Polygamy: Features and Disadvantages of this Marriage Strategy

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Polygamy is a mating strategy or marriage structure which involves a male having multiple female partners. Polygamy is the prevalent mating strategy of 95-97% of mammalian species, within these species males provide little to no investment in their offspring and seek as many mates as possible (Geary 2000). An estimated 80-85% of human societies practice/allow polygamous marriages (Murdock and White 1969 see Archetti), and it is thought that early hominoids lived in small multi-male polygamous groups similarly to closely related primates (Jolly 1977 see benshoof).

However, all thought polygamy is practiced in the majority of human societies it is not the prevailing mating strategy. In the vast majority of societies, social monogamy is practiced by most individuals with polygamous marriages only being possible for rich males (White & Burton 1988). We should indeed be suspicious of the idea that humans are polygynous, this essay will encompass the following; mating strategies, parental investment, fitness the costs of polygamy and the benefits of social monogamy.

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It has been argued by sociobiologist Brash (2016) that humans are innately polygynous with human males having an innate drive to copulate with as many fertile women as possible. Specifically, he argues that men have a preference for sexual novelty and achieve copulations with multiple women via violent displays and male-to-male competition much like what we see In Gorillas. However, his views have been heavily criticised as he fails to define exactly what he means by ‘polygamy’ and for his wild interpretation of evidence (Driscoll 2017).

Beyond critiques of his argument, the view that humans are innately polygynous is archaic and fails to fit within the boundaries of what we know about human behaviour. It is logical to assume that monogamy and not polygamy serves a beneficial purpose as this is mostly practiced by modern humans. Theoretical and empirical evidence are supporting of this view, not only that but polygamy appears to be costly for both men and women for variance reasons.

Although evidence suggests that polygamy is costly for men and women it does exist in today’s world and appears to be a part of cultural evolution. It has been argued by evolutionary theorists that polygamy occurs in the middle ranges of societal complexity, with monogamy developing as the society develops (Engels 1972 see white & burton). This view is supported by cross cultural research (Osmond 1965), the outlawing of polygamy throughout societies across the world in the 18th and 19th century and the state of nations which currently allow polygamy in the Middle East and Africa (Broude 1994).

Within the Middle East where polygamy is prevalent with an estimated 17-30% of marriage being polygynous (Chamie 1986) and other countries alike, the negative consequences of polygamy have been observed. Polygamy is detrimental to women’s mental health with numerous studies finding higher rates of mental illness in polygamous women. Polygamy has been found to cause extreme stress in women, to increase negative self-esteem and depressive symptoms and produce psychological distress (Al-Krenawi 1998, Agadjanian & Ezeh 2000 and El-Islam 1975). Women in polygamous marriages have also show higher rates of admission into psychiatric hospitals than women in monogamous marriages (Chaleby 1988 & Al-krenwai 1999).

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Polygamy: Features and Disadvantages of this Marriage Strategy. (2020, November 26). WritingBros. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/polygamy-features-and-disadvantages-of-this-marriage-strategy/
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Polygamy: Features and Disadvantages of this Marriage Strategy [Internet]. WritingBros. 2020 Nov 26 [cited 2024 Feb 23]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/polygamy-features-and-disadvantages-of-this-marriage-strategy/
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