Arranged Marriage & Suggestive Marriage

Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD
14 min readDec 5, 2022


Suggestive Marriage (e.g., BaiFaXiangQin 白发相亲) defines contemporary parental influence in countries centered on romantic/love marriages

Arranged Marriage = in the purest sense, parents choose the spouse with little to no input from the child & there is generally some penalty expected for not proceeding with the union and/or dissolving the union.

Suggestive Marriage = your bff, frans, and/or parents may set you up on a blind date, give you someone’s phone number, advertise you as an available single in a marriage market, your frans create a Tinder or OkCupid account for you to help you out, and/or friends/parents recommend you meet someone because yall would be so awesome as a couple. Let’s assume parents for most of the examples in this article.

Romantic-Love Marriages/ Elopements/ Soulmate = in the purest sense, you find your significant other out there in the world through pure coincidence because the universe conspired to make sure yall were at Barnes & Nobles at the same time that day looking for the same book.

Romance & Arranged

The United States is unique in the history of human civilizations as it has had marriages of choice since Columbus accidentally arrived here while looking for India (Furstenberg, 1966; Reiss, 1980). Importantly, other Western countries gradually worked themselves towards the romantic/choice marriages they have today, but the United States STARTED* that way.

Indeed, arranged marriages have been the primary model of formalized unions through most of human history, and continues in many countries (Apostolou, 2007; Agey et al., 2021). This is particularly true in more collectivist parts of the world (Buunk et al., 2010). China, India, and Japan were arranged marriage societies prior to the modern era (e.g., Applbaum, 1995; Mitchell, 1970; Riley, 1994; Xie & Combs, 1996).

“Across human preindustrial societies, women are not free to exercise mate choice. In particular, a daughter’s ability to exercise choice is constrained by her parents [who make mating/husband decisions for her] (Blood, 1972; Stephens, 1963). Similar patterns are also characteristic of historical societies (e.g., Stone, 1990)” (Apostolou, 2014).

💍Romance/Elopements & Arranged Marriages/Unions

Anthropological studies of societies ranging from industrialized nations to agricultural communities found that romantic love is nearly universal across the human species. Even so, arranged marriage has been the predominant mode of marital union formation in the history of human civilization.

Apostolou (2007) investigated 190 contemporary foraging societies & analyzed their mating patterns. It was found that the most common mode of forming long-term unions (70% of the cases) was arranged marriage, where parents choose spouses for their children.

In fact, the primary mode of long term unions for 16 historical societies spanning a period of 5,000 years was arranged marriage “where fathers and other male relatives dominated marriage arrangements, and daughters were controlled more than sons” (Apostolou, 2012).

Courtship/ elopements/ romantic love-based unions only represented 4% of societies.

💍Arranged Marriage & Fitness — Elizabeth Agey et al., 2021

“Strongly felt but not necessarily conscious mating preferences presumably evolved because they provide fitness benefits compared to random mating, and this prediction has been supported by experimental animal studies. Arranged marriage might similarly reduce fitness in humans, but only if parents regularly choose different mates for their offspring than offspring would choose for themselves. Using the Human Relations Area Files, we reviewed 543 ethnographies to assess the relative frequencies of parent–offspring agreement and disagreement over partner choice, the reasons for disagreement, and the outcomes of disagreement. In all world areas, parents and offspring overwhelmingly choose different partners.”

But does it reduce fitness?

“On current evidence, arranged marriage in humans does not measurably reduce fitness (at least in terms of the number of offspring or timing of births), despite ample evidence of disagreement over partner choice between parents and offspring.”

One explanation “both parents & offspring are exhibiting choice and, in cases where both parties compromise, mates might have qualities that both desire.

We would expect to see different fitness outcomes between those who had no input regarding their spouse (completely arranged marriages), those who compromised with their parents over spouse choice (arranged suggestive marriages), and those who chose their spouse with no parental input (e.g., elopements).”

In addition, “parents more often control the marriages of their daughters than of their sons.

For sons, 46 of 157 cultures (29.3%) normatively practice arranged marriage, whereas

For daughters, 71 of 161 cultures (44.1%) normatively practice arranged marriage

…a highly significant difference (p = 0.007 by Fisher’s Exact Test), and the difference remains even when separated into foraging societies (Apostolou, 2007), agropastoral societies (Apostolou, 2010), and historical societies (Apostolou, 2012).”

