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This provides support for the widow and her children (usually also members of the brothers' kin group) and maintains the tie between the husbands' and wives' kin groups.

The sororate resembles the levirate, in that a widower must marry the sister of his dead wife.

In many polygynous marriages the husband's wives may live in separate households Polyandry, the practice of a woman having more than one husband at the one time, is much less prevalent than polygyny and is now illegal in virtually every country in the world. If every brother married separately and had children, family land would be split into unsustainable small plots.

Like "monogamy", the term "polygamy" is often used in a de facto sense, applied regardless of whether the state recognizes the relationship.

In sociobiology and zoology, researchers use polygamy in a broad sense to mean any form of multiple mating.

In some of the sparsely populated regions where shifting cultivation takes place in Africa, women do much of the work.

This favours polygamous marriages in which men sought to monopolize the production of women "who are valued both as workers and as child bearers". Burton discuss and support Jack Goody's observation regarding African male farming systems in "Causes of Polygyny: Ecology, Economy, Kinship, and Warfare" where these authors note: "Goody (1973) argues against the female contributions hypothesis.

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Polygyny offers husbands the benefit of allowing them to have more children, may provide them with a larger number of productive workers (where workers are family), and allows them to establish politically useful ties with a greater number of kin groups.

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