THE INDIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK Tata Institute of Volume 75,...
Tata Institute
Volume 75, Issue 3
Social Sciences
July, 2014
Attitudes towards Marriage among the Students
of Higher Learning in West Bengal
An Empirical Approach
AmAl KrishnA sAhA And sAdhAn KumAr dey
This article examines the attitudes of students towards marriage in the 21st century. It
also focuses on attitudes towards a wide range of marriage related issues like dowry,
caste and love marriage. The Factor Analysis suggests that the young generation pre-
fer spouses with well-paying jobs. Any type of marriage, love or arranged, is acceptable
to them. According to them the success of marriage does not depend on astrological
prediction, but on the couple’s mutual understanding, co-operation and trust. They give
less importance to the ‘caste’ of a spouse.
Amal Krishna Saha is an Associate Professor in Human Resource Management; and
Sadhan Kumar Dey is an Associate Professor of English Language and Communication
at the Pailan College of Management and Technology, Bengal Pailan Park, Kolkata.
In India, marriage is considered as one of the most important events
in one’s life. It is regarded as the socially accepted union of a man and
woman for their conjugal happiness, co-operation and for their role in the
procreation and rearing of children. In a broader sense, marriage paves
the way for the union of two families. Nowadays, decisions regarding
marriage especially among the educated are taken by the concerned boy
and girl and the parents generally organise the wedding ceremony.
In India, it is customary for an individual to marry within their religion,
caste and sub caste. Traditionally, parents and relatives select a prospective
bride or groom from a pool of eligible adults who are mostly from a
similar socioeconomic, cultural and educational background (Majumdar,
1978). The parents may depend on matrimonial advertisements of leading
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350 Amal Krishna Saha and Sadhan Kumar Dey
newspapers, matrimonial sites and their social associates. Before the
engagement is announced to friends and relatives, many Hindu families
consult an astrologer to ensure the compatibility of the prospective marital
partners. After a preliminary selection by the parents, the would-be couple
may meet, talk over the phone and parents may arrange a special meeting
for the couple. After a few meetings and interactive sessions the couple
convey their decision to the parents about the prospective spouse (Hamon
and Ingoldsby, 2003). If it is favourable, parents and relatives of both
sides organise the marriage ceremony after formal discussion. If it is not
favourable, the message is conveyed to the boy/girl’s parents with delicate
politeness. The whole process starts again, that is, picking up the next
choice from the pool.
In India, as a result of globalisation, rapid social changes are noticeable
in the institution of marriage especially in arranged marriages. Even school
children in their early teens are involved in some sort of love affairs and
discuss such matters without any inhibitions. The friendships developed
in school, often break-up due to spatial and temporal change of partners;
most of them concentrate in trying to choose their area of interest for
further studies. Although some of them try to maintain their friendships
even after their school life, there is no statistical evidence to show how
many of them get married to their school friends. In college, they may
develop new friendships. Some of them get married during their college
days while others may find new partners at their work place or through
social interaction outside the work place. A significant number of children
and adults move out of their parental households for higher education or
employment. The new interactions in college and work place change their
attitudes, personality and concept of social values.
Literature Review
Marriage is not considered as an individual affair among the wider section
of Indian society, but rather a bond between two families (Bhagat, 2002).
It is predominantly controlled by caste and religion. Almost all Indian
children especially girls are brought up with the expectation that their
parents will arrange their marriages. Arranged marriages are becoming
flexible and adaptable as they are based on contemporary practical and
realistic factors (Vasudev, 2004). The situation is now changing very
rapidly from parentally controlled arranged marriages to love marriages
(Caldwell, Reddy and Caldwell, 1983; Thornton, Chang and Yang, 1994).
