Given the social centrality of the family institution and the role of courtship in the family formation process, it is not surprising that the study of courtship has received attention from several disciplines.
Ages at first marriage declined dramatically, and dating started earlier than ever before.
The sexual exploration that had previously been a part of the last stage of courtship now occurred earlier, even in very young couples.
Queen, Habenstein, and Quadagno (1985) describe still other mateselection patterns that do involve some form of love, including the systems found on Israeli kibbutzim at midcentury, among ethnic immigrant groups in the United States, and among African-Americans during slavery (see also Ramu 1989).
In the twentieth century, however, and especially since the 1920s, courtship in Western societies has been participant-run and based on ideas of romantic love.
Courting was the broader term used to describe socializing between unmarried men and women" (Rothman 1984, p. Scholars have disagreed as to whether dating—a twentieth-century term for a primarily recreational aspect of courting—should be considered a part of courtship since, according to Waller (1938) and others, dating may be merely thrill-seeking and exploitative, and not marriage oriented (but see Gordon 1981 for an opposing view).
However, wooing (that is, seeking favor, affection, love, or any of these) may be integral to courtship and yet not result in marriage.During the 1800s, mate choice became more autonomous with the growth of cities and the spread of industrial employment.Choices were affected less by considerations of wealth than by personal qualities—especially morality, spirituality, and "character." Wooing was rather formal, with each participant carefully evaluating the qualities of the other.Where male elders have arranged marriages for their offspring (generally in ascription-based societies), the accumulation of family power and prestige has been of primary concern, with dowrys, bride prices, or both figuring prominently in prenuptial arrangements.In participant-run mate selection (generally in achievement-based societies), the power and prestige of a dating partner (although defined in terms other than land, cattle, and the like) is still valuable.Unlike the colonial North, where marriage was considered a civil ceremony, in most parts of the South, Anglican church ministers were required to officiate at weddings.