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The foundations of marriage: are they crumbling?

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Author Info

  • Ian Smith

Abstract

What is marriage? Existing treatments identify the gains to marriage but say little regarding the foundations of the institution itself. This paper proposes that marriage is designed to facilitate sexual co-operation in a world without reliable contraception and paternity verifiability. By allocating control rights, it functions to mitigate the hazards of sexual opportunism. Recently, however, the technology shocks of the pill, legal abortion and paternity testing have weakened the links between marriage and both sex and reproduction. This has undermined the traditional justification for marriage. What remains is a bundle of legal and economic benefits that are gradually losing significance as the focus of family law shifts from marriage to parenthood as its fundamental organising principle.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal International Journal of Social Economics.

Volume (Year): 31 (2004)
Issue (Month): 5/6 (May)
Pages: 487-500

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Handle: RePEc:eme:ijsepp:v:31:y:2004:i:5/6:p:487-500

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Related research

Keywords: Control; Human rights; Marriage; Sex;

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Cited by:
  1. Yurko, Anna, 2010. "The Value of Commitment: Marriage Choice in the Presence of Costly Divorce," MPRA Paper 22566, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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