A significant number of young people, especially college and university
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Attitudes towards Marriage among the Students... 351
educated people, choose their spouses. A study (Jejeeboy and Halli, 2005)
conducted in Tamil Nadu reports that a considerable percentage of young
women played an active role in determining the timing of their marriage
and choice of their spouse. Another study (Medora, Larson and Dave,
2000) stated that the majority of Indian marriages are still arranged, even
among the educated middle class population of modern India. Majority of
Indian youth are diffident about their experience, knowledge or wisdom to
select a prospective spouse. It is assumed that parents have knowledge and
wisdom to make a choice best suited for their child. In arranged marriages,
there are many factors to be considered and the potential partner is carefully
screened to ensure compatibility. Family ideals, values, and background as
well as social, educational and economic status are assessed to ensure that
they are compatible (Hamon and Ingoldsby, 2003; Mullatti, 1995). Parents
take the help of matrimonial advertisements in leading newspapers and
also social associates to choose a desirable spouse. It is observed that they
would like to choose a mate for their son or daughter from their associates
or through their references believing that the latter would not recommend
someone who is incompatible.
Though living in the twenty first century, the Indian Hindu families go
by endogamous marriages. One can see it during spouse selection in an
arranged marriage. This can also be observed in the classified advertisement
sections of the newspapers. In the rural areas, the observance of the caste
system in arranging marriages is much stronger as compared to the cities
(Hamon and Ingoldsby, 2003). To marry outside of one’s caste and religion
is often considered as taboo. Still in the case of love marriages, though
caste does not play any big role, religion plays a significant role. However,
the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, legalised inter-religious and inter-caste
marriages (Mullatti, 1995).
The practice of dowry is common in most parts of India, which is
becoming an increasingly onerous burden on the bride’s family. Anti-
dowry laws exist, but are largely ignored and a bride’s treatment in her
matrimonial home is often affected by the value of dowry she brings to
her in-laws. The practice of dowry widely varies from community to
community and from state to state. It is fading out, but very slowly among
the educated families. Dowry is uncommon in love marriages.
Whether it is the case of arranged or love marriages, prospective grooms
and brides expect their spouse to be employed, as a ‘single income’ is not
sufficient to run a family smoothly. A study by Stevans, Puchtell, Ryu
and Mortimer (1992) found that 99 percent of the girls wanted to work
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352 Amal Krishna Saha and Sadhan Kumar Dey
after marriage and 85 percent of the boys expected that their wives would
continue to work after getting married.
Objectives of the Study
After globalisation, an increasing number of young boys and girls are
joining universities and colleges, and entering into varied professions
which were unthinkable even a few years ago. The awareness about
education, economic and technical development, social change,
industrialisation, disintegration of joint families and availability of more
job opportunities have given the young generation more freedom and
economic independence. It has also changed the attitudes of this generation
towards marriage. The present study aims to investigate:
• The expectations of young students from marriage and this objective is
achieved by Factor Analysis.
• Variation in attitudes if any among young boys and girls towards
different factors/components derived from Factor Analysis and it was
tested by ANOVA analysis.
• Attitudes towards caste and love marriage among the young boys and
girls and variation of their attitudes were tested by chi-square analysis.
• Attitudes towards dowry among the girl’s student and it was calculated
by percentage only.
The data was randomly collected from the students who were studying
at the under graduate and post graduate levels of four different private
engineering and management colleges in Kolkata metropolitan area and
the West Bengal University of Technology. The sample consisted of 273
boys and 163 girls. Out of the 500 questionnaires distributed, 436 were
measured complete and used for analysis. Socio-demographic variables
such as gender, age, area of study and residence of the students that may
have an impact on student’s attitude towards marriage were considered in
this research.
The data for the socio-demographic variables was obtained directly
from the first part of the questionnaire. The second part of the questionnaire
contained thirteen questions which were used to find out the attitudes of the
young generation towards marriage. To find out which factors influenced
them more, and also to examine the correlation between variables, Factor
Analysis was carried out. A series of analyses of variance (ANOVA) were
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Attitudes towards Marriage among the Students... 353
performed to investigate the relationship/s between demographic variables
and the components derived from Factor Analysis.
