Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 23 (2), 149-72

A Survey of Non-Classical Polyandry


A Survey of Non-Classical Polyandry

Katherine E Starkweather et al. Hum Nat.


We have identified a sample of 53 societies outside of the classical Himalayan and Marquesean area that permit polyandrous unions. Our goal is to broadly describe the demographic, social, marital, and economic characteristics of these societies and to evaluate some hypotheses of the causes of polyandry. We demonstrate that although polyandry is rare it is not as rare as commonly believed, is found worldwide, and is most common in egalitarian societies. We also argue that polyandry likely existed during early human history and should be examined from an evolutionary perspective. Our analysis reveals that it may be a predictable response to a high operational sex ratio favoring males and may also be a response to high rates of male mortality and, possibly, male absenteeism. Other factors may contribute, but our within-polyandry sample limits analysis.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 3 articles


    1. Mol Ecol. 2007 Oct;16(20):4356-69 - PubMed
    1. Evol Hum Behav. 2001 Jan;22(1):47-60 - PubMed
    1. Hum Nat. 1998 Sep;9(3):225-61 - PubMed
    1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 16;105(37):14153-6 - PubMed
    1. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Dec 29;361(1476):2173-86 - PubMed

LinkOut - more resources