The Foundations of Psychiatry

By Silvano Arieti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21

MARRIAGE AND MARITAL
PROBLEMS

Ian Alger


Introduction

WHATEVER its origins in various civilizations throughout recorded history, and whatever the joys and anguishes it may bring,8 the fact that in our society marriage is the goal, both striven for and achieved, of the overwhelming majority of people insures it a high place in the hierarchy of "normal" maturational goals. At the beginning it should be made clear that this chapter intends to deal with marriage at this current time in history, and more specifically with middle‐ class American marriages.17,67 This narrowing of focus is being undertaken because this type of marriage is the one about which most clinical psychiatric experience has been accumulated and, indeed, is the one about which over go per cent of the psychiatric literature is written. This is not to say that marriages in other classes of our society, among minority groups of various racial and ethnic backgrounds are not relevant and important. It is to say, however, that knowledge about them comes from a sociological and anthropological base, that even this knowledge is only gradually being developed with any completeness as survey and statistical studies improve, and that these marriages are by and large not the ones that have found referrals to psychiatrists.

Just as types of marriage other than the middle-class variety exist in our society, different types of marriage exist in other cultures and societies, not only now, but also back through history.31,76,82,89 Again no major focus will be placed on these other varieties, except to underline the point that the institution of marriage is by no means universal in its characteristics, but differs from class to class, in different societies, and at different periods of history in the same societies.

The organization of institutions in a society can be explained on the basis of providing for the needs of that society and its people, and these needs can be described as biological and social. For example, needs for food, shelter,

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