COLUMBIA, Mo. – Marrying multiple husbands at the same time, or polyandry, creates a safety net for women in some cultures, according to a recent study by a University of Missouri researcher. Extra husbands ensure that women’s children are cared for even if their fathers die or disappear. Although polyandry is taboo and illegal in the United States, certain legal structures, such as child support payments and life insurance, fill the same role for American women that multiple husbands do in other cultures.
“In America, we don’t meet many of the criteria that tend to define polyandrous cultures,” said Kathrine Starkweather, doctoral student in MU’s Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. “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.” (more…)