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A family is defined as people that are related by blood (affinity) or marriage (consanguinity). It is the basic unit that consists of the father, mother and the children. The children could be the biological children or the adopted ones. A family provides the fulcrum or point on which socialization and social interaction are built. The primary agent by which a child is taught the norms, rules, and regulations of the society is through the family. Members of a family protect themselves against external attacks, provide for one another and shares responsibilities for the development of the family. A family could be nuclear, extended, monogamous or polygamous. This article will focus on both the monogamous and polygamous family. This article focuses on both monogamous and polygamous family.
A monogamous family is defined as a type of family involving the relationship between a man and a woman, that is, one man and one woman. The family size is small and with a clear structure. Duties and responsibilities are well distributed among members of the family.(Read about Nuclear family members and their roles here) The responsibilities of the breadwinner are lesser than in polygamous family system. The means of survival in monogamous families is cheap and less expensive than in polygamous families. This is an advantage of monogamous families over polygamous families.
The polygamous family system is indigenous and practiced more in the olden days. A polygamous family is of two types namely polygyny and polyandry. Polygyny means when a man marries more than one wife while polyandry means when a woman marries more than one man. Polygyny is the common type of polygamous marriage in Nigeria. In the traditional era, men take in many wives and have many children with large families. In that period, the number of wives a man has determined his social status and prestige in the society.
The men with many wives are seen as powerful and wealthy. Some even are given chieftaincy titles based on how large their families were. Another reason why the men in the olden days have numerous wives and large families is also because of their large plots of farmlands. These people (wives and children) are used for hard labor on the large farms. This is an advantage of polygamous families over monogamous families.
Modernization and the coming of the missionaries have reduced the number of polygamous marriage and family in Nigeria.( Read about modernization in Nigeria here) There are few polygamous marriages with more monogamous marriage. Many men end having polygamous marriages due to many reasons.
Children are known to be the fruits of a blissful marriage. But when marriages are not blessed with the fruits of the womb, men opt for another option by having another wife in the hope of having children of their own.
Men that are not with their spouse or those that are far away from each other have a higher chance of having more than one woman. Even though most of them have no initial intention of having another wife apart from their first wife but the distance between them and their woman will make them have side chicks or girlfriends who may later get pregnant for them, leaving them with no other choice than to marry them.(Read about how to a handle long-distance relationships here)
The Islamic religion is a religion that supports polygamy. Men in this religion have the freedom of having more than one wife. Muslims are generally known to be polygamous and the wives are expected to live in harmony and peace.
In conclusion, a polygamous family is complex and has a less-clear family structure. Strife, jealousy, conflict, power relation abounds in polygamous families compared to its counterparts. Despite its drawbacks, cons, and disadvantages, it is a family system that preaches unity, solidarity, teamwork, and co-operation. There is a division of labor in such household. This makes work easier and leads to rapid growth and development of the family. The house is always filled with laughter and sounds of children and wives in comparison with small households.
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