as the United States, treat pregnancy as a medical problem to be very carefully handled, as opposed to many other cultures that handle it in a completely different manner. For example, people in Agricultural societies usually handle childbirth with midwives [11], and foraging cultures give birth individually. When a woman living in America goes into childbirth, she is immediately taken to a sanitary environment where there are doctors and nurses present and specifically trained to help the woman through the process. Though in a sterile environment, the newborn infant is not entirely safe from disease. After all, most western cultures consider it normal to give birth in the same building that houses all of society's sick. Complications do happen on a regular basis, but because of the high-tech environments, the complications can usually be resolved. With the Ache from Paraguay the women that go into labor are taken to more secluded areas. They are meant to squat, proceed to deliver their child by themselves, bite off the umbilical cord, put the newborn to breast, clean themselves and their baby, and go back to their people. This practice parallels the concept that nature is the Mother in foraging communities. Nature provides a shelter for birthing and is a place where life is given. Because complications are much more common in this situation with risk of infection, excessive bleeding, and overall lack of medical attention, many cultures use midwives to assist the mother. For example, midwives in America are still popular despite the cultural norm of birthing your child in a hospital with an OB/GYN present. Mothers and their families choose this route either because of religious reasons, cultural purposes, or possibly even lack of financial adequacy to pay hospital bills.[12] In the case of the Orang Lom of Bangka, West Indonesia, women have seemingly similar pregnancies to that of American women, but there are some radical differences between the two cultures. For instance, the Lom women don't necessarily have "restrictions" to their pregnancies, but one exception is a prohibition on certain behaviors—the behavior being that pregnant women are to not sit in doorways. To the Lom culture, sitting in a doorway as a pregnant woman is said to cause a prolonged and painful pregnancy. However, once the woman has given birth to their son or daughter, there is an array of rules and regulations that must be followed. Some of the rules include a period of taboo, or prohibition (pantang) that sets in after birth. This period, called repas (which also means 'brittle', 'fragile') lasts for a duration of 44 to 45 days. It is characterized by the sole seclusion of the new mother in her home, with the addition of daily herbal baths with heated water prepared for her by her husband, sexual abstention, and a prohibition against eating certain foods as well as against productive/economic efforts. [13] In addition to complications concerning the physical birthing location, the social environment in which a child is born can also be an issue. For example, depression in a mother after childbirth, called postpartum depression, can result from a poor social support system among other things. This can potentially result in far more problematic conditions such as postpartum psychosis in which the depression becomes chronic and can effect the mothers physical health and ability to bond with her child.


Adoption is the action of adopting or being adopted. If a mother were to give up her baby or child, that child would be available to anybody who was looking to start a family. The birth mother may give the child away for many reasons, such as not being able to provide for it, being too young to have a child, or simply because she may not want a child at all. In America, that child would go through the foster care system until they are chosen by prospective parents. There is a slight social stigma associated with adopting or being adopted, but for many, it's simply another way to build a family.

Abortion edit

Abortion is the action of terminating a pregnancy or is the premature exit of products of conception. To do this in an induced abortion, one must remove the embryo or fetus from a woman's uterus after conception. There are several different ways to perform an abortion. Induced abortions are different from spontaneous abortions (also defined as a miscarriage) because an induced abortion is usually done on purpose, whereas a spontaneous abortion is usually unexpected.

Induced abortion

There are a variety of ways to perform an induced abortion, some relatively safe and others extremely dangerous. In more developed countries the use of medical or surgical abortion is used.

  • Medical abortion

Medical abortion is performed with the use of pharmaceutical drugs, which are only useful in the first trimester of a pregnancy. Surgical abortion (also known as a vacuum abortion) is the most common method used.

  • Surgical abortion

To perform a surgical abortion one removes the fetus or embryo, membranes, and placenta using a suction method with a syringe (this is called manual vacuum aspiration or MVA). Another way to perform a surgical abortion is through the use of an electric pump (this is called electric vacuum aspiration or EVA). Surgical abortion is usually performed from the fifteenth week of pregnancy to the twenty-sixth.

  • Other types of abortion

There are also other types of abortion that are not performed medically or surgically. These methods include the use of herbs and special diets as discussed above in the section control of pregnancy. There are also other ways that are not as safe. One method of abortion is attempted from abdomen trauma or putting pressure on the uterus externally. The amount of force upon the abdomen is extreme and does not always succeed in a miscarriage. This form of abortion can result in internal bruising and can be harmful to the mother of the child. The most unsafe methods of abortion are almost always self-induced through the insertion of non-medical tools into the uterus. These tools can include wire clothing hangers or even knitting needles. Self-induced abortions are most dangerous because they can result in infection and lacerations of the uterus which could eventually result in death if not properly treated. Overall, the pain of a surgical abortion is between that of a dull toothache and a headache or a mild backache.

For example, women in Nigeria have been known to mix dry gin with 'Alabukun' powder to induce abortion. Alabukun Powder contains the salts Acetylsalicylic Acid and caffeine as active ingredients. This method of abortion is usually performed by young Nigerian women, who do not have the proper funds to receive an abortion done by a doctor. This mixture is deadly and will surely kill the fetus. [14]

Abortion in the United States edit

Abortion in the United States is a very controversial issue. There is quite a bit of political and ethical debate that underlies whether or not it should be legal. In a legal sense in the United States, the term, "abortion" refers to induced abortion as opposed to spontaneous, because it is purposeful. The first abortion laws in the U.S. appeared in the 1820's which outlawed abortions after the fourth month of pregnancy. By the 1900's most abortions had been deemed illegal, and in 1965 all states had banned abortions.[14] Currently, in the United States, abortion is legal but can be restricted by any state to varying degrees, as a result of the highly controversial 1973 case Roe v. Wade. These restrictions include: prohibiting abortion after a specific amount of time during the pregnancy (i.e. after the second trimester), required parent notifications for minors, parental consent for minors, and the permission to perform the abortion after informing the patient of the risks prior to the procedure. Before Roe vs. Wade, abortion was illegal in over half of the U.S., and otherwise legal only in the case of rape or to protect a woman’s health. It was legal upon request in only four states. In deciding the outcome of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that forbidding abortion except when necessary for a woman’s health was unconstitutional and that the issue of abortion fell under the constitutional right to privacy. Today’s view on whether or not abortion should be legal is largely divided between those who are "pro-choice" which is those who believe a woman should have the choice for a safe and healthy abortion, and those who are "pro-life" who support anti-abortion. Opinions are based on religion, gender, political party, region, and can vary depending on specific reasons for a woman having an abortion.

Abortion in East Africa edit

Abortion is illegal in Eritrea unless it is medically necessary for the health of the mother. When a young girl unexpectedly gets pregnant, she cannot legally acquire an abortion unless given permission by a medical professional. “The reality is that a woman will seek an abortion—legal or otherwise—almost instinctively and in self-defense.” Rules do not stop these young girls from aborting and they will do it illegally if they wish to get rid of their pregnancy.

Abortion in Colombia edit

Colombia has stricter laws regarding abortion than America. Colombia, along with El Salvador and Chile, where the 3 countries in Latin America which completely prohibited any kind of abortion by law.

On May 10, 2006, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled abortion legal only when pregnancy endangers the life or health of the mother or results from rape or incest, or if the fetus is unlikely to survive. This ruling caused a large controversy between the Catholic Church and the doctors who perform the surgeries as well as the women who chose to have the abortion.

In the United States, the right to choose an abortion is based on the women’s right to privacy. In contrast, Colombia’s ruling for abortion is based on the women’s right to heath, life, and equality. In Colombia, it is estimated that on average women have more than one illegal abortion throughout their life.[15]

Positive Puberty Ritual

  • Navajo culture

An ethnographic example of a positive puberty ritual can be found in Navajo culture. When a Navajo girl reaches puberty, she undergoes a four-day ceremony called ceremony which signifies her transformation from childhood into womanhood. The ceremony is centered around the Navajo myth of Changing Woman w:Blessing Way, the first woman on Earth who was able to bear children. The myth says that Changing Woman performed the first Kinaalda and that the ceremony gave her the ability to have children. Because of this, all Navajo girls must also undergo the ceremony so that they will grow into strong women who can also have children.w:Menarche#Cultural aspects of menarche

  • Hispanic culture

Many Hispanic cultures celebrate a woman's coming of age with the Quinceañera (from the Spanish word "quince" meaning 15). When a girl turns 15, it is traditional for her to celebrate both religiously and often socially with friends and family, showing that she has overcome puberty, reached adulthood, and is eligible for marriage, or more commonly today is ready to begin dating. The celebration begins with a Thanksgiving Mass, or "Misa de acción de gracias," which is attended by the close family, godparents, as well as up to seven damas (maids of honor) and 7 chamberlanes (chamberlains). After the mass, many families choose to continue the celebration with an extravagant party, including fancy dresses, food, decorations, and often a live band and dancing. Some girls choose to go on a trip instead of having a party, but still enjoy time with family and close friends to celebrate the transition from childhood to womanhood.[16]

  • Judaism
A Bar Mitzvah taking place at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

In Judaism, a traditional the traditional coming of age ceremony takes place at the age of thirteen. For a boy, this is called a Bar Mitzvah and for a girl, it's called a Bat Mitzvah. This tradition includes both a religious portion of the individual's life (reading a portion of the religious text the Torah) and a lively party. For the individual, it is one of the most important traditions in Judaism, rivaled only by marriage.

