Success and Failure Among Polygamous Families: The Experience of Wives, Husbands, and Children

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47 Scopus citations


In this study, we interviewed 10 polygamous families, all residing in a Bedouin Arab town in the south of Israel and consisting of 1 husband, 2 wives, and children. Five members were interviewed in each family: first wife, second wife, the oldest child of the first wife, the oldest child of the second wife, and the husband. Five families were considered well-functioning families and five as poorly functioning. Findings suggest that polygamy in both well-functioning and poorly functioning families is painful, particularly for wives. Yet, there are many ways and techniques that enable members of the family to function well. Among them are acceptance of polygamy as God's wish or destiny, equal allocation of resources among both families by the husband, separation between the two households, avoidance of "minor" conflicts and disagreements, maintaining an attitude of respect toward the other wife, and allowing open communication among all siblings, and among children and the other mother. We discuss the need to develop, implement, and evaluate family intervention programs for polygamous families among different communities in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-330
Number of pages20
JournalFamily Process
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2006


  • Bedouin Arabs
  • Family Functioning
  • Polygamy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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