Bride theft and raiding for wives in cross-cultural perspective

Anthropological Quarterly Vol/Iss. 71 Published In Pages: 238-252
By Ayres, Barbara


This article seeks to examine the distribution and frequency of bride-theft. Tylor's (1889) findings between various forms of marriage by capture and certain other social instituions are confirmed.

Hypotheses (12)

"Although bride theft is somewhat more likely to occur in societies with general polygyny than in societies with limited polygyny or monogamy, the majority (63 percent) of societies with general polygyny do not have bride theft" (241)Not Supported
Societies requiring a bride price at marriage should tend to have a higher proportion of bridetheft than those where considerations at marriage are less substantial (242)Supported
"Table IV indicates that bride theft occurs only rarely where parents exercise either absolute control or no control over their daughters' marriages, but is present in nearly half the societies in which controls are of a intermediate degree of strictness" (242)Supported
"The presence of status differentials within the society which are based upon birth, wealth or occupation is not shown to be related to bride theft" (242-243)Not Supported
"Table VI shows that there is no relationship between bride theft and norms of premarital sexual behavior. A high valuatin of virginity then, cannot be considered as a causal factor of any general importance" (244)Not Supported
"Tylor reported that bride theft was invariably associated with patrilocal residence . . ." (244)Supported
"The finding presented in Table VIII that bride theft occurs only in societies where mother and infant sleep together strongly supports the hypothesis of sex identity conflict (P=.01) . . ." (247)Supported
According to the hypothesis bridetheft is more likely to occur in societies with mother-child households. The data contradict this (247)Not Supported
"Table X shows, however, that bride theft is most likely to occur in societies where the father's role is important' (248)Not Supported
"Bride theft represents a delayed and displaced acting out of the Oedipal conflict. Such conflict should be maximized in societies where the probablility of mother-infant seduction was high (mother-child households and mother-infant sleeping arrangements) and where the child's competition with the father was most intense (high father involvement in caretaking)" (248)Supported
"In addition, the data show that raiding for wives, like bride theft, is most likely to occur in societies where mother and infant sleep together" (249)Supported
". . . raiding is positively related to duration of the postpartum sex taboo (P=.004) and negatively related to the amount of contact between father and infant (P=.035)" (248)Supported

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:mas Jessie Cohen