  • Filipino culture

In the Philippines, puberty for boys is based on circumcision. Filipino people consider a boy becoming a man when he gets circumcised, and the age range boys usually get circumcised is around 7-11. Children in the Philippines are taught that they are a man when you get circumcised so they get excited to get circumcised but also they may feel terrified because the process of circumcision in the Philippines isn't modern for some individuals since they can not afford to get circumcised in an actual hospital; they just go to small clinics.

Birthing Practices edit

There are four main types of birth:

  • Complete birth- entire separation of the infant from the maternal body (after cutting of the umbilical cord)
  • Multiple births- the birth of two or more offspring produced in the same gestation period
  • Post-term birth- birth of an infant at or after 42 completed weeks (294 days) of gestation
  • Premature birth- birth of an infant before 37 completed weeks (259 days) of gestation

The best position for the baby to be born is head first. The head first position poses the least amount of danger for both baby and mother. When a baby is breached (feet or buttocks first) it can cause many complications for both the baby and the mother.

It should also be noted that there are three main methods of giving birth:

1. Vaginal birth- the natural emergence of the baby from the mother's birth canal. This is the preferred method of birth for most women. This process starts with the onset of labor which consists of uterine contractions which start the natural “pushing” of the baby down in the vagina for delivery. The natural pushing is the painful part of birth but it can be controlled with breathing exercises. The birthing process is also practiced in many different types of pain management. While pain management is often medical, there are types of natural birth that give women the choice to have a birth in a controlled and comfortable environment without the distraction or stress of the hospital.

  • There are 3 phases of vaginal birth:
    • 1st phase: The opening of the cervix or dilation. This is when the doctor will perform internal examinations to check the orientation and health of the baby
    • 2nd phase: The cervix is fully dilated at approximately 10 cm. The mother helps the delivery by pushing. This phase can last up to 2 hours. The baby is delivered at the conclusion of this stage.
    • 3rd phase: Also known as the afterbirth. The placenta is delivered and the mother emotionally connects with her baby.
  • Types of Natural Birth:
    • Hypno Birthing

In hypnobirthing, the mother undergoes self-hypnosis as a method of pain control. Hypnosis is defined as, "a naturally induced state of concentration, a place where mind and body can communicate with the subconscious mind." When in this state, communicating with the subconscious can help to control pain. According to HypnoBirthing of Colorado [15] the state of self-hypnosis while delivering can put the woman in a completely relaxed and day-dreamy attitude. The woman, however, will still feel in complete control and be able to sense her surges (also called contractions). In hypnobirthing, one of the goals is to let the body's natural painkillers, endorphins, to take over the pain instead of letting stress enhance the pain.

    • Water Birth

Another popular form of natural childbirth is water birth. Water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. This can be done at home or in a birthing center, but it is usually recommended that a Douala, midwife, or medical professional be present. Usually, the woman will enter the water after being about 5 cm. dilated. It is thought that the relaxing environment will help the mother push more effectively and be a pleasant, non-stressful environment for the baby to enter the world into. Water births have been gaining popularity since the 1980's. There are some possibilities for danger to occur in this situation, such as the baby inhaling water when underwater. Usually, this will not occur; however, because the baby still receives oxygen through the umbilical cord and breathes in the womb out of instinct.

2. Assisted birth- the use of medical technologies, such as forceps to assist in delivering the baby from the mother's birth canal.

3. Caesarean birth-Is a method that uses a surgical incision made in the mother’s abdomen and uterus for the delivery of an infant. This method is often referred to as a C-Section. Although a vaginal birth is the most preferred, a Caesarean birth may be necessary if there are complications in the pregnancy, for example, if the baby is not receiving enough oxygen (emergency c-section) or if the mother chooses the option (elective c-section). The elective C-Section is performed a week or two before the actual due date. If the expectant mother is HIV-positive and blood tests done near the end of pregnancy show that you have a high viral load, then a planned c-section would be the recommended birth plan by the doctor. It is equally important to have a planned c-section if the baby is expected to be extremely large and difficult to pass through the vaginal opening, (a condition is known as macrosomia). This is particularly true if the expectant mother is diabetic or has had a previous baby of the same size or smaller who suffered serious trauma during a vaginal birth.[17] Most maternity units in the UK deliver between 10 and 20 percent of babies by Caesarean section. [16]

  • Multiple Births- If the woman were to have multiple births then it is possible she would have to get a C-Section to prevent permanent damage to herself during the birthing process.
  • Labor Stops – Over one-third of all C-Sections performed are a result of labor stopping. Prodromal labor is when a woman begins contracting like she would in labor, but the contractions do not lead to birth. The contractions can begin and then fizzle out for days before leading to labor and then finally birth.
  • Concern for the Baby – Complications concerning the baby such as the umbilical cord being pinched or the baby not receiving proper blood flow might result in the necessity of a C-Section.
  • Medical Conditions – Preexisting medical conditions in the mother such as diabetes or high blood pressure may also cause a need for a caesarean section.

Differences in Birthing Practices edit

Foraging Societies:

In many foraging (hunting/gathering) cultures, the woman will walk away from the group to give birth on her own. This can result in an increase in complications and danger t the mother and child due to the lack of medication, assistance, and natural predators.

Agricultural Societies:

In agricultural societies, midwives usually assist women giving birth. Midwives are specially trained to deliver babies.

A woman giving birth on a birth chair, from a work by Eucharius Rößlin.

Industrial Societies: In many industrial societies, women in labor are given medication to help with the pain. Also, Caesarean births (C-Sections) are common. In parts of the U.S. and Brazil, 50% or more of births are C-Section births.

Causes of Maternal Death:

Indirect Causes: 20%

Severe Bleeding: 24%

Infection: 15%

Unsafe Abortion: 13%

Eclampsia (unstable blood pressure): 12%

Obstructed Labor: 8%

Other Direct Causes: 8%

Cultural Meaning of Birthing Practices edit

Birthing practices vary greatly across the world. In several different cultures, such as the Yucatán, Holland, and Sweden, a midwife is enlisted to help in the birthing process. All births in Sweden take place in hospitals with the help of trained midwives. However, in the US, 95% of births take place in a hospital, where the mother and child are treated as patients. This contrasts sharply from the Maasi of Kenya where the "mother gives birth in her own hut, and she remains there until her strength is recovered and she feels well again. During that time she is attended by the women of the village or kraal.[18]" Countries have also been seeing an increased rate of Caesarian sections performed in recent years. [17] Not only have medical technologies improved to make this practice more safe for the mother and child, but the industrial and post-industrial societies that make up developed countries today require individual participants to schedule everything into exact slots of time. Through this surgery, women are able to schedule the exact moment they give birth and can thus plan their return to society ahead of time.

Nevertheless, the different birthing practices all hold a cultural similarity in that they affect all aspects of social life in a culture. Childbirth affects the mothers because of all the potential differences in the meaning of childbirth and can allow the woman to become closer to herself, her significant other, and her family. In no culture does childbirth go unnoticed, and the different birthing practices help establish the different cultural meanings of the birth.

For example:

  • In Japan, mothers are encouraged to eat traditional foods that will nourish the mother and baby during the labor. Mochi and eggs are high in protein and carbohydrates which give the Japanese mothers strength and energy in the birthing process. Traditionally, the feelings of pain expressed through noises and verbal expression were considered acceptable but such extreme expressions were considered shameful. Mothers are expected to remain stoic throughout the delivery process. These traditional beliefs are still widely held in Japanese culture concerning birth.
  • Tradition also states that fathers would not be present during the birth. Midwives and female relatives were however allowed to be in the room with the mother in labor. [18]

Child Birth in Kenya edit

Many African hospitals are expensive for the average family to afford to deliver their baby with medical attention. A Kenyan woman named Wanjiru shares her story “I remember going to the hospital in 2001. I was in pain, like most of the other women, but we were made to sit on a wooden bench and were not allowed to go into the labour ward without paying.” Because majority African hospitals are so overwhelmed by the number of pregnant women that need help delivering their baby, they are usually not very polite. Wanjiru was told, “You are asked to spread your legs ‘like you did for your husband.” According to a report, Failure to deliver, prepared by the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), there are numerous challenges facing women in Kenya’s health facilities, including suffering abuse and neglect before and during delivery. (

Postpartum Depression edit

During the period of time following childbirth, it is common that young mothers experience what is known as postpartum depression. This is a period of time where the mother feels gloomy and sad rather than happy about her new child. Postpartum depression occurs in about 13% of pregnancies within the first 12 weeks and will continue in about 8% of pregnancies.[19] In extreme cases postpartum depression can continue long enough to be considered postpartum psychosis. There are multiple risk factors that will increase a women's chances of having postpartum depression after birth. These include a history of anxiety or depression, obstetric and neonatal complications, increased amount of stress, and a small social group of friends. There are many doctors and researchers worldwide conducting studies on how to intervene during the pregnancy and after the pregnancy to see if there are changes.

Asian cultures tend to have higher rates of depression postpartum but in Pakistan and Nepal it's more prevalent and has an increased rate, 28-63%.[20] Researchers believe this has to do with the mother's environment and culture. For instance, there's an increased amount of physiological violence from their male partners, illiteracy of both parents, and serious neonatal complications. All these issues bring lots of stress and low self-esteem on the mother and even baby putting the mother at higher risk for depression postpartum. Women in lower socio-economic areas need more medical and mental health assistance during their pregnancy to ensure mental stability and a safe delivery.

Breast Feeding edit

International Breastfeeding Symbol

Breast Feeding practices vary between cultures. A child should be breastfed for at least six months and is recommended to be continued until two to four years of age. Breast milk carries many nutritional benefits to the child. Vitamins and antibodies that the mother carries are passed on to the baby to help build the immune system and developing body. Breastfeeding is also critical for mother and child bonding. Hormones are exchanged in the breast milk and well as in the mother to promote nurturing feelings. During the breastfeeding months, lactational amennorrhea occurs which prevents the mother from conceiving again. In some cultures, this is a method for birth control and is classified as natural family planning.

In the United States and other industrial societies, breastfeeding practices may look different from foraging or agricultural societies. A mother may cut her time of breastfeeding short in order to return to a career or job. Many mothers will pump their breast milk to feed the child when she may not be there or is out in public. Using artificial formula is also common, although the baby may suffer nutritionally and socially. In societies, such as The United States, breastfeeding may also be cut short due to a socially constructed attitude of individuals being independent. A mother may be socially ridiculed for breastfeeding her child too long and not promoting them to become nutritionally independent. Mothers breastfeeding in public are often sexualized and, for that, a negative social stigma surrounding breastfeeding has developed over the years. Society has conditioned women to feel ashamed for a natural and necessary bodily function, which is a product of the over-sexualization and objectification of women's bodies.

A 1999 research project done in Munich, Germany at the Institute for Social Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine did a study on the effects of breastfeeding and its relationship to childhood obesity. This study was comprised of 9,357 German children between the ages of 5 and 6. The study found that children who were breastfed for 3 to 5 months had a 35% reduced risk of being obese upon their entry into school. Breastfeeding has also been linked to an increase in cognitive intelligence.[21]

Nationwide Insurance Company Court Case

In 2015, a former employee of Nationwide Insurance Company Angela Ames sued her employer for not allowing time for her to pump breast milk for her child. When she approached him, he sent her home to "be with her babies;" however, during that time he wrote her a letter of resignation and she was promptly fired the next day. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Nationwide and the Eighth Circuit Court, denying Ames’ petition for a review of her case’s dismissal. The trial court’s decision — which the Circuit Court upheld — said that for Nationwide’s firing of Ames for taking the time to express milk at work could not have been sexist because, under certain circumstances, some men can lactate, too. The court’s reasoning, in this case, echoes old Supreme Court pronouncements that discriminating against pregnant women at work isn't sex discrimination because both men and women can be non-pregnant. Congress long ago rejected this ridiculous reasoning when it passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.[22]

Formula Feeding of Infants edit

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends breast milk feeding as the best method for feeding infants, many parents still choose formula as an acceptable alternative. There are several reasons for this. Some medical conditions are best treated with the use of formulas. These include congenital lactase deficiency, galactosemia, atopic disease and milk protein allergies. Another reason people opt for formula feeding over breastfeeding is convenience. Working or traveling mothers may find formula feeding an easier alternative over the physical demands of breastfeeding. Obviously, it enables others, besides the mother, to feed the infant. Mothers experiencing postpartum depression may find it difficult to breastfeed their babies and thus they may opt for formula feedings. In this way postpartum depression impacts a mothers bonding with her child through the absence of hormone transfer through breastmilk. Some parents choose to give their infants formula in bottles as a method of helping the baby sleep rather than providing it with nutrition. This is not recommended due to risk of suffocation, choking or tooth decay.[23]

There are different types of formula available today. They are classified according to three basic criteria: caloric density, carbohydrate source, and protein composition. Most infants intaking formula need one with iron. For congenital lactase deficiency and galactosemia, soy formulas are recommended. Hypoallergenic formulas with hydrolyzed protein are best for infants with atopic disease and milk protein allergies. None of these formulas are effective in the treatment of colic in infants. There are antireflux formulas that decrease the incidence of emesis and regurgitation, but since they do not help growth or development and therefore, are not often recommended.[24]

The American Pediatrics Association does advocate breastfeeding over formula feeding for infants in the first six months of their life if they do not have any of these complicating medical conditions. Breastfeeding provides infants with natural antibodies and is typically more easily digested than formula.[25]

In the early years of the 20th-century breastfeeding was the most common form of infant feeding in the United States. But with the advent of better sanitation and refrigeration, milk could be more safely stored. As well, the use of evaporated milk for formula preparation decreased bacterial contamination and curd tension of infant formulas. From 1930 through the 1960s, breastfeeding declined and cow’s milk and formula (called beikost) were introduced into the diet at earlier and earlier ages. Mothers with middle to upper income could afford refrigeration and get pasteurized milk and thus were more inclined, if so desired, to use cow’s milk and formula. Lower income mothers or mothers living in areas without electricity were less inclined to do so. This would include mothers from ghetto areas in large cities and those from remote rural areas.[26]

Formula Feeding in Somalia:

Getting proper nutrition is an ongoing problem in Somalia for many residents there, particularly those in the mid to lower economic bracket. Consequently, plump babies are considered healthy babies. Such mothers in Somalia often supplement breastfeeding of their infants with formula or just switch to total formula feeding to ensure a plump baby. This often starts early in the child’s life as mothers believe that breast milk and its important ingredient, colostrum, are often no good for more than three hours – and thus non-nutritional upon the birth of the child. For Somali immigrants, many do not have adequate family support to allow for the mother enough rest and are not familiar with pumping and storage as an option to provide breast milk. This is why many of them choose formula feeding for their infants.[27]

Reproductive Technologies edit

Reproductive technologies are devices or materials that are used to interact with natural human or animal reproduction. The circumstances in which the use of reproductive technologies is utilized or even accepted varies in many areas of the world. While many people across the globe use technologies such as condoms or other contraception methods, it is not universally accepted by all, especially during different times in history. The reason for this can include an individual's or society's religious practices, prominent in pre-twentieth century Catholic belief systems. Another more advanced use of reproductive technologies is demonstrated in the procreation between same-sex couples. These technologies help couples who are unable to procreate naturally to birth children with genetic materials from both parents. Technologies similar to that can be utilized with opposite-sex partners as well. If one or both individuals is unable to procreate naturally, genetic material can be combined and implanted into a surrogate female who will then carry the child to term for the parents.

Artificial Insemination edit

Artificial insemination (AI) is the deliberate introduction of sperm into a female's uterus, fallopian tubes or cervix for the purpose of achieving a pregnancy through in vitro fertilization by means other than sexual intercourse.[28] The procedure can be used for many kinds of fertility problems. For men, it is often used when men have very low sperm count or have sperm that is not strong enough to swim through the cervix and up into the fallopian tubes. For women, AI is utilized in situations of endometriosis, abnormal reproductive organ, and unreceptive cervical mucus. Oftentimes doctors will suggest AI when they are unsure of the reason for a couple's infertility. There are four types of AI including intrauterine Insemination, intrauterine tuboperitoneal insemination, intracervical insemination, and intratubal insemination.

Success rates for this procedure vary. In the U.S., success rates of AI are observed at 10 to 15 percent among women aged 41 to 42 and 5 percent in women over 42.[29] Some contributing factors for unsuccessful pregnancies using AI are medical issues of the woman (severe case of endometriosis, severe damage or blockage of fallopian tubes), poor egg or sperm quality and the older age of the woman. [30]

Artificial insemination, coupled with a fertility treatment such as gonadotrophin, renders a greater chance of having twins or triplets. Since the average cost of artificial insemination is from $1500 to $4,000 per pregnancy, it may be more financially beneficial for a couple to have more than one child per procedure.

Faiths that place a strong emphasis on the procreation of the family, such as Mormons, may opt for artificial insemination before adoption or AI from an outside sperm donor. In this way, couples increase the chances of carrying on their own lineage. The Mormon church does not approve of single women using AI. It also discourages AI of married women using semen from anyone but their husband. The Church does, however, note that children conceived by artificial insemination where the sperm is donated by the husband are sealed in the temple and are considered lineage of the couple. [31]

Surrogacy edit

Surrogacy is another form of reproductive technology that has enhanced reproduction in Western societies. For families that are unable or unwilling to conceive, they can choose surrogacy. Surrogacy is achieved by entering into a legal contract with a willing participate who will carry the baby to full term and deliver it for the family. A medical professional will manufacture a fetus out of the parents' fertilized sperm and egg, and then implant it into the carrier. This process is called In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The carrier agrees to be paid a certain sum of money as well as typically health care and sometimes rent, groceries and amenities. In the United States, it is typical to pay someone between $100,000 to $150,000 US Dollars.

