Co-Wife Conflict and Co-Operation

By Jankowiak, William; Sudakov, Monika et al. | Ethnology, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Co-Wife Conflict and Co-Operation


Jankowiak, William, Sudakov, Monika, Wilreker, Benjamin C., Ethnology


Conventional wisdom holds that the polygynous family system is as sexually and emotionally satisfying as a monogamous one. Ethnographic accounts of 69 polygynous systems, however, provide compelling evidence that the majority of co-wives in a polygynous family prefer pragmatic co-operation with one another while maintaining a respectful distance. Moreover, there often is a deep-seated feeling of angst that arises over competing for access to their mutual husband. Co-wife conflict in the early years of marriage is pervasive, and often marked by outbursts of verbal or physical violence. Co-wife conflict may be mitigated by social institutions, such as sororal polygyny and some form of "social security" or health care. Material wealth may be divided more or less equally, but as a husband's sexual attention (a primary source for increased fertility) and affection cannot always be equitably distributed, there is ongoing and contentious rivalry among co-wives. (Co-wife conflict, jealousy, co-operation, pair bond)

**********

Cultural anthropologists generally assume that humans are highly adaptable to a wide range of life circumstances. Less accepted is the qualification that "cultural models can have significant psychic costs for individuals" (Shore 1996:49). The assumption of enormous adaptability has also been challenged by many anthropologists (see Brown 1990 for overview) concerned with the topics of reproduction and family intimacy. For example, some (Ekvall 1968; Levine and Silk 1997) find that the fraternal polyandrous marriage system is unstable largely due to sexual and emotional factors, rather than economic considerations. Research on co-wife relationships in polygynous families find them to be emotionally unsatisfactory for the majority of participants (Al-Krenawi 1999; Al-Krenawi and Graham 1999; Chisholm and Burbank 1991; Hill and Hurtado 1996; Jankowiak 2001 ; Meekers and Franklin 1995; Strassman 1997; Ware 1980). However, other researchers (Borgerhoff-Mulder 1992; Kilbride 1994; Madhavan 2002; Mason 1982) report that under certain circumstances, women living in a polygynous family system enjoy material and emotional satisfaction.

This article examines the effect of structural and psychological factors on co-wife conflict and co-operation. Specifically, it seeks to determine whether a pair-bond impulse is present in every culture, and if so, whether it undermines co-wife co-operation. Unlike previous studies of co-wife conflict and co-operation that focus only on one culture or a single geographical region, we have expanded the scope to include co-wife interactions in cultures from all over the world. We also identify the material, social, and emotional factors that can undermine or strengthen co-wife bonds. Examining how individuals respond to the polygynous family allows for a more thorough exploration of the polygynous family's divisiveness. To this end, we use the reasons for co-wife conflict as a means to identify anxieties within the polygynous family.

EXPLANATIONS FOR CO-WIFE CONFLICT AND CO-OPERATION

The conceptual frameworks of behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology are two of the more predominant explanatory schemes used to account for variation and continuities in polygynous family life. Although the two frameworks can form a unified theory, most researchers emphasize either the cultural variations or the continuity in their data. The behavioral ecologist Monique Borgerhoff-Mulder (1988, 1989, 1992) argues that material and related structural factors exert an enormous impact on shaping the quality of co-wife interaction, and that the degree to which a woman is materially dependent on her husband determines her willingness to co-operate or compete with a co-wife over material resources and reproductive considerations. From this it follows that the greater a wife's material dependence on her husband, the more frequent and Intense will be her conflicts with a co-wife. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Co-Wife Conflict and Co-Operation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.