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Polygamy: what is this type of marriage?

Polygamy: what is this type of marriage?

May 10, 2021

The polygamy It is a type of marriage that, although rare in territories where Western culture predominates, is present in millions of families around the world.

Its most usual type, the polygyny, is the one in which the man has more than two wives, while the polyandry, in which the woman has several husbands, is much rarer.

However, the fact that so many people live in the bosom of polygamous families does not mean that this type of marriage is free of inconveniences. In fact, there are reasons to think that polygamy brings some very significant problems .

The polygamy lived through women

Experts like Rana Raddawi, from the University of Sharjah, believe that women who live in polygamous families in which a husband has several wives become involved in a dynamic in their relationships with serious emotional consequences for their well-being.


From a study based on carrying out past surveys of women who lived in polygyny, Raddawi observed how the feelings of strong abandonment and jealousy were much higher than expected . That is to say, the fact that her husband had other wives at the same time to relate to made the management of her time and of certain resources a problem.

Related article: "The types of jealousy and their different characteristics"

Little effectiveness of the rules on polygamy

In many cultures, the polygamy associated with Islam is regulated by certain religious norms designed, in principle, so that the marriage between a man and several women does not produce problems or major upheavals. However, these patterns of behavior do not have to be applied or may not have the desired effect, and this is exactly what Raddawi found.


Many of the women he studied affirmed that their husbands fail to fulfill the roles expected of them as husbands. Among other things, they tended to point out that men did not spend enough time with them and that they did not fulfill their financial responsibilities to provide the family with the money necessary to maintain it.

The consequences of polygamy for children

Rana Raddawi's research focused on the way in which women lived polygamy and the emotional impact it had on them, but it can be assumed that the impact of this way of life also affects many other people, for good or worse. One might ask, for example, about the children who are raised in polygamous families . Is this group harmed? It seems that yes, according to one of the most ambitious studies on the subject.


This is an investigation driven by Sisters in Islam, based on some 1,500 questionnaires with quantitative and qualitative parts passed on to women residing in Malaysia. Among its results are many of the feelings of abandonment found by Raddawi, although this time in boys and girls.

For example, a significant proportion of children said they felt abandoned or abandoned when their father married a new wife. In the same way, as the number of wives and children increased, the scarcity of available resources had a negative impact on the children: basically, lack of affection and attention.

For example, about 60% of the sons and daughters of the first marriage showed sadness or anger to know about a second second marriage of his father. In addition, boys and girls belonging to families in which 10 or more sons and daughters were conceived tended to say that their parents had problems remembering which of their wives they had been born with. About 90% of the small respondents said that, based on their experiences, as they grow up, they would avoid contracting a polygamous marriage.

Other negative consequences

As the mother is the only member of the family with whom the children have constant contact, it is expected that the relationship of the little ones with them will be very different .

However, polygamy seems to have negative consequences also in this regard, since Children tend to blame their mothers for not knowing or not being able to get the father's attention . That is, they perceive them as the cause of the abandonment they experience.

Considering the context

Before jumping to conclusions about the advantages and disadvantages of polygamy, one important fact must be taken into account: Research on this subject is limited by definition n, since there are too many polygamous families to study them all; But, in addition, many of the problems associated with polygamy need not be due to polygamy per se. They can be produced by the use of polygamy in concrete contexts.

For example, it is possible that in a very rich society polygamy was not lived in the same way, especially if the parents have enough resources to devote to their families all the hours they need.

But also, we must bear in mind that it is difficult to interpret the results of this study without knowing well the cultures in which it has been studied through them . The cultural bias is always there, and the reading of reports can make us a little wiser, but not enough to give us more capacity to judge polygamous life than those who live it directly.

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You may also be interested in this article: "Polyamory: what is it and what types of polyamorous relationships are there?"

Types of Marriage- Monogamy, Polygamy (May 2021).


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