Polygamous cultures linked with instability, crimes

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 24, 2012 12:10 hrs

Toronto, Jan 24 (IANS) Cultures permitting polygamy are wracked by greater crime levels, violence, poverty and gender inequality, owing to the intra-sexual competiton that engenders it, than societies sticking to monogamous marriage.

That is a key finding of a new University of British Columbia-led study that explores the global rise of monogamous marriage as a dominant cultural institution.

Monogamous marriage ensures significant improvement in child welfare, too, including lower rates of child neglect, abuse, accidental death, homicide and intra-household conflict, the study finds, the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society reports.

The study, considered the most comprehensive on polygamy and the institution of marriage, finds significantly higher levels of rape, kidnapping, murder, assault, robbery and fraud in polygynous cultures, according to a British Columbia statement.

"Our goal was to understand why monogamous marriage has become standard in most developed nations in recent centuries, when most recorded cultures have practiced polygyny," says Joseph Henrich, professor of cultural anthropologist at the British Columbia, who led the study.

He is referring to the form of polygamy that permits multiple wives, which continues to be practiced in some parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and North America.

According to Henrich and his team, which included Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson, both professors from the University of California, Los Angeles and Davis, respectively, these crimes are caused primarily by pools of unmarried men, which result when other men take multiple wives.

"The emergence of monogamous marriage is also puzzling for some as the very people who most benefit from polygyny - wealthy, powerful men - were best positioned to reject it," says Henrich.

"Our findings suggest that institutionalized monogamous marriage provides greater net benefits for society at large by reducing social problems that are inherent in polygynous societies," adds Henrich.

"The scarcity of marriageable women in polygamous cultures increases competition among men for the remaining unmarried women," says Henrich, adding that polygamy was outlawed in 1963 in Nepal, 1955 in India (partially), 1953 in China and 1880 in Japan.

More from Sify: