Its Definition and Development
Marriage is a relationship and bond, most
commonly between a man and a woman, that plays a key role in the
definition of many families. Precise definitions vary historically
and between and within cultures, but it has been an important concept
as a socially sanctioned bond in a sexual relationship. Globally,
societies that sanction polygamy as a form of marriage are far less
common than those that do not and monogamy is overwhelmingly most
widely practiced, followed distantly by polygyny, which is found
primarily in tribal cultures, and with other forms being extremely
rare. Since the latter decades of the 20th century many of society's
assumptions about the nature and purpose of marriage and family have
been challenged, in particular by homosexual advocacy groups, who
demand changing the definition of marriage as a heterosexual union.
In modern times, the term marriage is generally reserved for a
state sanctioned union. The phrase legally married can be used
to emphasize this point. In the United States there are two methods
of receiving state sanction of a marriage: common law marriage
and obtaining a marriage license.
Since the 12th century Marriage or Holy Matrimony
has been a sacrament in the Catholic Church, as well as other
is defined as a relationship between man and woman (although same
sex marriage exists in some countries and states). Marriage of
some kind is found in most societies, and typically married people
form either a nuclear household, which is often subsequently extended
biologically, through children, or part of an extended family network.
Alternatively, people may choose to be "childfree". Finally,
they may be childless due to infertility, and possibly seek treatment
or consider adoption. The term wedlock is a synonym for marriage,
and is mainly used in the phrase "out of wedlock" to
describe a child born of parents who were not married.
There is wide variation in the precise form that marriage takes.
Two of the most hotly-debated variants are discussed below: same-sex
marriage and polygamy.
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