In cultures that permit men to take multiple wives, the intra-sexual competition that occurs causes greater levels of crime, violence, poverty and gender inequality than in societies that institutionalize and practice 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. The study suggests that institutionalized monogamous marriage is rapidly replacing polygamy because it has lower levels of inherent social problems.
"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 UBC Prof. Joseph Henrich, a cultural anthropologist, 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.
"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, lead author of the study that is published today in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. "Our findings suggest that that institutionalized monogamous marriage provides greater net benefits for society at large by reducing social problems that are inherent in polygynous societies."
Considered the most comprehensive study of polygamy and the institution of marriage, the study finds significantly higher levels rape, kidnapping, murder, assault, robbery and fraud in polygynous cultures. According to Henrich and his research team, which included Profs. Robert Boyd (UCLA) and Peter Richerson (UC Davis), these crimes are caused primarily by pools of unmarried men, which result when other men take multiple wives.
"The scarcity of marriageable women in polygamous cultures increases compe
|Contact: Basil Waugh|
University of British Columbia