However, if this is too much money or the family does not want to know the carrier, they can choose to have a surrogate in another country. In India, surrogates are typically paid between $6,000 - $8,000 which is much more than they would be paid working a typical job. They are given a room to sleep in, regular doctors appointments, food and anything they could need. This is often a much better choice for women in India than to work in a factory. They consider their womb to be like a room that they rent out periodically.[32] It should be noted that these surrogate mothers, while given counseling, do sometimes experience postpartum depression due to the absence of the child after birth.

Marriage edit

Bride and groom posing for a 'wedding kiss' photograph.
A Sikh family during the Batna ceremony, the bride's female kin apply besan to the bride's body while singing traditional songs.

Anthropologists recognize marriage as a way to “describe how different societies organize and understand mating and its consequences”. [19] The Anthropological definition of a prototypical marriage highlights the general expectations and facets that form this social construct. Within various cultures, marriage is symbolically represented through a range of very simple to elaborate weddings. A marriage generally transforms the roles and responsibilities of two individuals within society. For example, an individual’s expectation of personal finance may be transformed to support both himself/herself and their spouse. Marriage also sets the implications of permitted sexual access by setting boundaries for what is acceptable and when it is acceptable. However, these implications are also set based on personal preference as well as cultural norms.

Marriage is also a method in which cultural tradition is passed on to the children of the participants. Although the marriage relationship is a ‘traditional’ means for shaping a child’s standing and position in society, nontraditional roles also serve as a valid means of raising children within a cultural context. Marriage also serves as a means of creating extended families linking the Kin of the individuals.

Why Do People Get Married? edit

According to the textbook, "people get married in order to combine political and economic relations which empower both families". This means that marriage is not only for love and sex, but to share values and gain recognition of the public. For instance, when a couple gets married they now share insurance benefits to each other and their potential children. Marriage could be a way to put a loyalty promise between the couple for in terms of prosperity, as well as an indication of being sexually owned by your partner. In some societies, sex is prohibited, usually because of religious purposes or cultural reasons. Marriages became a symbolic method to practice sex without social discrimination or violating laws and morals.

Monogamy and Polygamy edit

Monogamy edit

Monogamy is the custom of having only one spouse at one time. In some cases, monogamy means having only one spouse for an entire life span. Out of the different types of marriages, monogamy is the only one that is legal in the United States and in most industrial nations. While Polygamy was at one time allowed in Utah because it was part of the traditions of the Fundamentalist Mormons [20] that were settled there, it is now illegal in the United States as a whole. There are several types of monogamy that are practiced throughout the world which include: social, sexual, genetic, marital, and serial monogamy.

  • Social monogamy: Two persons/creatures that live together, have sex with one another, and cooperate in acquiring basic resources such as food, clothes, and money.
  • Sexual monogamy: Two persons/creatures that remain sexually exclusive with one another and have no outside sex partners.
  • Genetic monogamy: Two partners that only have offspring with one another.
  • Marital monogamy: Marriages of only two people.
  • Serial monogamy: A series of relationships. One person has only one partner at a time and then moves on to another partner after severing the relationship with the first.

Monogamy is seen as the most common type of practice in the United States. Monogamy is the type of marriage practiced in many Christian countries around the world because Christians share the belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman no matter what. To reference the Bible, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh, Genesis 2:24” Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States and this is one of the reasons why monogamy is largely practiced.

Although the American definition of monogamy restricts an individual to legally have only a single spouse, he or she can divorce that spouse and remarry as many times as desirable.

Polygamy edit

The term Polygamy is a Greek word meaning "The practice of multiple Marriage". It is a marriage pattern in which an individual is married to more than one person at a time. One example of a society in which Polygamy was prevalent was the Tiwi. They are a group of hunter-gathers in North Australia. However, the Tiwi have slowly adapted to a monogamous family structure.[33] There are two different types of Polygamy: Polygyny and Polyandry.

Polygyny edit

Polygyny is the most common and accepted form of polygamy, involving the marriage of one man with several women. Most countries that permit polygyny are Muslim-majority countries, although historically Hinduism, Judaism, and early Christianity have also permitted the practice.

The Hindu scriptures acknowledge many instances of polygyny, as was the cultural norm among kings, nobility and the very wealthy. While having only one wife was regarded and morally exemplary, polygyny remained acceptable among Hindus until the Hindu Marriage Act of 1956 legally abolished the practice.

In Judaism and early Christianity, the Torah includes specific regulations on the practice of polygyny and was practiced well into the biblical period; although the practice was largely restricted to the wealthy. For a man to take on a second, or multitude of wives, one must be able to financially and sexually satisfy each and obtain permission from his first wife. In recent years, most persons practicing Judaism have banned polygyny except in rare circumstances. However, some Jewish communities in non-European countries such as Yemen and the Arab world still practice polygyny.

Under Sharia, Muslim men are allowed to practice polygyny and have up to a total of four wives. There are strict requirements to marrying more than one woman, as the man must be able to treat each equally financially and in terms of support for each wife. The polygyny that is allowed in the Qur’an is for special situations and advises monogamy if a man cannot satisfy the requirements. The practice of polygyny is legal in most Muslim-majority countries and is illegal in Muslim-majority Turkey, Tunisia, and Central Asian Countries.

Polygynous Families edit

A Mende woman in the village of Njama in Kailahun District

     Polygynous families are families with husbands who have multiple wives. All of the wives interact with the husband at different times individually and as a whole. The wives also have relationships with one another as individuals and as a group. Whether there is jealousy between co-wives depends on the specific situation, individuals involved, and cultural attitudes toward polygyny. Polygynous families may have children from multiple mothers and the same father. The connection between the children and the true mother and same mother siblings is always different and usually stronger than with the other children. This large family of mothers and children may again lead to jealousy and competition for the husband or father.
     The competition between co-wives usually focused on how many children each wife had and what these children are given in materials and education. The wives are usually ranked higher depending on who married first, and with the addition of the status of the families they came from. The husbands are supposed to avoid showing favoritism, especially when it is out of ranking or anger and jealousy can break out in the family. The rivalries between wives can lead to bitter feuds and divorces. The wives depend on their children to support them after the husband dies, so education and the passing down of land or cash is crucial. Most husbands can only afford to send one or two children to school, which is why there can be such fierce competition.

  • Mende of Sierra Leone
        The Mende culture is patrilineal, patrilocal, and polygamous. They have multiple wives with multiple children from different wives. The wives are ranked in order or marriage to the husband and from the status of the family in which they first came from. Everyone works as a group and as individuals with the husband, which is also the perfect cooking pot for competition and feuds. The Mende's are a perfect example of polygynous families, but only one of thousands of cultures with such structures.
  • Nayars
     The Nayars, a warrior group of the Malabar coast of India. This tribe had the belief in which the woman was “married” to a man she rarely saw. He received a fee for this and was considered the official “father” of her children. From adolescence, she was free to copulate with several husbands, presented to her by her mother or uncle. Each husband would spend a few days at a time with her and the privilege of hanging his weapons on her door. As wars became less common among the Nayars, they moved toward monogamy.
         Marriage customs among the Nayars have caused much controversy in India among social scientists and jurists. The two kinds of marriage: talikettu kalyanam (tying ceremony); and sambandham (the customary nuptials of a man and a woman). The tali-tying ceremony had to be held before puberty and often the ceremony was held for several girls at the same time to save on expenses. The tali could be tied by a member of a linked lineage, by a member of a higher subcaste of Nayars, by one of the matrilineal Ambilavasi (temple servant) castes, or by a member of royal lineage. By the mid-1950s it became common for girls to have the tali tied by their mothers. This is still controversial to if this was even a ceremonial marriage or just an age-grade ceremony.[21]

Polyamory edit

When most people think about a relationship between more than two people, they generally envision one man with multiple wives, usually as part of a religious community. However, there is a growing community of people in the United States (and other Western countries) who engage in a relationship style called polyamory. Polyamory can take many forms; a closed relationship between three people is often called a "triad", while more complex arrangements are sometimes referred to as a "polycule" because the web of attachments between people can resemble complex diagrams of the structure of molecules. Members of a triad, "polycule", or any other type of polyamorous relationship can be of any gender identities and sexual orientations, and different people choose this type of relationship for different reasons. The underlying philosophy of most polyamorous people is that love is not something with a finite quantity, and loving multiple people does not diminish the depth of the relationship with any of them.

Serial Monogamy vs. Serial Polygamy edit

Monogamy is the practice of being married to one person at a time. To be a serial monogamist is a lifestyle consisting of repeated relationships with one partner. More specifically, it’s described as going from being in a sexual relationship with one person to another after ending a relationship with that person.[22] This is an example of modern day dating. Many relationships involve being with one person, and then when that relationship ends, moving on. With serial polygamy, it is the opposite. A serial polygamist will have multiple partners at any given point of their dating or marital life. This practice is often frowned upon in many western cultures, as cheating on a partner is a morally irresponsible thing to do, however there are many cultures that accept these types of arrangements as the norm; these can be seen in many lesser known religions as well as many native tribes in Africa and around the world.

