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Marital Typologies

Elements Of A Good Typology Of Marriage, The Proliferation Of Marriage-related Typologies, Using Logical Methods To Create Typologies

Part of the process of science is description. As an aid in this description process, some scholars have classified marriages into different typologies. Typologies, used in all fields of science, are artificial categories developed to demonstrate the similarities that exist within a group and highlight the differences between groups. Typologies enable marriage scholars to develop a shared language and are useful in describing the similarities and differences between marriages. For example, Walter F. Willcox (1892) identified two types of marriage: despotic and democratic. The despotic type of marriage, based on Roman law, viewed the wife as the property of the husband and, therefore, subject to him in all matters. The democratic type of marriage arose under the Teutones. They honored women and viewed the husband and wife as equals who made decisions on a democratic basis. This typology was developed as a simple way of bringing order to the study of marriage relationships.

Scholars have since developed numerous marriage typologies. In the 1940s, sociologists noted two types of marriage: institutional and companionate (Burgess and Locke 1948). The traditional institutional marriage emphasized the separate roles that husbands and wives played within the family. Husbands were the primary wage earners, decision makers, and the link between the family and the larger society. Wives were usually responsible for childrearing and homemaking and were subordinate to the desires of their husbands. However, a trend was noted toward companionate marriages, which emphasized shared, rather than separate, roles and decision-making responsibilities. In companionate marriages, wives often earned an income and husbands assisted with care of the children. The specific roles and responsibilities carried out within the companionate marriage were not based on a person's gender, but on a mutual agreement between equals.

Later, scholars criticized the institutional/companionate typology because it was inadequate for describing many of the contemporary differences that existed within marriage relationships. Therefore, John F. Cuber and Peggy B. Harroff (1965), studying enduring marriages, developed one of the best-known marital typologies. They proposed three institutional (conflict habituated, devitalized, passive-congenial) and two companionate (vital, total) types of marriage.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of Families