The dowry system in Northern India: Women's attitudes and social change


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    Department of Sociology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403-0231.

Institute of Family and Child Care Studies, University of Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands (


In spite of modernization and women's increasing role in the market economy, the practice of the dowry in India is becoming more widespread, and the value of dowries is increasing. There are many well-documented adverse consequences of the dowry system, particularly for women. This is a study of attitudes toward the dowry system among married women in the northern province of Bihar (N= 4,603), in which the dowry has strong roots in tradition. Hypotheses regarding antecedents involving attachment to tradition, exposure to modernizing influences, and self-interest were developed. Each set of factors has some effects, and nearly two thirds of the women in the survey disapprove of the dowry. The practice may be quite resistant to change, however, because its social and economic consequences carry tangible benefits in an increasingly materialistic culture.