Same-Sex Marriage edit

In the United States, LGBTQ, (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning or Queer) individuals have finally begun to be recognized as legitimate parts of society. There is still great prejudice against members of the LGBTQ community, and hate crimes are continuously prevalent, especially against the groups which are less commonly accepted such as transgender individuals. Even though the LGBTQ community has lived under this harassment for so many years, many major strides have been made in the United States to better the lives of everyone who identifies as part of the community; one of which being the landmark supreme court decision in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case in 2015. This case determined that due to the legislation written in the 14th amendment (created in 1868) marriage is not to be denied to any United States citizens. Many other nations have recognized gay marriage as well, including Canada, France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Spain, United Kingdom, and many more. There is an ever spreading institution of clubs that promote equality and awareness, an example of which is the G.S.A. (Gay-Straight Alliance), the G.S.A. club is commonly seen in high schools and other youth dominated systems. In schools, this is a large factor in the ever rising awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. Groups such as these also support outreach to LGBTQ individuals, often youths, who have struggled with issues ranging from depression to poverty to complete abandonment and disconnection from their families upon coming out.

Ghost Marriage edit

Ghost marriages take place when a wealthy or influential male member of a village dies without any living children. A woman will then marry his "ghost" at a ceremony, usually with the brother of the deceased as a stand-in. The wife is then said to be married to the ghost of the man, and can then have his children, using the brother to facilitate this. These children, although not biological children to the deceased, serve as heirs to his heritage and can inherit both his property and his status in a society. However, this means that the brother is usually left without any children of his own before he dies, and then he must have his children through a ghost marriage, creating a circle. These practices are most common in Sudan but is also practiced in China.

In China a ghost marriage is called Minghun. In china ghost marriages also mean when a man is married to a deceased female, more likely currently due to the growing shortage of females, so that he maintains his status in this world. This can also help the deceased brides family from feeling the shame of an unwed daughter. The practices of a Minghun are conditional to that of the Sudanese ghost marriage. In arranging a ghost marriage in China, families do not use a diviner or priest, but feel the groom is "chosen" for the deceased ghost-bride. A red envelope used for money or gifts are placed in the middle of the street where a stranger will come to pick it up. Meanwhile the family hides nearby. At which time the stranger picks up the envelope the family reveals itself and announces that the stranger is the ghost brides groom.[34]

Among other cultures who practice ghost marriage, is the Nuer of Nigeria. The Nuer believed that a man who died without male heirs would leave an unsatisfied angry spirit behind to trouble his family. A woman would then be chosen to marry a family member of the dead man and the children produced by these two would be thought of as belonging to the man who died.

Levirate Marriages are somewhat similar to ghost marriages. A levirate marriage is when a woman marries one of her husband's brothers after her husband has died. In some cases, this only occurs if the husband died without children. Then, since the woman marries his brother, the family name carries on. These marriages have mostly happened in places in Asia and the Middle East.

Arranged Marriage edit

Arranged marriage is a union established by the parents, or other interested parties, often without consent from the couple involved. There are 5 different types or levels of arranged marriages:

  • Forced: Parents dictate whom their children will marry and the children have no say in the matter.
  • Traditional-Limited. However, in this level individuals are given slightly more choice and this is therefore seen as more "modern" method.
  • Modern with Courtship: Parents will say whom their child should marry, but the child is allowed a period of courtship to get to know their intended spouse.
  • Introduction Only: Parents only introduce those involved to each other, and do not force their children to marry if they do not want to. This is seen as more of a "nudge" than an arrangement.

An arranged marriage is often seen, not as a bond between a couple, but as a promise/approval of a union between two families. Arranged marriages usually benefit the families more than the couple, as it strengthens economic and social ties between the two. For example, an arranged marriage to a cousin makes sure that wealth and rank stay within the family.

Parents can make sure that the arranged marriage goes through in several ways. They can not come to a wedding that they do not approve of, they can pay only for the marriage that they want, and in some countries, they can even impose legal sanctions on the undesired marriage.

Arranged marriages tend to last because the people participating enter the marriage with lower expectations and no responsibility. Often the two parties will grow together, and learn to accommodate one another's needs. The responsibility for the happiness of the marriage lies with the parents who put the two together. These marriages also tend to be more functional and stable, and they can be maintained with less effort than traditional Western marriages. This, however, may be due to factors relating to the beliefs and traditions of the cultures in which arranged marriages are more common.

The Unification Church strongly believes in arranged marriages. Reverend Moon started the Unification church in 1954 in Seoul, South Korea. He is believed to be “the one who clarified the Truth.” He believes that it is his job to unify the world through integrated marriages. This religion is present in over 150 countries. In 1982, 2000 couples in the U.S were married. Reverend Moon had arranged marriages for all of his followers, which he had personally picked out. Now that the church has grown immensely, he has passed down the responsibility to the mothers. Many of them have arranged spouses for their daughters by the time they are 13. However, the family waits to set them up until they graduate high school or sometimes college.

Residence Pattern edit

A wooden wagon (Doli) in which a bride is taken to her husband's home. Although this is a thing of past now, the administration of Chandigarh depicted this in its annual Chandigarh carnival 2005.

There are four major residence patterns, Neolocal, Patrilocal, Matrilocal, and Avunculocal.

  1. Neolocal Residence is most common with North American couples. This is where the couple finds their own house, independent from all family members.
  2. Patrilocal Residence is most commonly used with herding and farming societies. It's where the married couple lives with the husband’s father’s family. By living with the husband’s family, it lets all the men, (the father, brothers, and sons) continue to work together on the land.
  3. Matrilocal Residence is most familiar among horticultural groups. It's where the couple moves to live where the wife grew up; usually found with matrilineal kinship systems.
  4. Avunculocal Residence is also related in matrilineal societies however in this case the couple moves to live with the husband’s mother’s brother. They live with the most significant man, his uncle, because it's who they will later inherit everything from.
A Hindu Kush woman in the Northeastern part of India in the Himalayan Region.

There are two other forms of residence, however, they aren't as common. There's Ambilocal residence where the couple lives with one family for a while and then moves to live with the other spouse's family. Eventually, they have to decide who to live with permanently. And then there's Duolocal residence where lineage membership is so important to both the husband and wife that even though the couple is married they still live apart from one another and with their families.

The division of labor by sex largely determines where a couple resides after marriage. If the male predominates in the division of labor than the couple's residence tends to be an Avunculocal and Patrilocal residence. However, if the females predominate than they tend to live in matrilocal residence. And if neither sex predominates in the division of labor than their residence tends to be more ambilocal or neolocal residence.

Marriage and Economic Exchange edit

Eating special foods such as cake is a common part of many wedding ceremonies.

Often paired with marriage in many cultures is a trade of symbolic or economic goods. These types of exchanges can mainly be fit into two distinct camps, dowry and bridewealth.

Dowry edit

Dowry is a transfer of wealth, usually flowing from a woman’s parents or family when she is to be married in the form of money, land or other goods. Often, the husband brings various forms of wealth to a newly created household, and a dowry is thought of as the wife’s donation, to the household or the husband. Dowry can also be viewed as an inheritance for the woman, though this is usually in cultures where both men and women are heirs. In other cases, such as in socially stratified societies, a dowry gives a woman the security of knowing that after she is married she can still enjoy her usual lifestyle and in the case of divorce, avoid poverty and discomfort.If the husband and wife are to be divorced, the wife is able to get back the dowry that her parents had given. Usually, a woman with a greater dowry is able to find herself a rich husband, while a woman with a smaller dowry is able to only find herself a poor husband. Dowry is mainly found in Europe and Asia's agricultural communities, but can also be found in Africa. The types of goods that a dowry can consist of vary greatly from society to society, but some specific examples are:

  • A dowry consisting of televisions, refrigerators and air conditioners in contemporary India.
  • The Western-European tradition of a bride’s family paying for the bulk of their daughter's wedding. However, this is a greatly diffused example of dowry.
  • The Rajput tradition of a solely transportable dowry, consisting of jewelry, clothing, money and household goods.

More specifically, in the society of the northern Indian Khalapur Rajputs, how well women marry, and more importantly how they are treated by their husbands family corresponds directly with the size of their dowries. This is because women will normally marry into a higher social ranking. This process forces them to move to their husband's village (Patrilocal Residence), and assume the role of foreigner alongside the family. Prior to the late 1900’s, Rajput wives actions were completely facilitated by their mother-in-laws, who gave them household jobs, oversaw how much time they spend with their husbands, and controlled their dowries- a contradiction to the idea that a dowry is a woman’s inheritance from her parents. In more contemporary India, however, dowries have been banned, though they are still quite regularly used.

