The Polygynous Family
Definition of the polygynous family. Polygamy is the marriage of one person to two or more people at the same time: the opposite of monogamy. Polygamy includes polygyny (one husband with multiple wives), polyandry (one wife with multiple husbands), and polyamory (multiple spouses of both genders) (Bowker, 1997). Polyandry is rare, limited to a few indigenous groups such as the Nayar and Todar of India/Nepal (Bowker, 1997). Polyamory is also rare. Polygyny, however, is well documented in the US and around the world. I will therefore focus on the polygynous family form.
American polygynists are usually Christians, Fundamentalist Mormons, or Muslims: all faiths that view the husband as the head of the family. Estimates place the American polygynous population at around 50,000 people (Turley, 2004), but this only counts Fundamentalist Mormons, not Muslims or Christians. Muslim polygynists in the US number roughly 20,000 people, most of them recent African immigrants (Useem, 2007). I could not find statistics on Christian polygynists, but they do exist, with their own communities and online support groups.
Polygynists don’t legally ‘exist’ in America and few studies have been done, so statistics are hard to find, but inferences can be made from existing information. Polygynists belonging to various Mormon or Christian groups are usually white and middle-to-upper class. They form their own communities, such as the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas and Centennial Park in Arizona, although some families set up their homes in ‘regular’ neighborhoods, where neighbors turn a blind eye (Hewitt, 2008, p. 131). American Muslims may be of Arabic or African decent, and are usually middle-to-upper class (Useem, 2007).
In Mormon and Christian polygynist families, the entire family usually shares one house. Parents have separate bedrooms, children may share rooms, and the family will share common spaces. A house thus arranged looks like a…
Keywords: [tag]family[/tag], [tag]families[/tag], [tag]wives[/tag], [tag]polygynist[/tag]
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