How did the marriage institution arise ? There is no such thing as marriage among animals ( though there is pairing in some ). Marriage is something unique to humans.
It can be shown that the marriage institution is directly connected to property.
After the coming of private property in human society, which can broadly be said to have begun when jungles and forests were cut and agriculture started, man was seized with the acquisitive instinct. He wanted to acquire property, and retain it even after his death. One can retain his property till one's death, but how can one retain one's property even after one's death ?
The answer is that one can retain one's property even after one's death if one's property goes to one's child, because one's child is in a sense part of oneself.
But how could one be sure that a particular child is one's own child ? There were no D.N.A. tests until recent times.
One could be sure about that if the woman with whom one had sex relations was not permitted to have sex relations with any other man.
Thus, exclusiveness of sex relations was the basis of marriage.
That is why till the middle ages adultery by women was most cruelly and savagely punished ( e.g.by stoning the woman to death, tying her in a bag and throwing her into the Bosphorus, etc ), because it amounted to denying a man the right to pass on his property to his child after his death. An illegitimate child was looked down upon, e.g. Karna in the Mahabharata.
Where one did not have a child one's property devolved after one's death to one's other relatives ( because they, too, in a wider sense, were part of oneself ). That is why inheritance laws went into such minute details, and were of the utmost importance.
Recent times have witnessed a loosening up of the marriage tie, particularly in industrialized societies e.g. North America and Europe, where the divorce rate has gone upto 50% or more.
In India among Hindus no divorce was permitted,( except where a custom in the caste permitted it ), till 1955 when the Hindu Marriage Act was enacted. Thereafter by amendments in the Act divorce was made easier.
Today law courts in India, from the District and Family Courts to the Supreme Court, are flooded with divorce, custody,and maintenance cases. There is tremendous amount of social churning ( manthan ) going on in Indian society as India passes through this transitional era. Old values are collapsing, but new one's are yet to be firmly established.