Bridewealth edit

Bridewealth is the transfer of symbolic goods from the husband’s family to the bride’s family. This form of economic exchange is most often found in agricultural and pastoral patrilineal societies, though it is not limited those lifestyles. Usually, bridewealth represents some form of compensation to the bride’s family from the husband’s family, for their loss of her labor and ability to bear them children. This is because when a woman marries, she goes to live, produce children, and work with her husband’s family, leaving her own. In many cases, bridewealth also serves to create a positive relationship between the families of the husband and wife. When the wife's family receives the bridewealth, they use the goods they receive for their daughter to find her brother a wife. Some examples of the goods which are exchanged in regards to bridewealth are:

  • A bridewealth consisting of animals, such as cattle or goats, in east and South Africa.
  • A bridewealth of cash in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Different Cultural Reference Rules for Marriage edit

Kinship terminologies are shaped by the kind of clan organization found in a society, not by a group's position on evolutionary scale. The term you use to identify someone in relation to you shapes how you should interact with them

Endogamy edit

Endogamy is the practice of marriage within a specific cultural group or social group based on custom or law. An example of endogamy is the marriage between those who are of the same faith or belief system.

Practicing endogamy requires that you reject marrying someone on the basis that they do not fit into your social group whether it is because of religious affiliations, social classes, ethnicities, etc.. Individuals that practice endogamy says that it unifies social groups and encourages bonding. Some say the practice of endogamy allows for cultures to survive and maintain practices and beliefs when they move to an alien area. Yet this very same idea of cultural survival through endogamy may also lead to the extinction of some social groups that refuse to intermarry, leading to a decrease in their population.

One social practice that can identify with endogamy is Jewish marriages. Although not all Jewish people practice endogamy, 47% of Jews in the United States are in intermarriages. Still many orthodox rabbis will not officiate at interfaith marriages because the three major branches of Judaism do not allow, people who want to be in intermarriages. This long-standing belief that intermarriages should not be allowed in Judaism originates from an idea that women are sanctified to their husbands and cannot be sanctioned if both are not Jewish. Endogamy is practiced for many reasons, and it is a large part of Jewish culture, but as globalization occurs more and more people are beginning to become part of intermarriages and stopping the practice of endogamy.

Although marriage within one's specific cultural or social group is common throughout various many societies, the presence of 'incest taboo' creates a prohibition on sexual relations between close family members. One proposed reason as to why this taboo prevent incest in so many societies is the correlation of increased birth defects when the two parents are genetically similar. The Westermarck Effect also works to combat incest as it causes a natural revulsion toward marriage or sex with close relatives. The Westermarck Effect is also responsible for a revulsion towards people that resemble your close family members, but not those that resemble you.

Exogamy edit

Exogamy is the practice of marriage outside of a specific cultural group or social group. Exogamy was said to have arisen as a way of avoiding inter-familial marriage or incest. Examples of exogamy groups include, but are not limited to, people from the immediate family, people whom are considered kin, and those of the same sex. A lot of times exogamy is less likely to occur in places where different races are of higher classes than others are. Such as in South Africa the whites are considered to be of a higher class than the full Africans in the townships, so a parent would be against the exogamy of a white into the African community. Exogamy is often practiced in tribal communities, where a male from one tribe will marry a woman from a tribe outside of his own. Exceptions to exogamy, such as interracial or same-sex marriages can make a person a pariah in their own community. American culture naturally harbors exogamy in the social and marital realms, since it is such a diverse nation.

Hypergamy and Hypogamy edit

Hypergamy is the practice of marrying into a social or cultural group that is equal to or higher than the caste that one was born into. Hypergamy deals with women marrying into a higher class. Hypergamy includes but is not limited to marring a person of higher education, financial status, as well as social status. Usually cultures that practice hypergamy have a very strong focus on class and the finances necessary to support a prosperous life. A man with higher earning power can provide better for offspring than a man of lesser status. Hypogamy is the practice of a man marrying a woman of a higher class or of higher social status than himself. This happens mostly in countries where women have an equal opportunity to make money or be better educated. Hypogamy is less commonly found in cultures where women have fewer rights than men. Some examples of this are the Islamic and early American cultures.

Isogamy edit

Isogamy refers to a biological condition where sex cells, or gametes, are identical to each other. Many fungi and plants have isogamous gametes. In mammals, though, the ovum (female reproductive cell) is larger and looks much different than the sperm cell (male reproductive cell). This is called anisogamy. This may also pertain to same-sex relations since monogamy means having a committed relationship with just one partner at a time. Isogamy could also mean being in a committed relationship with the same sex.

Divorce edit

Divorce is the termination of marriage. In the United States and many other countries it is a legal process in which a judge legally ends a marriage and all marital duties. The result leaves the two individuals status as “single”. A divorce does not declare a marriage null and void, as in an annulment, but instead states that the marriage was unsuccessful for any of a variety of reasons and declares the two individuals as single. When a divorce takes place there are many things that the judge will have to rule on ranging from the custody of the children to the sharing of property. Western cultures have seen a sharp increase in divorces over the past fifty years. A study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University found that only 63% of American children grow up with both biological parents. Most cultures make it possible for individuals to terminate a marriage. In some societies the process is longer and harder, while in others it is almost impossible. There are many countries where divorce is illegal and taboo.

Divorce and Children edit

There are numerous problems that can arise in a family which can lead to a divorce, one of which is dysfunction. Not only is the dysfunction a part of the cause of divorce but can also be a factor on the adjustment that children go through when a family separates. It is often said that about half of first marriages will be dissolved, however, the number is actually closer to 40-45% and projected to reach 50%, while the divorce rate is typically higher with second and third marriages (around 60-68% and 73% respectively).[35] Along with that concludes that there will be an estimated half of children will live in a single-parent household, regularly that being with the mother of the child. The many possible reasons behind such a high rate of divorce are the independence of women, declining earnings among men without college degrees, rising expectations for personal fulfillment from marriage, and greater social acceptance of divorce. (Amato R. P, 2000)

When getting divorced, there are many ways parents can help ease their children into their new family situation. Having couples initiate and encourage open discussions with their children, and reassure their support and love for their children can be extremely beneficial in the adjustment of a new divorce. Assure the parties involved that it is not their fault, and making sure continuous contact with the other parent is available. Sometimes allowing the option for counseling can be very important; it allows the child and/or children involved to talk with someone else in a safe space, where they can express their emotions and not feel obligated to take sides with a parent but just allow them to talk open and honest about how they are feeling.

Divorce in Islam edit

Divorce in Shari'a law is often initiated by the wife with a the Khula, the returning or denial of her dowry or the husband simply saying the word "Talaq" three times.[36] Imams often act as marriage counselors to Muslim couples seeking a divorce, their likelihood to recommend divorce is usually based on their particular sect and culture. Divorce in Islam is focused on the reconciliation of the married couple whenever possible.[37]

Before the divorce can be finalized there is a waiting period called the Iddah. The standard period of an Iddah is three of the wife's menstrual cycles, this is to see if there is a child from the marriage. If the woman cannot bear children then the waiting period is three months. During this time the wife may not seek out another marriage. A Muslim male is allowed to change his mind up to three times. The male can divorce his wife three times and each time take her back, but when the third strike is in, the man can no longer have any contact with his ex-wife and she's prohibited to him.

Divorce in the Philippines edit

In the Philippines, a married couple cannot divorce by law. Regardless of where they live, this law follows them throughout the entire world. Article 15 of the New Civil Code states that laws pertaining to familial rights and responsibilities, or to the standing, form and legal capability of persons, are compulsory upon inhabitants of the Philippines even though residing overseas. Therefore, Filipinos are still under the rule of their land even if they are in another location. Annulment is the only recourse a Filipino citizen has under normal circumstances. This is different than a Decree of Nullity of Marriage. This states that the marriage was invalid at its inception. It was not legal due to incorrect agreement or performance by the clergy. [23]

Divorce and The Catholic Church edit

Christianity as a general whole frowns upon divorce shading it as very negative. However, toleration among the different Christian domination's differs. The Roman Catholic Church for example expressly forbids divorce for any sacramental consumated marriage defining a couple as wed until the death of one or both of the spouses or unless an annulment is granted. If there is no annulment, then even if separated, they may not remarry and are not considered "single" as defined by the term divorce. The topic of divorce can be found bibliographically in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and the epistles of Paul. Paul addresses this issue forwardly in "his First Epistle to the Corinthians chapter 7: "Let not the wife depart from her husband...let not the husband put away his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)" and in "his Epistle to the Romans stating:"For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth...So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress" (Romans 7:2-3)". Demonstrating clearly the Roman Catholic view on the topic of divorce and the biblical support in it's standing. w:Religion and divorce

Divorce and American Society edit

“If the family is the building block of society, then marriage is the foundation of the family. (Fagan)” Divorce in the US is estimated to, by the National Center for Health Statistics, to occur in 43% of all marriages (Divorce Rates[38]). The effects of so many divorces have tremendous long-term impacts on both the divorcees and any children involved. And divorce will affect not only the current generation but is suggested by mounting social evidence to even affect future generations. This has severe impacts on the society as a whole, with so many divorces occurring. For example, it is estimated that families with children that were not poor before see their income drop by about fifty percent after a divorce; this then affects society as a whole when that family seeks financial assistance from the government. the US government spends $150 billion each year to subsidize and sustain single parent families compared to $150 million spent annually on programs to strengthen marriage. In other words, for every $1000 spent after a divorce only $1 is spent to help families sustain their marriage. In addition many families who experience divorce do not maintain the same religious practices they had while married, this can be for several reasons. However, religious practice of any kind has been linked to better health, longer marriages and a healthier overall family, thus the reduction in practice can worsen the effects of the divorce on the children and parents. Marriage is an important aspect of any society, and the US government should realize this and re-focus spending to help sustain this vital aspect to increase the health of its current people and those to come (Fagan[39]).

