I’m designing a country where marriage doesn’t exist and need an explanation about how child-births remain roughly the same in a marriage-less society.

Some sub-questions:

  • How do I make it a social norm
  • (controversial) If marriages with children generally need men to be able to provide resources for the child, while the mother raises the child. Who will provide for the mother in a society where nobody is married and men unforced to provide? Social welfare?

The country is similar to our world with education and technology, minus this change, so how do I implement this?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Firstly you can't remove something as inbuilt as marriage from a society and expect it to be exactly like ours. Had marriage never existed or has it gone out of fashion? Are you against any long-term relationships? Could there not just be couples that are together without any legal side? Also, there are plenty of children born outside of marriage already. Why do you think marriage would effect births much? $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2018 at 10:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In former times, it wasn't uncommon that the marriage was a result of the woman's pregnancy, not the other way round. Today, unmarried mothers are much better accepted, therefore this reason of marriage is less frequent. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Jan 1, 2018 at 11:08
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think posters are getting hung up on the 'exactly like ours' criteria. They are trying to fit it into a Westernized (white Christian male-centric nuclear family) society. Perhaps changing 'exactly' to 'similar technology and education', so that a completely different political, religious, and social system could be imagined. Our system is completely based on the fiduciary and legal responsibility of the parents to raise the child, and completely ignores the role of society. $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2018 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ I need a clarification of what you mean by "marriage." Marriage is fundamentally a legal contract that "originally" roughly translated to, "the two of you will work together to provide for one another and your families and as for everybody else, hands off!" Today it's more like, "We're reasonably sure we won't divorce but if we do we each get half." Before "marriage" societies were condoning unions for millenia. Biologically, it's very normal to get together to do what parents do. I assume your society has the biological urge. So, what do you mean by "marriage?" $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 1, 2018 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ And what time frame are we looking at? Using Earth's history as the timeline, are we talking middle-ages? Victorian? Industrial Revolution? today? Social norms were different in all those cases. Finally, why wouldn't a legal contract demanding something due to separation not have developed on your world? It's hard to imagine that royalty at any time and on any world wouldn't consider the necessity of legal negotiation for any union (often done to strengthen alliances or ensure peace). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 1, 2018 at 15:37

3 Answers 3


This was a comment, but I realized there is enough to make it an answer.

In a society where the village raises the child, not the nuclear family, there is no need for marriage. It would be a strongly socialist community. Decisions on child raising would not be made by the parents, so there is no need for determining parentage or custody. I am thinking of the Kibbutz community, for instance.

A society with a high mortality rate, for instance, where it is not expected that the natural parents will live long enough to raise the child on their own. Or a very nomadic society. Human babies need a mother for only the first year or so of their lives, but once weaned, nannies are just as effective.

Since marriage is primarily designed to provide monetary support, and establish financial obligations, if the society took care of child-raising costs equally, providing for instance a universal child benefit sufficient to raise the child, there would be no need for such financial considerations.

In such a society, there would be no financial impediment to 'single moms', so I suspect it would actually promote child bearing, not reduce it. There would be no financial penalty to the mother or father, no worry about parental obligations, no worries about consequences (except disease).


Considerations that would have to be addressed:

There would be no inheritance.

Society, not the children, would be responsible for the care of elderly or infirm parents. Japan is addressing this problem, through the introduction of personal care robots.

The contemporary 'Bank of Mom and Dad' would not be available. In Australia, the government (to an extent) replaces parental obligations to set the children up through a lump-sum once-in-a-lifetime social benefit. This, more than anything, equalizes the starting position for all young people, and levels the playing field for opportunity.

Powers of Attorney for Personal Care would be generalized to friends and acquaintances, not family.

Social gatherings would not be family-centric, but social-group centric.

One's fate is no longer determined by rite of birth. All children would be born equal in status, with equal opportunity.

One's sense of 'rootedness' would not be in the family, but in the society and the 'village' that raised the child.

A society that pretty much fits your description and criteria would be the Hawaiian culture before white society and religion impinged on it. See for instance Title: Sexual Behavior in Pre Contact Hawai‘i: A Sexological Ethnography

A makua hine (“aunt”) or kupuna wahine (“grandmother”) did the blowing (Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, 1972, p. 80). Any number of adult females was qualified to be the blower for a particular young male, because, traditionally in Hawai‘i, all age mates of an offspring’s parents were considered to be “parents” in some way, and all individuals of grandparental age were considered to be kupuna (grandparent or elder). Therefore, the same term might refer to a blood relative, a non-relative, or a neighbor


Individuals stayed together or not by choice rather than by commitment or obligation. One member of a pair could be monogamous while the other was polygamous. While public announcements of intentions to stay together among ali‘i were noteworthy and often elaborate affairs, they were uncommon. David Malo, an advisor to King Kalakaua III and an Hawai‘ian convert to Christianity, wrote in 1839: “Of the people about court there were few who lived in marriage. The number of those who had no legitimate relations with women was greatly in the majority. Sodomy and other unnatural vices in which men were the correspondents, fornication and hired prostitution were practiced about court” (Malo, 1951, p. 65) 9.


  • $\begingroup$ I really like this answer $\endgroup$
    – mateos
    Jan 1, 2018 at 15:14

I think your question is based on a false premise, that marriage is necessary to provide a successful environment for child-rearing. In cultures where families have been traditionally built around married couples, having two parents is certainly helpful, and there are plenty of studies to show that single parents are at a significant disadvantage both financially and emotionally. There are, however, cultures where the families are organized differently. Consider:

The Mosuo of Tibet have no concept of marriage. (see https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/apr/01/the-kingdom-of-women-the-tibetan-tribe-where-a-man-is-never-the-boss). This is an example of a matrilinear culture, where family relationships are based solely on mother-child relationships, with a grandmother leading the family. There are men who live in the same house as the children -- they are children of the dominant grandmother, and brothers or uncles to the women and children who live there.

In this kind of culture, these men take on parental duties and act as a male role model to their sisters' children in the same way that a married father would parent his own biological children. From what I can tell, this is not a unique pattern -- ancient matrilinear cultures in Africa seem to have followed a similar pattern (though I don't have a link handy).

As regards the physical act of procreation, it appears that a man may be invited into the bed of whatever woman fancies him. Since a woman may choose to have multiple sexual partners at different times, the biological father of any given child is not necessarily known, and from what I can tell, no one cares.


For having child birth you don't need marriage: you need intercourse between a fertile man and a fertile woman.

Marriage is a social construct, it can be skipped without hampering the mating functionality. If it wasn't so, we wouldn't have the problem of teen unwanted pregnancy.

Just have either a really primitive society where urges given by hormones are stronger than almost non-existing social norms (so everyone mates at will), or a really advanced society which drifted strongly toward pragmatism, where reproduction is a civic duty, totally separated from entertainment purposes.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's a world without marriage, it's not a social norm they're opposing it's one they're following. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jan 1, 2018 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix, I don't get your point. Without marriage doesn't mean without sex. As I state, one needs sex to make babies, not marriage $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jan 1, 2018 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ In your last paragraph, what social norm is the urge stronger than? There's nobody saying you have to be married to have children $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jan 1, 2018 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ A 'social norm' is what is normal in the culture or society. If mating and procreating without the benefit of marriage is common, then it is the social norm. As long as the society operates in some predictable, regular, recurring pattern, there are social norms. In a society where the village raises the child, not the nuclear family, there is no need for marriage. A society with a high mortality rate, for instance, where it is not expected that the natural parents will live long enough to raise the child on their own. $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2018 at 14:56

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