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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.
As humans societies have evolved from hunter-gatherers into civilized societies, there have been substantial changes in relations between people, with perhaps one of a few remaining biological constants being that both adult women and men must have sexual intercourse for human procreation to happen.
Dating may also involve two or more people who have already decided that they share romantic or sexual feelings toward each other.
These people will have dates on a regular basis, and they may or may not be having sexual relations.
While pair-bonds of varying forms were recognized by most societies as acceptable social arrangements, marriage was reserved for heterosexual pairings and had a transactional nature, where wives were in many cases a form of property being exchanged between father and husband, and who would have to serve the function of reproduction.
Communities exerted pressure on people to form pair-bonds in places such as Europe; in China, society "demanded people get married before having a sexual relationship" and many societies found that some formally recognized bond between a man and a woman was the best way of rearing and educating children as well as helping to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings regarding competition for mates.
New types of relationships formed; it was possible for people to live together without marrying and without children.
The word "dating" entered the American language during the Roaring Twenties.
Prior to that, courtship was a matter of family and community interest.
This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.
Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries.
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It is a form of courtship, consisting of social activities done by the couple, either alone or with others.