Polyandry or marrying multiple husbands at the same time might be taboo in the United States, but, in some cultures it is seen as a sort of insurance to keep children safe if the fathers die or leave home for economic reasons, says a new study.
According to researchers some forms of polyandry can be seen in the U.S., like the presence of life insurance and child support payments.
"In America, we don't meet many of the criteria that tend to define polyandrous cultures. However, some aspects of American life mirror polyandrous societies. Child support payments provide for offspring when one parent is absent. Life insurance allows Americans to provide for dependents in the event of death, just as secondary husbands support a deceased husband's children in polyandrous societies," said Kathrine Starkweather, doctoral student in the University of Missouri's Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Science.
Researchers found that in cultures were polyandry existed, men often outnumbered women. While there were more men, men were also more likely to die in wars or live away from families due to economic factors. Many of the husbands were closely related.
The concept of polyandry in almost half of the societies was more of an economic arrangement, where the family property remained intact if a woman married more men in the same family. Also, the younger men in the family provided food and safety to the woman and children when the older men died or disappeared.
For the study, researchers studied some 52 cultures in the world where polyandry exists. They found that these cultures tended to be small and egalitarian, according to a news release.
"This research shows that humans are capable of tremendous variability and adaptability in their behaviors. Human marriage structures aren't written in stone; throughout history, people have adapted their societal norms to ensure the survival and well-being of their children," said Starkweather, in a news release.