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What is the evolutionary purpose of marriage?

  1. Apr 30, 2003 #1
    I have a couple questions:

    First, what is the evolutionary purpose of marriage?

    Second, what is the purpose of marriage in a relationship?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2003 #2

    Tom Mattson

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    Re: Marriage

    I once bartended for a (married) bar owner who said, "Marriage is the most unnatural state a man can find himself in."

    Another goodie from him was his advice against buying a house: "A man's home is his hassle."

    I don't have anything more helpful than that, because to date I have taken his advice!
  4. Apr 30, 2003 #3
    There are two evolutionary reasons I can think of. It helps ensure the survival of children by forming tight nit families and decreasing infanticide by jealous lovers ... and decreases transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

    Not sure if I understand the second question.
  5. Apr 30, 2003 #4
    The second question is basically, is marriage REALLY a logical next step for a relationship? A couple could live together and enjoy all the benefits of a married couple without actually getting married, so how does marriage REALLY fit into a relationship?
  6. Apr 30, 2003 #5
    Humanity evolved to live in small communal groups of usually at most fifteen people. Inbreeding could only be avoided by going out side the group. This could be achieved any number of ways, but notably humanity is one of the few animals that does not go into heat. Instead, we have evolved to be arguably the sexiest animals on the planet. Few other animals copulate nearly as often and it is thought few others actually have sex simply for pleasure.

    Unlike other animals whose young hatch from an egg and require no care, ours require many years of care before they can even help fend for food and many more after that before they can fend for themselves. Studies have shown that grandmothers can play an important part in helping to feed these children, but of course, fathers provide a great deal.

    One hypothesis is that humans are really serially monogamous and serially polygamous. This is supported to some extent by the divorce statistics. These show that the chances for divorce increase after three years, spike sharply after seven, and then go down after that. Divorced people who remarry overwhelmingly tend to stay marry.

    Soon enough serious studies of genetic inheritance may illuminate this issue in ways once thought impossible. On the one hand, mixing the gene pool is advantageous while on the other children require tremendous resources. This argues for serial monogamy and polygamy, but does not resolve the issue. Monogamous tendencies in this day and age of AIDS looks like a possible evolutionary alternative.
  7. Apr 30, 2003 #6
    I don't understand, do you mean that humans are parallel-ly monogamous and serially polygamous?
  8. Apr 30, 2003 #7
    I've always wondered how early man stumbled-bummed his way onto this discovery. Any ideas?
  9. Apr 30, 2003 #8
    Wuliheron, I still don't understand how marriage fits into these groups. Did only two partners engage in sex in a group, and they were given a name, which later was called marriage? or, if not, how did the marriage come about in these small groups?
  10. Apr 30, 2003 #9
    Serial monogamy is when you take one partner for awhile and then move on to another. Serial polygamy is when you do this with several partners at once. Currently the more or less offical record stands at 63 children born to one woman and 450 to one man.

    It may have started out as an accident like you suggest. These small groups were by no means utterly isolated, and once a year or so would meet up with others. If you've ever met extremely isolated people, they are starved for new faces and personalities. Because of our extremely sexual nature, you can guess what happened next.

    In a sense then, we might even be hard wired to be attracted to strangers. In fact, this did happen with one anthropologist. He was studying a Yanamamo like tribe and a thirteen year old girl followed him around like a puppy dog. By sixteen, they were married and now live in NY City with their six kids.

    As for why the actual institution of marrage rose to such popularity, it provides a way of bonding the stranger to their new tribe. Ritual scarification and tatooing serve a similar purpose, and with tribal people you can often tell exactly where they were raised and all the places they have lived just by looking at them. Often you can also tell if they are married or even if their sibblings are married by their scars and tatoos.

    Monogamy in particular has been reinforced by the agracultural revolution. In third world countries today people commonly have as many as twelve children to help work the farm and in the hope that at least some of them will support them in old age.
  11. Apr 30, 2003 #10
    Marriage is a lovely idea that makes practically no sense when you try it for a while.
  12. May 1, 2003 #11

    Ivan Seeking

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    I don't think marriage is evolutionary. However other animals do display monogamy. The purpose of marriage in a relationship: I think for a man at least, it is to mark the exact moment where he begins doing what his wife and mother-in-law say instead of his mother.
    Last edited: May 1, 2003
  13. May 1, 2003 #12

    Les Sleeth

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    Too funny!