In the second part of the questionnaire, two specific questions (Tables
4 and 5) covering the concerns of modern time ‘love marriage’ and
‘spouse’s caste were also asked separately to both boys and girls and three
specific questions (Table 6) on ‘dowry’ and ‘job’ were asked only to girls.
Chi-square test was used to test the hypothesis regarding the opinion of
boys and girls about love marriage and spouse’s caste. Percentage was
calculated to find out the opinion of girls regarding dowry and jobs.
Socio-demographic Characteristics of the Respondents
The socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents are presented
in Table 1. The percentage of boys was more than that of the girls (62.84
percent and 37.16 percent respectively). Majority of the students (80.28
percent) were in the age group of 18–22 years. Again majority of the
students came from different branches of Engineering (77.29 percent).
About one third of the students came from rural areas.
Table 1: Respondents’ Characteristics and Background
Course Pursuing
Urban area
Rural area
Choosing the right marriage partner in life is not an easy job. In Europe
and America, they generally choose their spouse after co-habitation. Even
then a significant number of such unions end up in divorce. Indian society
does not see cohabitation as a an acceptable practice. The parents allow
their wards the right to choose their spouse to some extent. Status and
caste conscious families are yet to accept it.
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354 Amal Krishna Saha and Sadhan Kumar Dey
To find out the attitudes towards marriage, thirteen statements (Table-2)
on a five point Likert scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree
were considered. To find out the smaller set of components/factors,
Factor Analysis was carried out. In order to establish the strength of the
factor analysis, the reliability and validity of the obtained reduction was
established by the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin test and Bartlett’s test of sphericity.
In the analysis, Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy (KMO
= 0.603) and Bartlett’s test of sphericity were (Chi-square = 685.712,
p < 0.000) significant, which justified the factor analysis (Chawla and
Sondhi, 2011; Hair and others, 1998). Regarding the Eigen values of
all the components, the variance explained by each component and the
cumulative variance were calculated. As stated by Malhotra (2007) those
components with Eigen values greater than one are retained. The present
study indicates that only six components have Eigen values greater than
one, and together contribute 55.734 percent of the total variance. The
first component accounts for 14.04 percent of variance while the second,
third, fourth, fifth and sixth account for 10.302 percent, 9.304 percent,
8.30 percent, 7.335 percent and 6.453 percent, respectively. The remaining
components are not significant.
An important output from Factor Analysis is the component matrix
which contains the co-efficient that expresses the standardised variables
in terms of the components. A co-efficient with a large absolute value
indicates that the component and the variables are closely related.
The co-efficient of the component matrix can be used to interpret the
components. The researchers have used rotation method (Variance with
Kaiser Normalization) to identify the variables which have a large loading
on the same component. Variables with loading less than 0.50 were not
In the study, variables one, two, and three correlate and combine with
component one after rotation because of their commonality in nature (Table
2). This component may be labelled as a ‘well-paid job’. This means that
whether it is an arranged or a love marriage, the young generation prefers
that their spouses’ draw high salaries. They have realised that a single
individual’s income is not sufficient to run a family smoothly. They are not
very keen on a Government job, which constituted the prime choice even a
few years back. This may be because though the Government job is more
secure and salary attractive, the opportunities are limited. Component two
is related to variables seven, twelve, and thirteen and may be labelled as
‘marriage is less attractive’. The increasing rate of divorce, cohabitation,
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Attitudes towards Marriage among the Students... 355






able 2: Rotated Component Matrix


I prefer my spouse to have a job
o run a family smoothly both spouses should have a
I do not care whether it is Govt. or private job, he/she
should have a decent salary
It does not matter at all whether it is arranged or love
marriage, what matters is mutual understanding and
It is not necessary that one has to be married
It is very difficult to choose the right person in life
Rising rate of divorce is reducing the attractiveness of
rust, mutual understanding and co-operation are nec
essary for a successful married life
In married life, one has to compromise throughout his/
her life
o live alone throughout life will be boring, monoto
nous and meaningless
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356 Amal Krishna Saha and Sadhan Kumar Dey






ged in three iterations.
ell paid job.
