Causes of polygyny: ecology, economy, kinship, and warfare

American Anthropologist Vol/Iss. 90 Published In Pages: 871-887
By White, Douglas R., Burton, Michael L.


This article uses two dependent variables: acceptance of polygyny (the rules) and and the percentage of women in polygynous marriages (the behavior). The rules of marriage are best predicted by social structural variables (e.g. warfare, fraternal interest groups) whereas actual marriage behaviors are best predicted by economic and ecological variables (e.g. climate zone). Deemphasizing exclusively reproductive or economic explanations for polygyny, the authors find polygyny is related to male-oriented kin groups, territorial expansion and migration, and marrying war captives. Polygyny is thus thought to have a stratifying effect on women and is ultimately a detriment to female status.

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:Kate Cummings Amelia Piazza