Home Institution

Northwestern University

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Mali: Gender, Health, and Development


In anthropological research, polygamy is typically defined as “a marital relationship involving multiple wives” (Kottak, 1978 cited in Low, 1988, p. 189). The term polygamy, however, includes three different types of relationships. The first, polygynandry, is characterized by a group marriage in which multiple wives are married to multiple husbands, while the second, polyandry, refers to a wife married to two or more husbands. The third form, and that which is explored in this study, is polygyny. Hereafter referred to as polygamy, it is the marriage of one husband to two or more wives and is the most common form worldwide. (Valsiner, 1989 cited in Al-Krenawi & Graham, 1999). Numerous studies regarding polygamy have focused on its advantages and disadvantages relative to monogamy. Al-Krenawi and Graham (2006) found that Bedouin-Arab women in polygamous marriages had more psychological problems than those in monogamous marriages, and other studies of Palestinian women report similar findings (Al-Krenawi, Graham, & Izzeldin, 2001; Al-Krenawi, 2001). Gwanfogbe, Schumm, Smith, and Furrow (1997) further examined women in polygamous marriages, this time in Cameroon. They found that marital satisfaction for women was variable based on husband supportiveness, maternal employment, and age of the husband. While researchers have explored the situation of women in Palestine, Cameroon, and multiple other countries, the polygamous relationships of women in Mali had not yet been adequately explored. This investigation fills this gap in the literature by focusing on the marital satisfaction of Malian women in polygamous marriages and the factors that are associated with it.


Anthropology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology


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