Any type of marriage .
arimax with Kaiser Normalization. Rotation conver
ariance 14.040 10.302 9.304 8.300 7.335 6.453
:Extraction Method: Principle Component

Astrology should not play any role in selection of
Do you agree marriage is less important among young
generation because premarital sex is becoming increas
ingly acceptable in modern society
Marriage is a gamble
Eigen values 2.246 1.648 1.489 1.328 1.174 1.032
Cumulative % 14.040 24.342 33.646 41.946 49.281 55.734
Component 1:
Component 2: Marriage is less attractive.
Component 3: Single life is boring & meaningless.
Component 4: Success of Marriage.
Component 5: Role of astrology
Component 6:
Rotation Method
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Attitudes towards Marriage among the Students... 357
pre-marital sex in modern India seems to have an impact in reducing the
attractiveness of marriage among young students.
The lack of meaningful employment opportunities among the young
generation has also reduced the attractiveness of marriage. Working women
have gained economic independence, which has given them substantial
courage to go for divorce if they think they can no longer tolerate the
mental and physical torture meted out by their husbands and in-laws. Until
recently, uneducated and economically dependent women used to tolerate
all sorts of pressure given by their husbands and in-laws.
An educated and employed woman today expects mutual respect, co-
operation and trust from her spouse. The employment of a married woman
does not increase the risk of divorce in a happy marriage. Since the 1970s,
cohabitation has increased in European countries and the United States
of America, which has resulted in the postponement of marriages among
the young generation (Bumpass and Sweet, 1991). Very few couples want
to take the responsibility of family and the rearing of children in these
Component three is related with variables five, nine, and ten and may be
labelled as ‘single life is boring and meaningless’. The young generation
is aware that living single could be boring, monotonous and meaningless.
Though marriage is losing its attractiveness, very few in India want to
remain unmarried. Parents are not going to be around forever to look after
their children. On the contrary, Indian society generally expects that the
son and his wife will take care of the parents in their old days. One recent
study suggests that girls desire to take the responsibility of the parents
even after their marriage (Saha and Dey, 2013). But it mainly depends
on her husband and his family. In 2010, 35.9 percent of the population of
India remained unmarried (Sinha, 2012). The highest number of ‘never
married’ people was reported in Jammu and Kashmir (45.4 percent) against
the lowest in Andhra Pradesh (30.4 percent).Besides companionship,
unemployment is one of the main reasons why some individuals remain
single in Indian society. There is also no social security system in India. If
one does not have a proper job and parents are retired with no pension, it
is extremely difficult to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
Component four is associated with variables six and eight and may be
labelled as ‘success of married life’. In married life, one accepts a new
person in his/her life and it changes the course of an individual’s lifestyle.
Maturity, trust, mutual understanding and co-operation from each other
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358 Amal Krishna Saha and Sadhan Kumar Dey
are the roots of a successful married life. A socio-demographic report
(Taylor, Funk and Clark, 2007) found that 93 percent of their respondents
mentioned ‘faithfulness’ as a very important factor in a successful marriage.
And also, majority of the respondents mentioned adequate income, good
housing, shared religious beliefs and tastes and interest in common areas
as important for a successful marriage.
Component five is related to only variable eleven, that is, ‘role of
astrology’ in marriage. In most Hindu arranged marriages, astrology plays
a very significant role in the selection of a spouse. Parents generally consult
an astrologer before announcing a couple’s engagement. There is no
statistical evidence to prove that the forecasts are accurate. As evidenced
by the Factor Analysis, most youngsters stated that astrology should not
play any role in the selection of a spouse.
Component six is also associated with variable four only, with a very
high loading and may be labelled as ‘any type of marriage’. Both love
marriages and arranged marriages are acceptable to the younger generation.
