Patterns of Mate Selection

Interview someone in your parents’ or grandparents’ generations about their experience with mate selection, or marriage. Specify the time frame and locate the experience in the social structure to the best of your ability (e.g., class, ethnicity, gender, religion). Take into account the following factors:

  • How is the couple relationship initiated? Consider the extent of individual choice and family and peer influences. Note relevant distinctions for gender.
  • When does dating or courtship begin? Are relationships placed “on a clock” leading to marriage?
  • What are the social constraints on who dates whom (i.e., endogamy)? Are they the same for eligible marriage partners?
  • Discuss the major courtship rituals which provide a scripted route to marriage?
  • Was their marriage “typical” for the place and time? In other words, can make “generalizations” from their “particular” experiences? Contrast with patterns for your generation.
  • Locate your particular case on the continuum between the two extremes of arranged marriage at one pole and romantic-companionate marriage at the other:

Arranged o+++++++++++++o Romantic-Companionate

  • Relate your particular case to kinship structure, noting the difference between conjugal kinship (centered on spouse relationship) and consanguine kinship (centered on blood relations)? Historically, for example, arranged marriage is more compatible with cohesive kinship groups and extended family households; romantic-companionate marriage is more suited to individualism and privacy vis-à-vis kin.

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