What Is the Sociological Definition of Marriage?

In sociology, marriage is defined as a socially approved union between two or more people in what is considered as a steady, lasting relationship based in part on some form of sexual bond. It is an institution that is regarded permanent and involves mutual rights and obligations.

Marriage has been defined differently by different scholars and disciplines. It is a universal human institution that forms the foundation of family. Marriage offers an environment for cultivating love between two people and their fulfillment. It is recognized as economically, spiritually, legally and socially as the primary social arrangement for upbringing of children.

However, the practices that define marriage ceremonies, the rights and responsibilities of marriage, the manner of choosing a marriage partner as well as one who is allowed to marry may vary across cultures. Depending on the society, marriage may involve religious and/or civil sanction. In other societies, a couple may be recognized as married after living together for a certain period of time.

There are different forms of marriages including monogamy (only two people), polygamy (multiple partners), polyandry (multiple husbands) and polygyny (multiple wives). Marriage can either be heterosexual (between people of different sexes) or homosexual (between individuals of same sex). Generally, religion and most societies globally approve heterosexual and monogamous marriages. However, some societies and religion permit some form of polygamy or marriage between people of the same gender.