Apostolou et al. (2017)

➡️ Even in cultural groups and societies where the norm is for children to choose their own romantic partners and form “love-based marriages,” parents may still attempt to exert control over their children’s mate choices. Parents may accomplish this by controlling their child’s social networks, setting them up on dates, expressing opinions regarding the type of person their child ought to marry, and even threatening to withdraw economic support should their child marry outside their social class or ethnic group (e.g., Das Gupta, 1997; Faulkner & Schaller, 2007; Wight et al., 2006)

💍China — Suggestive Marriage — Wei Mei Wong, 2014 — BaiFaXiangQin 白发相亲

According to Zhou (2009), meeting or dating between two individuals of the opposite sex under the recommendation of a third party such as parents, neighbors, co-workers, relatives, or even matchmakers is traditionally known as XiangQin 相亲. Dating arrangements in China predominantly lead to marriage or more serious relationships. Tang and Zuo (2000) reported that while only 14 percent of American students share this view, a distinct 42 percent of Chinese college students in Mainland China aim to find a marital partner through dating. BaiFa 白发 in the phrase, BaiFaXiangQin 白发相亲 is used to describe parents, especially ones in their 50s or 60s (Sun, 2012a).

Out of more than 8000 Chinese couples surveyed in 1991 across 7 provinces, 77% of the couples were married by parental involvement. This is largely due to the wide acceptance of parental help in the matters of marriage and the selection of a spouse.

Why does 白发相亲 (BaiFaXiangQin) occur?

The lack of an established social security and pension system plays a crucial role in the urgency found among parents of unmarried children to find a suitable marital spouse for them (Sun, 2012a). Approximately 70% of elderly parents need to financially depend on their offspring (Sun, 1998).

In China, this problem has been named the “4:2:1” phenomenon, this illustrates the problem where one child has to be responsible for the welfare of two parents and four grandparents (Pozen, 2013). Elderly parents would rely on their children and their children’s marital spouse to provide for them in their retirement years.

In Chinese culture, filial piety is a highly valued virtue that parents strive to cultivate. The financial support of parents is a common act that reflects filial piety. Despite this fact, Sun (2012a) believed that parents feel that the responsibility of caring for them will be too much for their child and prefer to find a partner for their child to share this burden.

💍USA — Suggestive Marriage — Perilloux et al., 2008

“Parents place more importance on their daughter’s mate choice than their son’s.

About 59% of daughters compared to just 30% of sons reported experiencing parental disapproval in mate choice & 60% of daughters had to adhere to a curfew compared to just 36% of sons.”

Arranged Breakups (Miller et al., 2004)

“In America, there are fewer White females married to non-White males than there are White males married to non-White females.

Minority men reported that their White lovers’ family members were indeed disapproving relative to their own parents — in fact, they were the only group for whom there was perceived to be more disapproval from their lover’s family and friends compared to their own.

Women anticipate close others’ approval of a romantic relationship to be more dependent on their lover’s status than men do & lover race serves as a stronger indicator of status for women than men… but only among women who perceive their parents to be relatively prejudiced against minorities.

White women appear to receive more pressure to date and marry White men than White men receive to date and marry White women. That this pattern held regardless of the particular racial group in question.”

Parental Disapproval (Buunk et al., 2012)

Even in cultural groups and societies where the norm is for children to choose their own romantic partners and form “love-based marriages,” parents may still attempt to exert control over their children’s mate choices. Parents may accomplish this by controlling their child’s social networks, setting them up on dates, expressing opinions regarding the type of person their child ought to marry, and even threatening to withdraw economic support should their child marry outside their social class or ethnic group (e.g., Das Gupta 1997; Faulkner and Schaller 2007; Wight et al. 2006).

Interracial Couples Experiences of Prejudice

Parents may engage in dating prevention before a would-be interracial couple is Facebook official, and may try to orchestrate an eventual breakup of an interracial couple once they’re official.

