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Monogamy Reduces Rape and Murder

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In approximately 85 percent of human societies men were allowed to marry multiple wives. From an evolutionary perspective this seems logic, as many offspring benefits men. Also, with the advent of agriculture and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, polygamy has increased in the past – as traditionally multiple wives are associated with wealth and status.

Why, then, is the monogamous marriage rapidly replacing polygamy? Researchers of the University of British Columbia explored the success of monogamy and suggest that it has prevailed because of the social benefits.

In polygamous cultures, relatively few men will get to marry and reproduce, causing greater intra-sexual competition.The researchers found that this competion results in significant higher levels of rape, murder, kidnapping, assault, robbery and fraud in polygamous cultures – primarily by unmarried men.

“The scarcity of marriageable women in polygamous cultures increases competition among men for the remaining unmarried women,” says UBC Prof. Joseph Henrich. “The greater competition increases the likelihood men in polygamous communities will resort to criminal behavior to gain resources and women.”

The more equal distribution of women in monogamous communities appears to be the main evolutionary advantage over polygamy. A monogamous marriage shifts the effort of men from seeking women to greater parental investment. This seems to benefit savings, economic productivity, more investment in less children and welfare of children – making communities more stable.

Source: Wired, University of British Columbia

Henrich, J., Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. (2012). The puzzle of monogamous marriage Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367 (1589), 657-669 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0290

Photo via Cocorocha

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