Mate Selection across Cultures

Article excerpt

R. R. Hamon and B. B. Ingoldsby. (Eds.). (2003). Mate Selection Across Cultures. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 296 p. Paperback ISBN: 0-7619-2592-9, $34.95.

Hamon's and Ingoldsby's Mate Selection Across Cultures is an engaging and informative collection of chapters offering broad depictions of the processes of mate selection throughout the world. The book is divided into six geographic regions: North America, the Caribbean and South America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Each section includes one or more chapters highlighting unique mate selection processes that occur within the specified region, and each of the 14 chapters begins with at least one "real-life" story that exemplifies the processes discussed in the chapter.

The first section addresses mate selection processes in North America-or more specifically in the United States. Considering the diversity of the U.S. culture, Ingoldsby (who authors this chapter) does a nice job of tying together cultural similarities and highlighting processes that are unique to a few cultural subgroups (e.g., African Americans, Mormons) in the United States. The section of this chapter that I found particularly interesting and useful was the historical look at the evolution of U.S. mate selection. Ingoldsby begins with courtship during colonization, telling the story of how couples in early America formed marriage unions. This discussion includes the introduction of terms such as dowries, bundling, and callers. He goes on to highlight specifically how national and global influences changed the mate selection process over the past 200 plus years (e.g., the introduction of the automobile, the increase in college attendance among youth, and changing attitudes toward premarital sex).

The second section covers the experiences of young people in the Caribbean and South America, with specific discussions regarding the Bahamas, Ecuador, and Trinidad and Tobago. All three chapters are well written and offer unique insights into the cultures in these countries that often are overlooked in similar collections. Although these countries have similar cultural orientations dating back to Spanish and French colonization, each country and its varying subcultures expresses this influence in distinctive ways. The aspects of these chapters that I found most interesting were explanations of the countries' origins and historical foundations that have influenced mate selection.

The third section addresses mate selection experiences in Africa by highlighting the countries of Ghana and Kenya. These chapters work in concert to depict the diverse cultural influences on the people of Africa. Specifically, Takyi paints a picture of mate selection in Ghana on Africa's western coast as heavily influenced by the local community. Selection of an appropriate partner is the responsibility of the entire community rather than that of individuals or their families alone. At the same time, Wilson and colleagues describe two distinct "pathways to marriage in Kenya." This cultural subgroup comparison sits in stark contrast to Tayki's chapter, with its more macrolevel focus. Of particular interest in this section is Wilson and colleagues' explanation of woman-to-woman marriages in Kenya, or marriages primarily formed for financial and social reasons rather than for love or attraction. …