Opposite-sex interracial couples experience more macrocultural hostility (Bhugra & De Silva, 2000; Dalmage, 2000; Henriksen & Watts, 1999; Hibbler & Shinew, 2002; Killian, 2001; Klocker & Tindale, 2019; Leslie & Letiecq, 2004; McNamara, Tempenis, & Walton, 1999; Vaquera & Kao, 2005),
face social network opposition and rejection at a far greater magnitude (Böhm & Shapley, 2013; Bratter & King, 2008; Brown et al., 2018; Lehmiller & Agnew, 2006; Lehmiller & Konkel, 2012; Luke & Carrington, 2000; Miller, Olson, & Fazio, 2004; Root, 2001; Skinner & Rae, 2019; Zhang & Van Haook, 2009).

Marianne Dainton, 2015

“Leslie and Letiecq (2004) found that despite expectations to the contrary, network social support is not a particularly strong predictor of interracial marital quality. Accordingly, it appears that interracial relationships function very much the same way as intraracial relationships (Forry et al., 2007).”

💍India — Arranged Marriage — Paro Mishra — 2018

“In India, marriages are customarily arranged by families and partners are chosen from within the caste or sub-caste, excluding certain categories of close kin taking into consideration notions of hypergamy, wealth and prestige.

Hegemonic masculinity in rural North India still remains intrinsically tied to marriage and producing a male offspring. Chowdhry contends that marriage and fertility are highly valued in rural India, both for women, as well as men and even after marriage a man is not considered a ‘man’ until he has had an offspring, especially a son (Chowdhry 2011, p. 247).”

Rukmini, 2021 (Rukmini S, 2021)

“In a 2018 survey of more than 160,000 households [in India], 93% of married Indians said that theirs was an arranged marriage. Just 3% had a “love marriage”

There has been only very slight change over time — 94% of octogenarians [people who are 80–89 years old] had an arranged marriage, & the figure remains over 90% for young couples in their 20s.”

Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein

Highly recommend Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein on Netflix as its narrative focuses on arranged marriage & romantic marriage

Official Trailer via Youtube

Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein

💍Turkey — Arranged vs Choice Marriage — Imamoglu et al., 2019

“Rubio’s (2014) demographic analyses of several countries, including Turkey found that “arranged marriages serve as a form of informal insurance” & the need for arranged marriages decreases as agriculture declines and education, formal employment, & urbanization increase (p. 2). Urbanization and education (particularly education of women) are drivers of these social changes (Chung & Das Gupta, 2007, 2011).

Pillsworth and Barrett (2017) note that only a small minority of cultures have completely autonomous choice of spouse by the younger generation;

most cultures can be placed on a spectrum, with parental and child influence on mate choice varying in degree.

Many studies, conducted in different cultures, generally reported that wives’ marital satisfaction tends to be lower than that of husbands (e.g., Jackson, Miller, Oka, & Henry, 2014; G. E. Weisfeld, Wendorf, Weisfeld, Imamoğlu, & Shen, 2000; Whiteman, McHale, & Crouter, 2007). Gender scholars have noted that the unequal division of power (as well as the inequitable division of household tasks and child care) tends to be associated with women’s lower marital satisfaction (e.g., Ball, Cowan, & Cowan, 1995; Brezsnyak & Whisman, 2004; Imamoğlu & Selcuk, 2018).

Choice More Satisfying Than Arranged (For Women)

Marital satisfaction is higher in self-choice marriages (especially for women) (Allendorf & Ghimire, 2013; Demir & Fişiloğlu, 1999; Imamoğlu, 1993; Lev-Wiesel & Al-Krenawi, 1999; Pimentel, 2000; Xu & Whyte, 1990), & agentic involvement in spouse-choice positively influences the love and partnership components of marital quality (Imamoğlu et al., 2019). Moreover, wives report more problems than husbands regardless of marriage type, & wives in arranged marriages report less partnership than people in self-selected marriages (Imamoğlu et al., 2019).

Being better educated and marrying at older ages seem to play pivotal roles in the emergence of modernism, especially for women, who may be more likely not only to select their husbands but also to contribute more to the family budget, participate more in decision-making, and thus experience a more egalitarian & satisfying marriage.

[These trends have been] observed in other collectivist cultures (e.g., China: Xu & Whyte, 1990; Ethiopia: Erulkar, 2013; India: Jejeebhoy, Santhya, Acharya, & Prakash, 2013; Prakash & Singh, 2014; Nepal: Allendorf & Ghimire, 2013; Ghimire, Axinn, Yabiku, & Thornton, 2006; Hoelter et al., 2004).

