This provides support for the widow and her children (usually also members of the brothers' kin group) and maintains the tie between the husband and wives' kin groups.
The sororate is like the levirate, in that a widower must marry the sister of his dead wife.
The wife's family, in other words, must provide a replacement for her thus maintaining the ties between them.
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In monogamous societies, wealthy and powerful men established enduring relationships with, and established separate household for, multiple female partners, aside from their legitimate wives; a practice that was accepted in Imperial China up until the Qing Dynasty.
This is a form of de facto polygyny that is referred to as concubinage.
Polygyny may also result from the practice of levirate marriage.
In such cases, the deceased man's heir may inherit his assets and wife; or, more usually, his brothers may marry the widow.
The vast majority of polygamous marriages are polygynous.
Polygyny is legally accepted in many Muslim majority countries and some countries with a sizeable Muslim minority; it is also accepted in some secular countries in varying degrees.
He also discusses more male-dominated though relatively extensive farming systems such as those that exist in much of West Africa, in particular the West African savannah, where polygyny is desired more for the creation of sons, whose labor is valued. He notes Dorjahn's (1959) comparison of East and West Africa, showing higher female agricultural contributions in East Africa and higher polygyny rates in West Africa, especially in the West African savannah, where one finds especially high male agricultural contributions.
Goody says, "The reasons behind polygyny are sexual and reproductive rather than economic and productive" (199), arguing that men marry polygynously to maximize their fertility and to obtain large households containing many young dependent males." Polygynous marriages can be distinguished between sororal polygyny, in which the co-wives are sisters, and non-sororal, where the co-wives are not related.
When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, sociologists call this polygyny.