Medical Literature on the Effects of Polygamy on the Family

And, SUSAN M. STICKEVERS, M.D., who is a member of the newly-formed Board of Directors for Triple AP—Americans Against the Abuses of Polygamy, sends excerpts from research literature on polygamy:

A Comparison of Family Functioning, Life and Marital Satisfaction, and Mental Health of Women in Polygamous and Monogamous Marriages

Alean Al-Krenawi
Ben-Gurion University, Israel
John R. Graham
University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Background: A considerable body of research concludes that the polygamous family structure has an impact on children’s and wives’ psychological, social and family functioning.

Aims: The present study is among the first to consider within the same ethnoracial community such essential factors as family functioning, life satisfaction, marital satisfaction and mental health functioning among women who are in polygamous marriages and women who are in monogamous marriages.

Method: A sample of 352 women participated in this study: 235 (67%) were in a monogamous marriage and 117 (33%) were in a polygamous marriage.

Results: Findings reveal differences between women in polygamous and monogamous marriages. Women in polygamous marriages showed significantly higher psychological distress, and higher levels of somatisation, phobia and other psychological problems. They also had significantly more problems in family functioning, marital relationships and life satisfaction.

Conclusion: The article calls on public policy and social service personnel to increase public awareness of the significance of polygamous family structures for women’s wellbeing.
International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Vol. 52, No. 1, 5-17 (2006)


The Journal of Social Psychology
Volume 148, Number 6 / December 2008
Psychosocial and Familial Functioning of Children From Polygynous and Monogamous Families
Alean Al-Krenawi  and Vered Slonim-Nevo
Ben-Gurion University

A sample of 352 Arab children— 174 from monogamous and 178 from polygynous families—participated in this study. The authors used standardized measures to assess the participants’ level of self-esteem, mental health, social functioning, father-child relationships, mother-child relationships, and family functioning. The findings revealed that children from polygynous families reported more mental health and social difficulties as well as poorer school achievement and poorer relationships with their fathers than did their counterparts from monogamous families. In addition, the children from polygynous families rated their families’ functioning and economic status as poorer than did those of monogamous families. Thus, the authors suggest that a polygynous family structure negatively affects the family’s socioeconomic status and interpersonal relationships and impairs the children’s psychological and social functioning. The authors discuss implications for practice and policy.


Behavioral Problems and Scholastic Adjustment among Children from Polygamous and Monogamous Marital Family Structures: Developmental Considerations

Elbedour S, Onwuegbuzie AJ, Alatamin M.
Department of Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies, School of Education, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059, USA
Participants were 255 3rd-grade children. One hundred fifty-three children came from monogamous families that were characterized by 1 wife (i.e., 1-wife families), and 102 children came from polygamous families consisting of 2 wives (i.e., 2-wife families). Teachers completed the Teacher’s Report Form of the Child Behavior Checklist (T. M. Achenback, 1991). A series of logistic regression analyses, after adjusting for maternal education level, revealed that 2-wife children tended to have higher levels of externalizing problems in general and higher levels of attention problems in particular than did their 1-wife counterparts. Also, 2-wife children had higher rates of school absenteeism and lower levels of overall academic achievement than did 1-wife children.


Women from Polygamous and Monogamous Marriages in an Out-Patient Psychiatric Clinic
Alean Al-Krenawi
Ben-Gurion University, Israel

Female subjects were interviewed using a semi-structured open-ended questionnaire. The subjects were divided into two groups: (1) senior wives in polygamous marriages and (2) wives in monogamous marriages. There was a greater prevalence of various symptoms among polygamous respondents, two of which are of particular interest: low self-esteem and loneliness. Findings also showed a relationship between a high number of female children among polygamous respondents and low self-esteem. Polygamous respondents who thought that they were perceived as old by their husbands also reported low self esteem. In addition, respondents from polygamous marriages reported poor relationships with their husbands.
Transcultural Psychiatry, Vol. 38, No. 2, 187-199 (2001)



Alean Al-Krenawi, Ph.D, Ben Gurion University

ABSTRACT: Clinical implications for working with polygamous families are discussed following a report of research among a sample of 126 women from polygamous marriages who were being seen in primary health care centers. Of these, 94 were senior wives who were followed by another wife in the marriage, and 32 were junior wives, the most recent wife joining the marriage. Data revealed that senior wives reported lower self-esteem as compared to junior wives. Findings also showed that senior wives reported poorer relationships with their husbands compared to their junior counterparts.
These factors also contribute to the senior wife’s low self-esteem and marital dissatisfaction.


Contemporary Family Therapy, 21(3), September 1999, Human Sciences Press, Inc.

Also, I studied under STEPHEN A. KENT, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta for part of my university degree which I achieved at the age of 44 after I had divorced my fanatic Mormon husband and left Mormonism.  At the time of my studies (1985), Dr. Kent was just becoming known as a specialist is cult studies in Alberta.  He was the FIRST person I phoned in October 2003 when I was contemplating starting a campaign against polygamy in Canada on the internet.  I had just learned that Mormon Fundamentalist polygamy exists.  I was in shock.  I had lived five years in Utah in mainstream Mormonism, and fifteen years in Canada in mainstream Mormonism and did not know FLDS polygamy existed.  That is how secretive it is among Mormons!

Dr. Kent hosted the International Cultic Studies Association’s Edmonton Conference in 2004.  The main focus of that conference was polygamy.  That is where I met Debbie Palmer and her sister, Jane Blackmore.  They both spoke at the conference, were part of panel discussions.  Believe me, the audience was hushed at those meetings.  They put on the wall their genealogy charts.  The charts of relationships form one big square with many, many smaller squares connected in the middle—not genealogy trees of normal family relationships.  It was something to see.  This chart is printed the opening pages of Daphne Bramham’s book The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada’s Polygamous Mormon Sect, Random House Canada.

Debbie Palmer (with Dave Perrin) also wrote her story, Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy,

Back to Dr. Steve Kent.  Steve wrote a paper for Sociology Journals in 2004:  A Matter of Principle:  Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy, Children, and Human Rights Debates* (*note, “I wish to thank Jessie Meikle and Susan Raine for their editorial assistanc e and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article, and Nancy Mereska for assisting me by providing research material.”)  I have one of the original copies of this paper.  It was printed in a Canadian Sociology Journal in early 2005.  If you wish to read this paper, please email Steve at steve.kent  @

Thank you, everyone, for your contributions and your tireless efforts to see an end to the crime of the practice of polygamy, not only in Canada, but in North America.  Together we will win this human rights battle.  Remember:  RELIGIOUS LAW CANNOT TRUMP CIVIL LAW




3 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for publishing these resources. It’s so convenient to have them in one place and not have to plumb the depths of Google. Congratulations on your new blog–very nice job.


  2. Very great web.
    The content here is truly valuable.

    I will share it with my friends.



  3. […] Medical Literature on the Effects of Polygamy on the Family November 2009 2 comments 4 […]


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