Having multiple husbands can be beneficial for women, observes study
Polygamy in our society is often frowned upon, especially for women. In India, the practice is also largely illegal. However, a recent study by the University of California, Davis, claims that for women to have multiple husbands could actually benefit the society economically in difficult times. Wondering what is the correlation? Here are all the details about the study.
The study was conducted for over two decades in a western Tanzanian village in Africa, mainly populated by the people of Pimbwe and related Bantu ethnicity. Researchers observed and collected data on births, deaths, marriages, and divorces of all households comprising nearly 2,000 individuals. The study's co-author, Cody Ross, noted that a longitudinal study like this is "much more reliable than records collected retrospectively."
The study found that women who acquired multiple spouses were able to buffer themselves against economic and social crises. It was discovered that women who moved from one spouse to another were more likely to have a higher number of surviving children. Contrarily, men who married multiple women had less surviving children. Notably, the study was controlled for the number of married years.
It is important to note that in the Pimbwe culture, the custom of marriage is informal and "defined as sexual partners living together." Hence, "divorce is easy, and can be initiated by either partner," as observed by both the study and early 20th-century missionary visitors. Men and women may have more sexual partners than marriage partners, but the former is often recognized as marriage.
Interestingly, the study's lead researcher- UC Davis Anthropology Professor Monique Borgerhoff Mulder- said, "We can't pin down the exact reasons for this finding." She added, "But our work suggests that marrying multiple maybe a wise strategy for women where the necessities of life are hard, and where men's economic productivity and health can vary radically over lifetime due to challenging environmental conditions."
Mulder has also conducted extensive demographic/anthropologic research on the people of the Tanzanian village- located at the north end of the Rukwa Valley near the Katavi National Park. The latest paper was published on August 14 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Mulder explained, "In many parts of rural Africa, reproductive inequality among women emerges not from reproductive suppression, as in some other highly social mammals, but more likely from direct competition among women for access to resources." She added that these resources may include high-quality spouses, multiple caretakers to help around the house and farms, and (at least in this particular cultural context) helpful in-laws.