Kinship edit

Kinship refers to the culturally distinct relationships between individuals who are most likely thought of having family ties. Societies use kinship as a basis for forming social groups or for classifying people into roles and categories[24]. In anthropology, kinship includes people who are related by lineage and marriage. In many societies, kinship provides a way for transmitting status and property from one generation to the next. An ethnographic example of kinship would be in today's American culture, where the way in which kinship works can be seen when it comes to inheritance and the wills of the deceased. The closest in kin, such as the spouse or the children, tend to receive the inheritance before other, more distant, relatives do. An example of kinship in the Hindu religion is after the death of a family member, the rest of the family doesn't bath for sometimes ten or eleven days. After that period is up the family then meets for a ceremonial meal and many times will offer gifts to charity.[40]

Family arrangements in the United States have become more diverse with no particular household arrangement representing half of the United States population.[41]

Though most of the residential arrangements consist of simply a nuclear family, it is becoming more and more diverse with adoption, families not willing to put their elders in nursing homes, and unemployment creating tough living situations for some; as kin, it is expected that we are willing to offer help, shelter, and monetary support to those to whom we are related.

The Japanese Family edit

An ethnographic example of how a "family" is defined is the family structure in contemporary Japan. The contemporary Japanese family is much like that of the contemporary American family, usually consisting of a mother, father, and children living in the same household (nuclear family). Present family forms were developed from the traditional Japanese family, also known as the Ie (家) (pronounced 'e-ay'). This traditional system is unfamiliar to most Americans because it is more complex than what we are used to. The system consists of multigenerational households in which extended families, sometimes all the way up to great grandparents, all live together. The line of descent is patrilinial, or traced through the father. The children are expected to eventually leave the family to join another family and find their own way in the world with regard to a household, career, and the like. Rural families with more than one son typically send their second or third sons into the city to begin finding work in the more contemporary and industrial society. Historically, there was a different social cultural dynamic when it came to family roles. Presently, the family roles are, again, very much like those of the contemporary American family. The father generally goes to a job outside of the home, but there are many family owned businesses in Japan where the family lives in the same building as the location of their business (in this case, there is not such a separation between the father’s home life and work life). Because the father is away for long hours nearly every day of the week at work, this creates Japanese family dynamic: the father has less time to spend with the children. This puts stress on the mother, who oversees children’s education, and manages finances. Because she must be in charge of all of this, and keeping the household in order, the intimate relationship that usually exists between a mother and her children is essentially non-existent; rather, the relationship is very strained.[25]

With all kinship, the behaviors and closeness of relationships, the traditions created within families, the way we refer to our relatives, and the rules of residency all depend on familial descent.

Different Types of Descent edit

Through these different types of descent, there can also exist Genealogical Amnesia, which is the structural process of forgetting while groups of relatives, usually because they're not currently significant in social life.

Unilineal Descent
Unilineal decent groups can be found in many different places around the world. This principle is based on the fact that people believe that they are related to their kin through either their mother OR father, not both. They base this descent of the belief that the parent-child relationships are more important than any other type of relationship.

Unilineal descent groups that are made up of links from the father's side of the family are patrilineal, and descent groups that are made through links on the mother's side are matrilineal. [26]

Patrilineal Descent
The shield and spear of the Roman god Mars, which is also the alchemical symbol for iron, represents the male sex.male symbol
In the patrilineal system the child is linked with the group through male sex links only; the lineage of his/her father. This is found among 44% of all cultures. Within this type of descent it is the men who own the property, have political power, and hold status even though their livelihood depends on the women of their society for children. Daughters are often discriminated against within their own families because any investment made to them by the family will be lost when she is married. In most cases the daughters of a lineage will marry into another lineage and be exchanged for a Bride price. The Nuer are a good example of patrilinear descent: the clans are linked and separated by patrilineal ties which determined their "ancestors and symbols, corporate rights in territory, and common interests in cattle" [27]
The hand mirror and comb of the Roman goddess Venus is often used to represent the female sex.female symbol
Matrilineal Descent
The child of a matrilineal system is linked to the group through the lineage of their mother. This is found among 15% of all cultures. Contrary to Patrilineal descent, Matrilineal descent is not a monarchy. Within this type of descent it is the women who own the property and hold social power however it is men who work with the land by farming or animal husbandry. It is the husbands who marry into the wives lineage and work her land. Matrilineal decent is common within a horticulturally based mode of production and less common within an agriculturally based one; it does not work with increased wealth, differentiation, or inequality. [28] Markumakkathayam is an example of matrilinear descent: "It was one of the few traditional systems that gave women some liberty, and the right to property... the family lived together in a Tharavadu, which comprised a mother, her brothers and younger sisters, and her children. The oldest male member was known as the karanavar and was the head of the household and managed the family estate. Lineage was traced through the mother, and the children "belonged" to the mother's family. All family property was jointly owned. An example is the former princely state of Tiruvitankoor, where the royal lineage passes from the king to his nephew, rather than his son."[29] Two more examples of matrilineal descent are the Hopi tribe in Arizona and the Mosuo ethnic group in the Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces of China. The Mosuo are unique in that they are not only matrilineal but also matriarchal.
Bilineal Descent
Bilineal descent is most familiar to the western cultures. This particular group links individuals with the lineage of both the mother and father (relatives). For example, I would trace my family line on my Father's side of the family, as well as my Mother's, with both having equal importance to myself.

Anthropologists also refer to bilineal descent as bilateral descent, which is the principle that a descent group is formed by people who believe they are related to each other by connections made through their mothers and fathers equally. Another form of bilineal descent is the bilateral kindred. This group is much more common and consists of the relatives of one person or group of siblings and is the kinship group that most European and North Americans are familiar with. This type of group forms around a particular individual and includes all the people linked to that individual through kin of both sexes. These people refer to themselves as relatives to one another. [30]

Ambilineal descent
Individuals are descended from both parents, but are able to choose from which group they would like more affiliation. For example, in Jewish culture, it is said that the children are Jewish if their mother is Jewish; on the other hand, if the father (only) is Jewish, the children can make a choice as to whether or not they want to belong to the Jewish faith as well.
Cognatic descent
A mode of decent calculated from an ancestor, or a system of bilateral kinship where relationships are traced through both a mother and father. Cognatic tribes are found commonly among the Samoans of Central Polynesia. Cognatic descent allows people to be members of both their mother and their father's clan. The difference between cognatic clan and unilineal clan is that in cognatic clans, one can be a part of many clans. In some societies multiple memberships to different clans are possible.
Household Forms edit

The Definition of a Family edit

A family is a primary social group, in any society, of which two individuals who wish to share their lives together in a long-term committed relationship, raising offspring. Anthropologists and feminists have debated whether or not an adult male has to be present to be considered a family, this caused anthropologists to come up with different terms to distinguish between these different types of families. A conjugal family is one where a family is based on a marriage, a husband and wife, and their children. In most societies in the conjugal family, the spouse lives in the same dwelling, along with their children, though there are still some where the husband does not live with the wife and kids, but frequently visit them. A non-conjugal family also known as matrifocal family, this consists of just a woman and her children where the husband/father may occasionally be present or completely absent. Non-conjugal families across cultures are usually infrequent, however, in the United States non-conjugal families have become increasingly more frequent.

A study conducted on family discourses in L.A, California and Rome, Italy. The families from L.A appeared to set apart more isolated time with their children, leaving their communities outside. Whereas, the Roman families would tend to include the outside communities in their family bonding time.These two different family discourses could be the result of many years of oral traditions and the different varieties of the communities around them. This example of family discourses can help one to understand the impact the outside communities can have on the relationship between a family.[42]

Having an extended family is also very common in the United States. An extended family refers to a consanguineal family and also kindred who do not belong to the conjugal family. It is also what goes beyond the Nuclear family. Extended family consists of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. Your extended family may not always live in the same household with you but in many cases visit for many different occasions (family reunions, birthday parties, or simply just to enjoy the company of family). This type of family usually consists of multiple different generations of people. A kindred family is an egocentric network of relatives that extends beyond the domestic group.

Single Person edit

This household form consists of only one person living by themselves. According to the U.S. census bureau, this is the fastest growing household form since 1980, especially in large cities such as New York City. Despite New York City's massive population, Manhattan has the highest percentage of single-person households out of any place in the world. [31] This is most likely related to paying taxes and the cost of living in expensive cities like these. Marriage, at least in America, is also becoming less and less of a traditional ceremony.

Nuclear edit

The term nuclear family is used to refer to a family and household setting that consists of a father, a mother, and their children. Nuclear families can be any size as long as the family can support itself and there are only 2 parents. If there is more than 2 parental figures in the family then it goes from being a nuclear family to an extended family w:Nuclear family The Nuclear family is a symbol that is deeply rooted into western culture. Historical studies in western family life have shown that this household form has been extremely common as far back as history reaches, especially in the Northwest part of Europe in countries like England, Holland, Northern France, and Belgium. [32]

Recently in the 21st century, gender roles are no longer expected and nuclear families have become less common and single parent families are becoming more frequent.

