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Encyclopedia of Law & Society: American and Global Perspectives

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Encyclopedia of Law & Society: American and Global Perspectives

David S. Clark

Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637 | Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.

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Marriage and Informal Unions

Paola Ronfani

Sociologists and anthropologists generally define marriage as the socially recognized and accepted sexual union between two adult individuals. In particular, anthropologists have ascribed to marriage some functions they deem fundamental for maintaining relations between human groups. Specifically, some men belonging to a certain social group could establish relationships and create alliances with other social groups through the exchange of women. The customary prohibition of incest and rules supporting exogamy, which forbid marriage between members of the same family, seem to support this possibility. In addition to its function of linking two lineages not tied by blood bond, establishing a kinship system between the two people who get married, marriage also has the function of guaranteeing children a legitimate father, who does not necessarily correspond to their biological parent. Modern law stipulates this function through the presumption of paternity, whereby the husband is always supposed to be the father of all ...

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