Arranged marriage in India is a very old practice, while love marriage is
very recent. In arranged marriage, two different personalities start living
together just after their marriage. Conflict may arise, but they believe that
co-operation, mutual understanding and trust are the pivot of a successful
Effect of Demographic Variables on Components: ANOVA
A series of analyses of variance (one-way ANOVAs) was performed to
investigate the relationship between demographical variables and the
components derived from Factor analysis. Demographical variables
such as gender and residential areas were considered in the analysis. It
was presumed that the attitudes of boys and girls born and brought up in
urban areas will significantly vary from the boys and girls who are born
and brought up in rural areas. The age was not considered because age
difference of the students was very minimal, that is, eight years only.
Similarly, the area of study was not considered as there were very few
students pursuing postgraduate studies. A one-way ANOVA analysis
allows us to test whether several means are equal across one variable and
this is done by analysing the variance. In the study boys and girls living
in urban and rural areas differed significantly in their opinion about ‘well-
paid job’ and ‘single life is boring and meaningless’. They also differed
significantly in their opinion about ‘marriage is less attractive’. However,
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Attitudes towards Marriage among the Students... 359
residential areas did not seem to play any significant role to influence
them. These results are reported in Table 3. On the contrary, boys and
girls did not differ significantly in their opinion about ‘success of married
life’, ‘role of astrology’ and ‘any type of marriage’ irrespective of their
residential areas.
In the context of ‘well-paid job’, working women desire their potential
mates to have higher income as compared to what they earn themselves
(Buunk, Dijkstra, Fetchenhauer and Kenrick, 2002). A few other studies
(Townsend and Roberts, 1993; Goode, 1996; Nakosteen and Zimmer,
2001) also suggest that women place more importance on socioeconomic
status and earnings of their spouse than their male counterparts. Remaining
unmarried is more acceptable for men than it is for women in Indian society.
A research finding (Dykstra and Poortman, 2008) suggests that high
salaried women and low-salaried men are more likely to remain single. This
finding also suggests that the relationship between economic resources and
permanent singlehood trend has not changed much over time. Nowadays,
in urban areas, less qualified, less attractive and unemployed women have
minimum chance to get married whereas in rural areas a woman with good
health, irrespective of her physical attractiveness, has a fair chance to get
married. Again in the context of ‘marriage is less attractive’, young boys in
India are losing their interest in marriage due to the modern day practice of
‘living together’ without marital responsibility and also due to increasing
rate of divorce. However, in Indian society, marriage is very important for
girls, as it gives them an opportunity to have their own family. Marriage
is considered to be the ultimate solution towards economic stability for
uneducated and unemployed women in Indian society.
Table 3: Demographic Variables and its Relationship with the Components
Well-paid Job
Marriage is less at- Single life is boring &
Mean F P
tractive Mean F P
meaningless Mean F P
11.48 12.12**
9.94 4.71* 0.031
8.49 14.52** 0.0002
12.59 11.32**
9.57 0.239 0.625
8.05 3.73* 0.054
*Significant at .05 level; **Significant at .01 level
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360 Amal Krishna Saha and Sadhan Kumar Dey
Attitudes towards Love Marriage and Caste of the Spouse
In reply to a question ‘I can’t think of marrying an unknown person’,
majority of the boys (45.09+23.64= 68.73 percent) and girls (72.84+16.67=
89.51 percent) mentioned that they do not like to marry an unknown
person (Table 4). But in reality all the marriages are not love marriages. In
India, only 20 percent enter into love marriages (Banerjee, Duflo, Ghatak
and Lafortune, 2009). Eighty percent of marriages are either ‘arranged’ or
‘semi-arranged’ marriages.
Table 4: Students’ Attitudes towards Love Marriages
Sample Strongly Fairly
Do not
Fairly Strongly Total
disagree disagree
I can’t think
of marrying
an unknown
χ2 (df=3, N = 437) = 36.07, p > .05
Note: The figures in parenthesis indicate percentage.