Extended Polygamous edit

A Polygamous family is one where there is one father and multiple wives. In this type of family, the first or oldest wife is typically the head of the household when the husband is away. Her children are usually the heirs of the man's wealth. If, however, the first wife dies, then the children must fight the next oldest wife for their right as heirs. An extended family is where there is a nuclear family with added family members such as grandparents or relatives. The Polygamous household form is most preferred by 80-85% of world societies. This type of living situation is most common in places where women do most of the work or there is a shortage of males. [33]

Individualism edit

Even though kinship is most often termed as family ties, the view of individualism within a culture affects kinship interactions. Individualism has been perpetuated in American culture as a positive attribute to posses.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Authors of great works in American culture such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Nathanial Hawthorne, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all in some way or another stressed the importance of individualism, and the importance of retaining one’s own particular identity despite the pressures of society or other people to conform. In a good number of American families it is not uncommon to be separated for most of the day. Children go off to school or daycare while parents go off to work, often for long hours. When they reunite at home, often it is only for a short time to catch up on the day’s news before they all separate to their own parts of the house for their alone time. Alone time is greatly valued as a time to relax from a busy day. Family members might even be in the same room, yet engaging in different activities. Nevertheless, if one asked these people if they loved their family, they would most likely say they did. In other cultures, this long separation between families might sound unloving and very strange. In a culture where there is a collective effort to survive, for example, there is an incentive to work together and never venture off alone. This creates a bond that a family needs each other to survive in more pertinent terms than in American culture. In these kind of cultures and others there is no separation of alone time and family time. A sign of individualism means something different according to different cultures, and is reflected in how people choose to spend their time.

Genealogy edit

Herzon Ludwig family tree

Genealogy which stems from the Greek words logos and genea meaning descent knowledge is the study of family’s lineages through history. Genealogists strive to learn when, where, and how certain people lived. Their subjects are usually their ancestors, particularly small groups, or an important or famous person.

Genealogy was traditionally used in Western societies to determine the blood rights of nobles and kings. The ruling class used genealogy and recorded their lineage because being a noble or royalty gave them certain privileges. Genealogy is now mainly used by hobbyists, who easily use resources on the internet to track their family history. One site commonly used for this is

Genealogy is not the same as kinship. Genealogy is the study of tracing a family's lineage all the way back to the earliest ancestor, whereas kinship is based on the feeling of relatedness to people through descent, sharing, or marriage. The history of genealogy can be separated into three different periods: 1. Oral tradition 2. Written pedigrees and 3. Modern genealogy.

Oral tradition edit

Early civilizations relied on memory to recite pedigrees of monarchs or noble families. This lead towards establishing the authority of a “pure” bloodline by listing the names of the family members, relations, marriages, and children of descent. For example, in the Bible, there are countless genealogies that are from the direct bloodline of King David. Specific passages where genealogies can be found in the Old Testament are in Genesis 5 [34][43] and 10 [35].[44] In the New Testament passages come from Matthew 1:2-16 [36][45] and Luke 3:23-38 [37].[46]

Written pedigrees edit

During the time of the Greeks and the Romans, pedigrees were starting to be recorded in written form rather than by memory. From 1100 to the 1500s monks recorded the English monarchy and noble families genealogies. The middle class (landowners) genealogies started being recorded as well. This was due to the events of the Reformation and the early formations of a census during the Renaissances. As Feudalism began to disappear and the middle class began to grow. For example, the Tudor family's lineage can be traced back to the 1400s. [38] [47]

Modern genealogy edit

There has been an increasing interest in one’s own genealogy since 1945. The average citizen is able to research their own family genealogy through public records or on websites such as[39].[48] However, professional genealogists research a wide range of information. Focusing not only on the family background but the country’s history as well. A common problem that both genealogists and anthropologists face is genealogical amnesia.[49][50] For example, in places such as Bali people are referred to as the descendant of their mother or father instead of by their personal names. This is known as teknonymy.[51][52] Genealogical amnesia is also practiced in the United States, married women tend to take their husband’s last name and abandon their maiden name.

Tekonymy in Bali edit

Teknonymy distinguishes the main generational strata, the children, parents, grandparents, and great grandparents strata which are in turn significant components of village society, such as in the cases of teknonymy in Bali The Balinese gentry however exhibit in reverse the relationship between tekonymy and community social position. Most nobles are addressed not by teknonyms, but by a single honorific title which persists throughout their lives, unaffected by age or generation. In some cases, the teknonyms employed are specially modified forms, terms which are more eloquent than those employed by commoners and which vary quite precisely with their rank within the gentry group.

Friendship edit

A dictionary definition of friendship is "one joined to another in intimacy and mutual benevolence independent of sexual or family love." Friendship is the "unofficial" bonds that people construct for others. As ties to kinship transform the importance of friendship increases. This brings about the emergence of new forms of friendship.[40]

Examples of Friendship edit

Friendship within the Family edit

Even though Western societies try to separate friendship and kinship, in practice they are usually connected. This is best seen in husbands and wives consider themselves best friends or siblings considering each other best friends.

Platonic Parenting edit

Platonic parenting is two people raising a child, or several children, together usually in a single home, without any sexual or romantic commitment. This is often the result of homosexual men or women that either can't afford or don't want to deal with the hassle of a sperm/egg donor. Many people believe that even though the child would be brought up in a home that isn't made from marriage, it is better than other situations because the child(ren) will have a loving support system that won't depend on a lover, a husband or a wife, but rather two friends that want nothing but the best for them.[53] Another common reason for platonic parenting is when a child has been brought into a home and the parents divorce or fall out of love, but don't want to physically split, so they stay parenting the child as friends.

Platonic Friendship edit

A common brand of friendship, typically established in youth, is platonic or egalitarian friendship. Humans tend to surround themselves with others who share their interests or their aesthetics, but the bond they share is only companionship. These friendships pave the way for others, but are not explicitly necessary in developing different kinds of bonds, such as romantic ones. These friendships can occur at any age, and some establish some links that last for their entire lives.

Friends With Benefits edit

Another form of friendship that many in Western culture are familiar with is friends with benefits. The practice of having a 'fwb' is often used in order to have sexual intimacy with someone you know and trust without the intention of developing feelings of love or intimacy. Many see these types of relationships as a healthy way to express sexuality without becoming attached, while others have doubts that a friends with benefits scenario is possible to maintain without developing romantic feelings for your partner.

Chapter Glossary of Key Terms edit

Kinship (n): The culturally distinct relationships between individuals who are most likely thought of having family ties.

Taboo (n): Actions that are looked down upon from society. Often seen as inappropriate or illegal. Acceptance varies from culture to culture. W01273174 (discuss • contribs) 23:02, 27 November 2017 (UTC)

Postpartum depression: depression following childbirth that can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The condition is thought to be mitigated by a strong social support system.Hale sophia98 (discuss • contribs) 06:05, 28 November 2017 (UTC)

Polyandry: relationship where a woman has two or more partners in the same sequence.Schuffannika (discusscontribs) 21:46, 30 November 2017 (UTC)

Surrogacy: An arrangement in which a woman acting as a third party carries and gives birth to a baby for a couple who are unable or unwilling to bear a child.

Birth control: Any form of contraceptive for women to limit the chances of pregnancy.

Opprobrium: Extremely harsh criticism, censure or judgement.

Polyromantic: Romantic attractions to multiple, but not all genders

Pansexuality: refers to sexual attraction towards any person, regardless of sex or gender identity.

Demisexual: Having no sexual desires for a person unless a strong emotional connection is made but not confined by a romantic relationship.

Bride-Price: The exchange of a bride in return for money, land, or other property from the groom and his family.

Microaggressions: everyday actions or words that are common throughout society targeted towards marginalized groups, and reaffirming the privilege of the aggressor. Ninaemily (discusscontribs) 05:35, 13 December 2017 (UTC)

Acephobia:the discrimination and hatred or mistreatment of asexual people. This is very similar to homophobia, and is often expressed through microaggressions. --Brownl36 (discusscontribs)

Civil union: a relationship recognized by the government, yet less formal than marriage.

Platonic parenting: the act of raising a child together without romantic connection, otherwise known as co-parenting.

Sharia law: religious law that is apart of Islamic tradition, essentially a full legal system of its own.

Sexual desire: among the strongest forces that motivate human behavior with sexual gratification being one the greatest human pleasures.

Heteronormativity: the idea that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation that all people fall into given their distinct gender roles.

Puberty: the sexual maturation and social transition into adulthood.

Circumcision: removal of the human foreskin, with circumcision rituals being different in all cultures.

Queer: a term designated for people who don’t identify into heterosexuality.

Menarche: the first cycle of menstruation in a female during puberty.

Bestiality: sexual intercourse between a human and an animal, or savagely cruel or rude behavior.

Rite of Passage: A life cycle that marks a person's transition from one social state to another

References edit

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