Families and marriage are important facets of human existence that are honored and observed in civilizations around the globe. Varied cultures and ethnic groups, however, have quite different perspectives on these factors. In order to obtain a deeper understanding of the two, Mary Kay Gilliland studies the family unit’s nature and the institution of marriage in various circumstances. In the essay, Gilliland examines how roles and obligations within the family evolve over time and among cultures. For instance, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the designation of ‘mother,’ in the typical Euro-American family, was associated with domestic care and placed the mother as the central cohesive unit in the nuclear family. This limiting role was neither negotiable nor easily escapable. Yet in contemporary American culture, the role of a woman is no longer solely defined by providing care for children, nor staying at home, but instead is defined by herself.
Gilliland then explores the ideologies behind kinship and descent. By focusing on the ties that bind family members, and the strategy followed by different cultures in the naming of their descendants. Gilliland notes that patrilineal descent is more common around the globe that is matrilineal. Whether or not the descent is defined by the father’s side or the mother’s, was determined by the prevailing patriarchal or matriarchal beliefs of the specific people. However, the descent is not always defined by either the mother nor the father, as seen in the Navajo example where the community is made up of clans. In the clans, the people have a general belief of common descent. In conclusion, Mary Gilliland’s Family and Marriage explores these societal concepts using a multifaceted, which holds into consideration cultural differences and ultimately offers an intriguing insight into the two, and how they are perceived across the globe.