Sociology and Marriage
Symbolic Interaction and Marriage Marriage is a controversial topic in the world today, and for a variety of reasons. Young marriage, same-sex marriage, re-marriage, lack of marriage; there are a variety of hot topics surrounding the idea of marriage. According to the Oxford University Press dictionary, marriage can be defined as, “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife”. Another definition, according to Sociology Guide. com, says that, “Marriage is one of the universal social institutions established to control and regulate the life of mankind…Its purposes, functions and forms may differ from society to society but it is present everywhere as an institution”. The idea of marriage and the concepts surrounding it are not necessarily universal, so it is beneficial to gain understanding on what makes up all the different constructs of such a significant matter.
In order to better understand how ideologies about such a topic are formed, it is helpful to understand sociological perspectives that lay a framework about why individuals think and feel the way they do about certain topics. One sociological theory that may help to explain the different values and understandings of marriage is symbolic interaction. Dolgon and Baker explain that, “the basic element of symbolic interactionism is the individual and his or her own construction of identity that takes place in small groups and organizations” (34).
They also go on to say that larger institutions and structures also have importance because of the ways in which people continue to make them important. This basic understanding of symbolic interaction, when applied situationally, can lead to a further understanding of the conflicts and conversations around marriage in modern today. Symbolic interaction has many factors to it that make it such an applicable theory. Dolgon and Baker explain how people behave based on the situation at hand. They say, “…individuals think and act in coordination with the traditions, customs, values, and beliefs of the social life surrounding them” (34).
This particular aspect of symbolic interactionism can help to explain why there are so many different values and beliefs surrounding the concept of marriage. Depending on the social factors and environments that particular individuals are exposed to, they may have different beliefs about marriage. Dolgon and Baker also introduce the idea of socialization, which, “represents the ways in which we internalize cultural values and norms, as well as come to know the social expectations we must meet and the roles we must play” (35).
These two ideas can offer much explanation for the different beliefs and values on marriage. There are numerous different factors that play a role in how individuals develop particular ideas, values, and beliefs about marriage. Young marriage can be seen as a result of church or faith based backgrounds because of the value some religions and faiths give marriage. In his article, “The Case for Early Marriage”, Mark Regnerus, explains how marriage has evolved in overall society as well as how Christians’ views of marriage has also changed over time.
He also spends some time writing about how sex has changed the value of marriage for many young Christian couples. He concludes his article by saying, “If a young couple displays maturity, faith, fidelity, a commitment to understanding marriage as a covenant, and a sense of realism about marriage, then it’s our duty…to help them expedite the part of marriage that involves public recognition and celebration of what God is already knitting together” (Regnerus 27).
Similar outlooks to Regnerus’s may have significant influences on young couples and may contribute to particular values of marriage as well as why some choose to marry at a young age. On the other hand, if an individual comes from a broken family or has witnessed hostile marriage environments, they may completely opt to not marry at all. These two specific examples of religion and broken families as a social environment can be directly explained by the concepts of social interactionism. Yet another topic of debate is same-sex marriage.
There are many different ways that one can approach this topic. There are also numerous sociological perspectives that can help to explain why same-sex marriage has become more heard of, accepted, and even understood. Symbolic interactionism can lend several explanations for the different and evolving opinions surrounding this conversation. In her article, “Why Are People Changing Their Minds About Same-Sex Marriage,” Dr. Lisa Wade discusses some of the different reasons behind the shift in support for same-sex marriage.
She says, “A third of respondents said that knowing a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person was influential in making them rethink their position on gay marriage” (Wade 2013). This finding directly associates with the social interactionist idea of the “definition of a situation” (Dolgon and Baker 34), as discussed previously. Based on the interaction with those whom may contribute different ideas and values about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, some individuals’ own beliefs are being transformed.
There are numerous reasons that marriage is still a debatable and discussed topic in today’s society. While there may be clear ideas on what marriage may be defined as legally, marriage is evolving in a sociological way. It is essential to understand why these changes are occurring, though. Sociological perspectives and theories like symbolic interaction lend very helpful and thoughtful ideas about how to best explain the conversations surrounding modern marriage ideologies, values, and beliefs. Works Cited “Marriage.