Essay: Family Sociological Theories

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Family and Marriage

Finding the Ideal Mate

What spurs our attraction for others? How do we choose who we love and who we will marry? Such questions have founded many theoretical conceits within the realm of classic and modern sociology. Theories citing the role of marital exchange help explain our well-defined gender roles, many of which revolve around the subservient position of the females within particular patriarchal societies. In more modern times, particular subcultures have created specific limitations which define the proper field of choosing a compatible mate. Along with this, modern sociology posits the concept of a "filter" theory, where individuals strain potential mates through various filters of acceptance. Finally, this paper explores the practical type of lover -- the pragma lover.

There are various types of marriage exchanges which function within different societies. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the concept of marriage exchange is defined as a "system of mate recruitment in which specific families, groups of families, tribes, or segments of a tribe are designated as those groups from which one must choose a spouse," (Encyclopedia Britannica 1). In most cases, the desirous qualities which determine if one is allocated in the group of potential spouses then become the defining gender roles of that society or subculture within any particular region or nation. In a large portion of society, it is the marriage exchange which reinforces the role of women as subservient to men. One of the most widely accepted and admired constructions of marital exchanges was developed by Claude Levi-Strauss which states that "in many societies the form of marital exchange is what Levi-Strauss has called restricted marriage, more commonly known as bilateral cross-cousin marriage," (Sanderson 257). Within this construction, different groups exchange women each and every generation between each other to help open up relations between the two groups. These transactions are primarily conducted by the men of the groups, reinforcing the gender role of women as near property and diplomatic tools, with little individual empowerment to make their own decisions. At the same time, while stripping women of the power over choosing a mate, this practice allocates most decision making to the males and thus reinforcing their role as the provider and head of the familial unit.

Based on the assigned gender roles described above, there are several various criteria which limit the field of eligible for prospective mates. In Levi-Strauss' conception, one must look within the context of specific groups and not outside that group to find a prospective spouse. Exchange of spouses is done within specific clans or familial units in order to preserve diplomatic relations and to further connect the ties between the two groups, (Sanderson 257). A prospect for marriage then cannot look outside the context of that specific group or family to find a spouse. If the norm is not necessarily one particular family, but more of a particular subculture as defined by race, religion, or economic status, this then changes the field in which one can look for a spouse. One may look outside to new families, but not stray from the particular subculture one is a part of. Looking outside ones subculture is then considered taboo and can result is alienation from one's initial familial group. This is common in the United States now based on racial divides, religious faiths, and class status. For example, if one comes from an upper class lineage, it would be looked down upon to marry a working class individual. Another modern example, stemming from much more ancient practices, marrying within one's particular religion or close religious affiliation. This limitation ensures the continuation of the various subcultures which then continue own their views of who is right to marry, and who one should stay away from when looking for potential mates.

Another theory which helps explain the limitations and filtering process of finding a potential mate is that of the Filter Theory. This popular theory posits the idea that "people go through several 'filters' that increasingly narrows the pool of potential mates to only one," (Petersen 8). These symbolic "filters" include that of propinquity, which refers the closeness to one's individual state through actual physical proximity, familial kinship, similarities of personality, and age. These aspects are the first filter set which one must go through to become eligible for another. The next filter is that of social background; if one approves of another's social background including class and upbringing, they can then pass to the third filter -- attractiveness. Looks tend to mean more than we would even like to admit in today's modern culture, and are therefore an important piece of choosing one's ideal mate. Compatibility then follows, regarding how well the two individual personalities get along. Using these filters, along with others if necessary, individual can choose their most ideal spouse while staying away from less compatible individuals.

And so, all individuals are always on the hunt for an ideal mate with promises qualities, the pragma lover included. According to Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen (2008), "Pragma lovers are rational and practical -- and so is their approach to romance and healthy relationships," (Pawlik-Kienlen 1). It is these styles of individuals who look for qualities in another that best suits one's own qualities. Pragma lovers look practically at their lifestyles, needs, and desire in order to formulate what they believe to be ideal qualities they wish to find in a lover. Thus, they look for individuals who share educational levels, income levels, professions, social status, parent potential, and common interests, (Pawlik-Kienlen 1). Therefore, individuals who are more practical in their quest for love, look for more practical aspects rather than relying on the uncertain power of their emotions. If one is a lawyer in a certain income level, one would naturally look for another individual who shares a post-Bachelors degree within the same general economic class level. This helps eliminate competition or feelings of inferiority, along with ensuring the common success of a future family which may arise out of the union. Staying away from the power and pull of emotions can help ensure a longer lasting marriage, but may not provide the most passionate experience for either of the individuals involved. However, pragma lovers tend to follow this same path almost always when looking for mates.

Through examining these theories and conceits, one can grasp an understanding of how we each choose or ideal lovers and spouses. Stemming from the marital exchanges of old, we now have a wider option of mates. Yet, these potentials are still continually filtered through various conditions in order to allocate who is most eligible for any individual in a particular subculture of society. These conceits make one wonder how much of love, is truly love, and not practicality. If it is not our pure emotions which drive us to particular types of individuals, how emotional is love?

Works Cited

Encyclopedia Britannica. "Marital exchange: Marriage Custom." Encyclopedia

Britannica Online. 2008. Retrieved 11 Dec 2008 at http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/365491/marital-exchange.

Pawlik-Kienlen, Laurie. "6 Styles of Love: How Your Approach to Romance Contributes to a Healthy Relationship." Suite101.com. 30 May 2008. Retrieved 11 Dec 2008 at http://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/6_styles_of_love.

Petersen, Larry. "Filter Theory." Sociocultural Explanations / Theories of Mate

Selection. University of Memphis. 2008. Retrieved 10 Dec 2008 at

Sanderson, Stephen K. The Evolution of Human Sociality. Rowman & Littlefield

Publishing. 2001.

Sociological Theories of Love

The debate on how and why we fall in love has been raging for centuries. There are several prominent theories which aim to explain the concept of love and how it relates to the social sphere. Sigmund Freud's theory posits the idea that love is used as a socially acceptable release of our sexual tensions. A more modern theory proposed by Erich Fromm presents a layered image of love which shows several different aspects of the concept. A third sociological theory, proposed by Abraham Maslow, shows love as part of a hierarchal structure of our innate needs. These combined with Ira Reiss and John Lee also show a multilayered element of love and how different people approach it differently.

One of the best known theorists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is that of Sigmund Freud. His various theories deal with both internal psychological processes, along with external sociological components. Freud's image of love presents a multifaceted approach to explaining how and why we fall into what is commonly described as love. Heavily entrenched in his theory of the ego and its strong libido, love becomes a common after-effect of the passions found within the internal human consciousness. The libido is the raw sexual energy which naturally develops in each individual's consciousness. Thus love becomes a facet for the libido to release some its sexual tension, "Romantic live is a socially accepted expression of the sexual drive, the libido, which includes both physical and emotional components," (Malakh-Pines 155). This then forces individuals to seek love as a way to find gratification through release of sexual tensions. This form of love, strangely enough resembles that of what infants… [END OF PREVIEW]

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