Some consequences of such changes seem to be
— marrying at later ages,
— greater valuing of and access to economic resources,
— delayed childbearing,
— increased valuing of the compatibility of personal characteristics of potential partners,
— women’s increased sense of agency, and
— increased spousal discussion.

However, these changes appear to be associated not only with possible gains in marital harmony but also with the possibility of increased marital conflict and dissolution when the higher marital expectations may not be met (Imamoğlu, 2000; Prakash & Singh, 2014).

Family Involvement

Many gradations of the degree of family and spouse involvement or consent seem to exist between the prototypical arranged and self-choice marriage types; for example, according to a recent study by the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Politics (which is congruous with earlier reports; e.g., Atalay, Kontaş, Beyazıt, & Madenoğlu, 1993), based on a representative sample of 23,279 respondents older than 18 years (Turgut, 2011),

about 50% of the first marriages in Turkey were arranged by the families; however, in the majority of cases, those marriages were initiated by the families together with the consent of the couples, while in only 9% of the cases the marrying persons’ consent was not obtained.

In fact, even in the lowest socioeconomic status (SES) group, less than 13% of marriages were arranged solely by the families without personal consent. In a similar vein, self-choice marriages generally involved family approval, while

less than 3% of self-choice marriages were formed solely by personal choice without family approval (Turgut, 2011).

“Additionally, parent and offspring preferences appear to diverge predictably, with parents emphasizing a mate’s social quality and daughters emphasizing inherent (genetic) quality” (Pillsworth & Barrett, 2017).

Pakistan → Hamid, Stephenson, and Rubenson (2011) found that Pakistani women who had a say in their marriage were nearly 2x as likely to agree with their husbands on how many children they would have, as compared with their counterparts in parent-arranged marriages.

India → In an interesting finding, Das Gupta (2014) documented that Indian women who said that they chose their spouse with their parents (intermediate points on the choice spectrum) had the “greatest autonomy in household decisions and decisions regarding children” (Das Gupta, 2014, p. 381).”

Ancient Marriage — Joseph Mark, 2014 (May 16)

5 Stages of the Marriage Process

“The course of the marriage process had five stages which needed to be observed in order for the couple to be legally married:

1. The engagement/marriage contract;

2. Payment of the families of the bride and groom to each other (the dowry and bride-price);

3. The ceremony/feast;

4. The bride moving to her father-in-law’s home;

5. Sexual intercourse between the couple with the bride expected to be a virgin on her wedding night and to become pregnant.”

Origins of Marriage — The Week, 2015 (January 8)

“How old is the institution?

The first recorded evidence of marriage ceremonies uniting one woman and one man dates from about 2350 B.C., in Mesopotamia.

Over the next several hundred years, marriage evolved into a widespread institution embraced by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. But back then, marriage had little to do with love or with religion.

When did religion become involved?

As the Roman Catholic Church became a powerful institution in Europe, the blessings of a priest became a necessary step for a marriage to be legally recognized. By the eighth century, marriage was widely accepted in the Catholic church as a sacrament, or a ceremony to bestow God’s grace. At the Council of Trent in 1563, the sacramental nature of marriage was written into canon law.

Did this change the nature of marriage?

Church blessings did improve the lot of wives. Men were taught to show greater respect for their wives, and forbidden from divorcing them. Christian doctrine declared that “the twain shall be one flesh,” giving husband and wife exclusive access to each other’s body. This put new pressure on men to remain sexually faithful. But the church still held that men were the head of families, with their wives deferring to their wishes.

Past Century

When women won the right to vote in 1920, the institution of marriage began a dramatic transformation. Suddenly, each union consisted of two full citizens, although tradition dictated that the husband still ruled the home.

History of Marriage — Kevin Karue, 2020 (May 6)

“Since the introduction of marriage, it became and continues to be the most common set up for the family unit. According to the latest data gathered by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 19.2 million families in the UK as of August 2019; this is a statistically significant increase of 6.8% over the last decade. Marriages/Civil Partnerships remained the most common family type in 2019, representing two-thirds of all families (12.8 million). Cohabiting couples were the second-largest family type at 3.5 million (18.4%), followed by 2.9 million (14.9%) lone parent families. In the UK over the last 10 years, the proportion of families containing a cohabiting couple increased from 15.3% to 18.4%, indicating a rising number in the years to come and perhaps a sign that more families may yet adopt this model.”



Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.