Two adjacent columns were merged together due to very less frequency
(<5) in one cell. So, it became 2x4 cells and the degrees of freedom became
Chi-square test was conducted taking the frequency distribution of the
sample to test the null hypothesis that boys and girls do not have different
opinions regarding marrying an unknown person. The results indicated
that there is a significant difference of opinion between boys and girls
regarding marrying an unknown person.
Table 5: Students’ Attitudes towards Caste of the Spouse
Sample Strongly Fairly
Do not
Fairly Strongly To-
disagree disagree
I do not
bother about
the caste of
my spouse
χ2 (df=3, N = 437) = 18.20, p > .05
Note: The figures in parenthesis indicate percentage.
IJSW, 75 (3), 349– 364, July, 2014

Attitudes towards Marriage among the Students... 361
In reply to another question regarding the caste of a spouse, about 81.45
percent (57.09+24.36) of boys and 74.70 percent (39.51+35.19) of girls
indicated that they were not bothered about the spouse’s caste (Table 5).
Chi-square test was also conducted to see whether there is any difference
of opinion between boys and girls about the caste of their spouse. The
results indicate that young boys and girls differ in their opinion about the
caste of their spouse, both in love or arranged marriages. It is easy to say
‘I do not bother about the caste of my spouse’, but it is not so easy to
overcome the century old tradition. Caste may not play a significant role
in love marriages, but in arranged marriages it still plays a very dominant
role in India.
Attitudes towards Dowry and Job
In 2010, 8,391 dowry death related cases were reported across India (Bedi,
2012). The figures vary from state to state. Kolkata, the state capital of
West Bengal, where 12 percent of the Indian metropolitan city people
live, has only 1.9 percent ‘dowry related deaths’ (Banerjee and others,
2009). In the study, about 97 percent (93.83+3.09) of women students
stated that they were against dowry, and would therefore not marry an
individual demanding dowry. The answer to the second question is very
interesting. Nearly 31 percent (14.70+16.54) of them are of the opinion
that their parents may give them minimum assets, if the bridegroom does
not demand anything. However, about 43.56 percent (6.04+37.52) did
not agree with this opinion. The remaining 25.20 percent were not sure
whether their parents would give them their due share of assets (Table 6).
Social norms generally force the girls to keep quiet.
Table 6: Girl Students’ Attitudes towards Dowry and Job
Specific Question
Do not
disagree disagree
I would not marry a guy

who demands dowry ir-
respective of his degree
If my spouse does not
demand anything from my
parents they will give me
minimum assets and keep
everything for my brother
I do not intend to leave my
job due to child-rearing
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362 Amal Krishna Saha and Sadhan Kumar Dey
Majority of the girls (37.04+28.04= 65.08 percent) have mentioned
that they would not like to resign from their jobs due to child-rearing
responsibilities. In India, where job opportunities are very less, women
are very much reluctant to quit their jobs for child rearing and family care
responsibilities (Saha, 2011).
Globalisation, industrialisation, urbanisation and technological advances
have been instrumental in changing family structure, values and lifestyles
in India. The present generation has access to better economic opportunities
across the country. With higher expenditure on education and professional
training, the expectations of parents has also increased manifold. On the
contrary, the experience that the young generation gathers while they live
outside their parent’s home during their schooling and college education
and during their professional sojourn influences them to choose their own
spouse. Subsequently, emerging avenues of income and employment
opportunities affect partner- selecting behaviour considerably.
These days, parent’s role in their son’s or daughter’s marriage has
become secondary, especially in urban areas. The youngsters choose their
spouse and then request their parents to organise the marriage ceremony.
They do not bother to consult an astrologer to know about the future of
their marriage. Today’s grooms do not bother about the dowry or other
related issues for that matter. With changing times, the concept of ‘arranged
marriage’ is fading away from the Indian urban society, although the
younger generation is still flexible about accepting an ‘arranged marriage’.
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