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The largely unplanned group of people produces institution. Grouping of people for meeting their needs becomes institutions because of some workable patterns which harden through repetition into standardised customs. As time passes, these patterns acquire a body of supporting folklore which justifies and sanctions them.

The custom of ‘dating’ developed as a means of mate selection. Banks gradually developed as the need for storing, transferring, borrowing, and lending money gave rise to a series of standardised ways of doing these things.

From time to time, people might gather to codify and give legal endorsement to these practices as they continue to develop and change. Institutions arise in this manner. Institutionalisation consists of the establishment of definite norms which assign status positions and role functions to behaviour.


A norm is a group expectation of behaviour. Institutionalisation involves replacement of spontaneous or experimental behaviour with behaviour which is expected, patterned, regular and predictable.

A street brawl is non-institutionalised behaviour; a professional boxing match is institutionalised. A set of social relationships has become institutionalised when:

(i) A regular system of statuses and roles has been developed, and

(ii) The system of status and not expectations has been generally accepted in the society.


Dating in American society meets both these qualifications. A rather clearly defined set of courtship roles emerged, in which the duties and privileges of each party were defined (he asks, she accepts, he pays, etc.) and safeguarded with some limitations or restraints intended to prevent complications; thus, dating became a part of American marriage and family institutions.

In recent years formal dating has declined in favour of less formal boy-girl companionship; this simply shows that institutions change.

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