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Do you believe that parental approval has any influence on choice of dating or marital partner?

Updated on June 19, 2013

Why parental approval?

The simple answer as to whether I believe that parental approval has an influence on dating and marriage partner is “yes”. The amount of that influence and significance of it often varies from family to family. Not only does it vary from family to family, it also varies from culture to culture. In many Islamic families, the significance of that approval can be a matter of life and death. This is a stark contrast to some families in Western cultures where the significance of parental approval has about as much significance as the color of socks you chose to wear that day.

The harder issue to consider is “why” parental approval does influence those decisions. Historically, arranged marriages were the norm for many centuries. The freedom to choose a marital partner without parental approval is a recent development. Although there have been some people who chose partners without parent approval occasionally in the past, it was not the widespread through many cultures. Parental approval was essential in the selection of marriage partners in most cultures. That historic precedence provides a cultural pattern which has continued. The family has played a major role in history in steering their offspring in the selection of mates. The family often had a vested interest in doing what was best for all its members.

Since family was often critical to survival, obtaining their approval was important. In modern Western society, I believe that the family values, culture and structure are key components as to the amount of influence their approval has. Families which place a greater importance on the authority structure of the family have greater influence on who their children date and marry. This influence can be positive or negative. If the authority structure was destructive, then the child may intentionally choose someone who the parents disapprove of. When the structure is constructive, the choice is made to date and marry who the parents approve of.

When the family places a high value on love and looking out for the best interest of its members, when it comes time to date and marry, the children seek the approval of their parents. In these families, the children have learned to trust the parents and know that their opinion is shaped by what is in their best interest. There are also some modern families that have abandoned the modern concept of dating and returned to ‘courtship’. These families have seen the destruction and heartache that dating has produced in society. Rather than see their children go through those emotional upheavals, they have returned to the older practice of ‘courtship’. In such families, the approval of the parents is essential for anyone courting their child. This trend has been gaining in popularity as modern culture continues fragmenting.

Although the romantic notion is to allow the child to choose who they date and marry, there are some children that have special needs that make such choices a major concern. Families with special needs children often have to manage the affairs of their children, including dating and marriage. In such cases, their motives are not about being controlling or authoritarian, but rather about protection. With special needs populations, parents often have to approach even simple matters like dating with extra caution.


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