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Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries.

From the standpoint of anthropology and sociology, dating is linked with other institutions such as marriage and the family which have also been changing rapidly and which have been subject to many forces, including advances in technology and medicine.

Historically, marriages in most societies were arranged by parents and older relatives with the goal not being love but legacy and "economic stability and political alliances", according to anthropologists.However, one particularity of the human species is that pair bonds are often formed without necessarily having the intention of reproduction.In modern times, emphasis on the institution of marriage, generally described as a male-female bond, has obscured pair bonds formed by same-sex and transsexual couples, and that many heterosexual couples also bond for life without offspring, or that often pairs that do have offspring separate.These people will have dates on a regular basis, and they may or may not be having sexual relations.This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.

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