    I am going to disagree with most of the opinions here and say that there is a potential in marriage which is wonderful. In this insane, stressful world and growing up being taught abusive parents, it is difficult to realize, but many people nonetheless do achieve it.

    It is a closeness, a friendship, and partnership based on consensus, respect, love and hot sex. When done properly, it is sooooooooo much fun, so good, so sweet. But then, when she's at that time of month, you better find reasons to be somewhere else. :wink:

    Done right, you can learn lots of things you will never learn alone. All those ways you think you are so great? Well, live closely with someone long enough and you will find your opinion of yourself is way too high. Then, how do you make the situation better? Change, mature, grow. That is what a good mate can do for you; he/she can help you understand what you are really like, how you need to develop, and yet will stick with you through it all.

    I don't buy the latest fad of trying to explain every damn human trait as the result of evolution. Some I think is the nature of consciousness, and some we do because we find it personally rewarding.
    Last edited: May 1, 2003
  14. May 2, 2003 #13
    It's a fad?

    This is an intelligent response but doesn't address what I intended to be the topic...how does all this differ from simply living together for your entire life? That's why I don't understand the concept of marriage, as a legal binding that is.
  15. May 2, 2003 #14

    Les Sleeth

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    Okay, I' ll try again.

    Well, I think (and hope) it's a fad -- a fad of the scientism cult where matter is god, and consciousness is ultimately a physical phenomenon that can be fully explained by physical processes. Marriage therefore has to be a result of genetics and evolution alone. It's not that evolution hasn't determined a great deal, I just don't think that's all there is to consciousness.

    Obviously human children do better with two parents, and that is an evolutionary advangage. Two people who work as a team for survival also have an advantage over one (of course, if they aren't a good team, it can be a disadvantage). For most people, marriage is a contract to work as a team for children and survival. Those are such important issues, and there has to be so much trust, that a marriage contract is sealed with a ceremony that's meant to instill the importance of the agreement. The legal aspect seems there because society too is stabilized by marriages (a bunch of horny people running around and lots unwanted children is not the best situation). That's one way to explain the "outer" part of it.

    Another view is that something "inner" can happen too, which I described before. For me it's the inner part I like the best, and I don't see why one has to get formally married to achieve it. But if you can attain that with someone, that level of unity is what some marriages achieve, and so really is the same thing.
  16. May 2, 2003 #15
    Re: Marriage

    I suggest you to read the book : The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State by Friedrich Engels.

    It's an interesting viewpoint, that claims that marriage is connected to private property and the state form.
    Last edited: May 2, 2003
  17. May 2, 2003 #16

    The tendancy to get married is related to evolution though. You cannot get genes having been passed down for billions of years without getting distorted by evolution.

    Some situations do exist where evolution has not had time to work, e.g. building up resistance to SARS virus, but in the nature of how procreation occurs, evolution has had a lot of time to establish itself.
  18. May 2, 2003 #17
    This is known to be not true. In early manhood it has been found that instead of a monogame marriage a form of group marriage existed.
    In the book "The Origin of Family, Private Propety and the State" this is further explained. Monogame marriage is connected to private property.
  19. May 2, 2003 #18
    Re: Re: Marriage

    Thank you very much, I will certainly check this out tomorrow.
  20. May 5, 2003 #19
    Where did I state that marriage had to be monogomous?
    I did mean this when I posted this though.
    The tendancy to attach yourself to someone has evolved in recent times. I do not deny that other situations can occur, I am saying that in the most recent times, marriage is monogamous and does occur. People have an overwhelming desire to settle down with 1 other person, and this results from the way humans reproduce.
  21. May 5, 2003 #20
    The way humans reproduce, the human biology, has not been changed in the last 20.000 years.
    However what did change were the productive forces, which at first were purely nature's resources, and haven been developed through social human history enormously.
    So the result of the current form of marriage, must be seen in the context of the society, and are based on social changes.
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