Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

How did monogamy come to be the most prevalent legal model for relationships?

Asked by wundayatta (58571points) February 22nd, 2011

Monogamy wasn’t always the predominant relationship mode in the majority of societies in the world, according to Wikipedia and other research. At some point in time, it was estimated that 80 to 85% of societies sanctioned polygamous marriage. However, even though it was the predominant model, anthropologists estimate that only 20% of men were able to afford more than one wife. At some point, perhaps in the last five hundred years, it became the dominant model. When? How? Why?

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11 Answers

tedd's avatar

One word answer…...... religion.

More expanded answer…. Judaism/Christianity.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

I would not forget that polygamy was not sanctioned in the Roman Empire either. They had a direct impact not only on Christianity, but also most of the Western hemisphere (obviously excluding America.)

crisw's avatar

Monogamy became more important when inheritance, and thus patrilineal heritage, became more important.

tedd's avatar

@optimisticpessimist Can you link to that? Not that I don’t necessarily believe it, but I had not heard that.

@crisw This is true, but in ancient Greek culture the monogamy aspect of marriage only applied to the wife, NOT the husband. This was because her reproductive capabilities were essentially his “property” and her cheating would be like stealing (for her and the other man). The husband on the other hand, was typically free to as many wives/concubines/women as he wanted.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@tedd http://www.classicsunveiled.com/romel/html/marrcustwom.html the sixth paragraph

sorry, I do not know how to do a link without showing the whole thing

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@tedd It is also noted in Wikipedia under Polygamy the subheading Judaism, Biblical Practices, last paragraph

Nullo's avatar

This reminds me of an article that I once read, about how polygamy actually reduces the odds of The Average Joe getting the girl that he wants because none of the females are forced to settle for anything less than they want.
@tedd I believe that it’s less about desiring ownership and more to do with the way that a woman can only have one pregnancy at a time, rendering polyandry biologically pointless.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@tedd If you were looking for a direct quote concerning the Roman Empire influencing the western hemisphere, I have none at this time. The influence of the Roman Empire on the conquered peoples was an independent (honors) study I did while earning my history degree.

tedd's avatar

@optimisticpessimist Oh no… the influence of the Roman Republic and Empire on western civilization is impossible to not know.. lol

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Nullo: Point of interest: Polyandry is still very popular is the rural areas of Tibet, the reasoning being that there will always be a man to take care of the land and that the family would not have to hire workers to work the land. It also tends to take care of any inheritance issues because Tibetan polyandry is almost always between one woman and multiple brothers.

As for polygamy, I think religion may have been part of the reason but I also think that too many men weren’t getting married. Think about. If there are 150 men in a village and the same number of women, someone’s going to get stiffed if anyone has multiple wives. There would also be the issue of genetic diversity. If the people you spend most of your time with are your half siblings, you’re either going to have travel to find a spouse or marry someone you’re related to.

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