Ethnocentrism in the Concept of Family and Marriage

Ethnocentrism in the Concept of Family and Marriage

Everyone in the world has some degree of ethnocentrism within themselves despite denying the possibility of the same. Indeed, ethnocentrism is the personal assumption of superiority in one’s ethnic group, and could also be based on religion and race (Hammond & Axelrod, 2006). It occurs when one specific culture imposes its values in judging different and unique values of different cultures such as customs, religion and language. In today’s world, it is common to come across different viewpoints regarding issues affecting the society in terms of values and customs. In similar regard, societal cultures are bound to make wrong assumptions regarding other cultures on the basis of what is expected from their viewpoints without considering the differences in viewpoints among the different cultures. While there are many ethnocentric issues in society today, most notable are differences regarding the concept of family and marriage. The debate about divorce is an ethnocentric issue based on the different viewpoints on the concept of family and marriage.

The concept of divorce has attracted different responses based on the period of time as well as the religion. There are different viewpoints regarding the concept of family and marriage in the different spheres of the world. Indeed, these viewpoints have often been used in the formulation of skewed regulations that have been beneficial to some while spelling doom to others. In particular, the concept of divorce has far reaching implications and is a contentious issue in today’s society.  The transition of divorce across the different periods of time is an interesting topic that affects the understanding of its prevalence. Today, divorce is not an easy process due to the incidence of psychological effects on the children and the parents. Some years before, divorce was illegal in the large part of Europe because the countries were largely catholic, a religion which prohibited the same (Dong et al, 2008). However, changes in family structures and the increase in materialism have prompted different viewpoints among European countries and indeed across the world. The concept of divorce is largely influenced by the religion of the parties and the resultant ethnocentrism from the same (Call & Heaton, 1997).

In Christianity, marriage is viewed as a command from God and that it should be life-long. The basis for this assumption is drawn from the belief that God through his prophets emphasized on the sacred nature of marriage. As thus, anything that threatens its existence after it has been formed is considered sin including the possibility of divorce. In addition, there is general view that marriage is intended for the production of children in a moral manner and thus divorce is a threat to the same. The religion of Christianity advances a generalization of a God who hates divorce by rendering it sinful. However, some denominations of Christianity are a bit lenient with their views about divorce offering a more encompassing approach. Even when this is the case, there are exceptions to the process of divorce, limiting it to only few instances. In truth, divorce is only excused when the partner is unfaithful or when they abandon their partners. Ultimately, most marriage cases do not meet the criteria for a divorce thus subjecting the partners to a dysfunctional marriage.

In portraying divorce as sinful, Christianity shapes its followers in the way of ethnocentrism. Indeed, the Bible teaches that the Bible is the only source of guidance on matters pertaining to the lives of Christianity. In so doing, Christianity not only rules out the possibility of reasoning among Christians but also encourages ethnocentrism (Call & Heaton, 1997). It is no wonder most Christians find it hard to comprehend other suggestions regarding the issue of divorce. In essence, most Christians are judgmental to the point of treating other people with different views as sinners. According to Christianity, therefore, there are no grounds reasonable enough to warrant the application of divorce in Christian families. Suggestions contrary to these beliefs are trashed under the notion that they do not conform to the Christian faith. However, these actions are only ethnocentric and do reflect the true nature of divorce. That notwithstanding, the church, in its ethnocentrism, has refused to bow to pressure and allow for divorce in special cases.

Hinduism provides partial consent to the concept of divorce through the Hindu civil code. That notwithstanding, the concept is alien to Hinduism and is thus not approved in entirety. Ancient Hindu beliefs considered marriage as a divine covenant from god that must not be broken. Indeed, marriage is part of Hindu dharma and should be upheld by both parties throughout their lives once accepted. As thus, marriage is considered a sacred bond which must not be broken on the basis of selfish or personal grounds. The reasons for the outlawing of divorce in Hinduism are based on the mistreatment of women by their male counterparts (Inglehart & Baker, 2000). In truth, the concept of divorce is only illegal through ethnocentric tendencies geared towards treating women as men’s possession. The provisions of the regulations governing the concept of marriage and divorce in Hinduism are therefore ethnocentric in nature.

In Buddhism, the concept of divorce is not clearly discussed and is therefore not prohibited. Instead, Buddha’s teachings are largely pro-marriage with an emphasis on the continuation of relationships. Each of the partners is allowed to seek for separation in instances where they cannot agree on their terms of engagement. Essentially, the religion prefers divorce over a lifetime of misery and allows for divorce among its members. Although Buddhism is partially relaxed regarding the concept of divorce, its biased inclinations towards marriage forms an ethnocentric aspect in the followers (Inglehart & Baker, 2000). Indeed, Buddhists believe that divorce is sinful and are quick to judge divorcees based on their religious beliefs. The nature of the teachings of Buddha dictates that there are no pother teachings and they should thus be followed to the letter. Consequently, therefore, Buddhists are likely to consider other views on the same to be sinful.

The concept of divorce is one of the many factors shaped through ethnocentric religious views. Indeed, most of the religions dictate a full commitment to the teachings in their holy books. The religious teachings of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are notorious with the consideration of contrary beliefs as sinful. The nature of these teachings is in itself ethnocentric because they do not allow for contrary opinion (Call & Heaton, 1997). Eventually, followers of such religious traditions are forced to take in the teachings without questioning. The effect is that people develop ethnocentrism not only in the concept of divorce but in other disciplines such as abortion and suicide.



Dong, Q., Day, K. D., & Collaço, C. M. (2008). Overcoming ethnocentrism through developing intercultural communication sensitivity and multiculturalism. Human Communication, 11(1), 27-38.

Hammond, R. A., & Axelrod, R. (2006). The evolution of ethnocentrism. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50(6), 926-936.

Inglehart, R., & Baker, W. E. (2000). Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values. American sociological review, 19-51.

Call, V. R., & Heaton, T. B. (1997). Religious influence on marital stability. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 382-392.


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