The Influence of Developmental Idealism on Marriage: Evidence from Nepal

Julie A J de Jong, University of Michigan
Dirgha J. Ghimire, University of Michigan
Arland Thornton, University of Michigan

We hypothesize that developmental ideas and models concerning family life have been disseminated widely around the world, where they have become forces for both ideational and behavioral change. In this paper, we examine the ways in which marriage has been influenced by these ideas of development in Nepal, a country that has historically practiced young age at marriage, arranged marriage, taboos against intercaste marriage, polygamy, and almost no divorce as recently as the 1950s. Using qualitative and quantitative data from recent face-to-face interviews, we demonstrate that large fractions of Nepalis now endorse marriage behavior similar to that found in the West. Preferred age at marriage has risen, tolerance for intercaste marriage has increased, divorce has become more permissible, young people are more likely to be involved in their spousal choice, and polygamy has greatly decreased. Further analyses examine potential mechanisms, such as education and media exposure, behind this recent change.

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Presented in Session 120: The Marriage Revolution in Asia