Description: Dr. Donna Lee Bowen and Professor Perpetua Lynne Nielsen are working with Texas A&M University as the recipients of the prestigious Minerva Initiative grant, funded by the Department of Defense, to address questions of interest to national security. In this research, they are assessing the impact marriage has on a society’s culture, economy, and overall stability.
Start: September 1, 2014
End: August 31, 2017
- Sponsor: Texas A&M University (Department of Defense)
- Principal Investigator: Donna Lee Bowen
- Co-PI: Perpetua Lynne Nielsen
Marriage has been the historically preferred arrangement for generating, teaching, and socializing the next generation. While some understate or limit marriage’s influence on a culture, Doctor Bowen and Professor Nielsen affirm how important this union is in understanding societies; the customs and laws surrounding a married man and woman come to define basic interactions that affect all other organizations (political, economic, etc.). For example, when marriages thrive, national crime levels decrease; or when there violence and suppression towards women, it signals potentially volatile political structures. Considering, then, that nuptial alliances may dictate the stability and resilience of cultures and economies, Bowen and Nielsen argue that marriage is the foundational building block of every society.
In this research, Bowen and Nielsen will look at household formation systems, which are the wide sum of demographic, legal, economic, and customary forces that compel men and women to partner. Their intent is to find correlations between such systems, marriage markets (eligible men and women), and societal stability. Through this, they will be able to identify which factors are most closely linked to national security, economic and cultural stability, and resilience to injustices.
One validating example is found in nations with abnormally disproportionate male ratios, such as modern China, with approximately 31 million more men than women, and India, with approximately 37 more million. Dramatic number differences (usually favoring males) largely comes from female infanticide, birth regulations, These countries show that large percentages of men will not be able to form a household, and these males (referred to as “bare branches”) are often already be alienated by deficiencies in skill, trade, and education. When denied being a part of the future society, statistics show these men to take large risks to attempt improving their prospects. Other limiting forces to a country’s marriage market include polygyny—a man having multiple wives at the same time— or the extreme wedding costs for grooms. In Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan, male adults must save for several years in order to acquire the $10,000- $20,000 dollars expected for a wedding, and average marrying in their late twenties to early thirties. All these marriage obstacles can lead to a more physically violent and even rebellious population of men, aggravating any preexisting national instability. This predicted intensification includes general crime, sexual violence against women, substance abuse, and gang/terrorist group formation. In contrast, studies show that marriage and child rearing significantly decrease male aggression, and encourages males to be law-abiding citizens.
Other endorsements are found in deeply rooted traditions of patrilocality and patrilineal inheritance. “Patrilineality” is lineage traced through the father’s line. In past societies most of the resources, power, and land were exclusively held by the male members of the family. The associated “patrilocality”– married couples residing near or with the husband’s parents– meant that relatives could rely on blood allegiances during civil conflict (or to cause it), and that labor could be managed and distributed amongst the clan. Laws that push family to reside close together tend to create “status-based” cultures that value large families/clans as the principal unit of society. Clan formations maintain fragile peace, but historically prove to lead to instability via suppression and conformity, corrupted leadership, and eventual violence within or without the group. As nations modernize and see family members move farther away, relationships evolve to be more contract-based. This means that individuals and familial groups are allowed to mature without the heightened supervision of family heads. Additionally, the status gap between male and female counterparts decreases as husbands must rely on their wives for help and support. Statistics then show that the lack of patrilocality inspires, and even requires increased entrepreneurship and gender equality. This pattern is manifest in many parts of Europe, which historians cite as a prime example of breaking from patriarchal clans and leading to capitalism and democracy. One can also see how the promotion of individual, economic self-reliance before marriage precedes the rise of society’s inclination towards individualism.
Studying the named examples as well as hundreds of others, one can infer immense societal benefits from stable marriages. To reiterate, the eventual breaking of clan formations and the consequent evolvement of marriage customs is linked to improving equality for women. By this evolution, women tend to marry at a later age, become more respected and active members in households and communities, and be equal consenters to marriage. To expound another example, sociologists can clearly see how terrorist organizations prey upon unmarried men’s feelings of shame, frustration, and emasculation to draw them into their ranks, offering “purpose” and brotherhood. Facilitating marriage for younger men helps to curb violence. In conclusion, as power equality within the home increases, state structures are more inclined towards democracy and gender equality.
Dr. Bowen’s and Professor Nielsen’s work may come to powerfully address the depravity that so many world states experience: corruption, political upheaval, economic recession, and the fulfillment of citizens, to name some. Changing one’s mindset to acknowledge the importance of marriage as one of the basic building blocks of society is the first step. Implementing measures to protect, encourage, and facilitate this union’s sanctity is the next.