With reasonable guidelines in place to prevent human right violations, should polygamy be legal in Canada? First of all, a clear definition of the term is required: “Polygamy occurs when one husband is married to two or more wives” (Ozkan,M et al,215) . This scenario is not common in North America however has been known to occur in the past. To gain an insight to the world of polygamy, it seems that research has been undertook investigating its effects in areas of the world where it is more common, for example, the Muslim world.
The decision as to whether Polygamy should be legal in Canada will be based on the research found on the effects of Polygamy on both the children of the senior and junior wife. “A senior wife is defined as a woman who was followed by another wife into the marriage. A junior wife is the most recent wife joining the marriage” (Al-Krenawi,447). In-depth research has taken place into the emotional, psychological and behavioural effects on children from polygamous families, as well as the effects on academic achievement compared to that of monogamous families.
Most experts agree that children from Polygamous families are negatively affected by polygamy in terms of their academic achievement, behaviour, and their emotional and physiological stability. Therefore, Polygamy should not be legal in Canada, in order to protect children from the harmful effects associated with it. An Investigation into the effects on education on Bedouin-Arab school children showed significantly higher scholastic achievement in the children from monogamous families when compared with children from polygamous families, based on grades in Hebrew, Arabic, Arithmetic and reading comprehension, recorded in their school files.
(Krenawi & Lightman, 350) As for behavioural problems, Krenawi, Graham et al describe how the “Competition for support and resources among wives in polygamous families may lead to tensions between co-wives and between the children of different co-wives” (456). The conflicts between the wives are often fuelled by jealousy which, in turn, increases the chances of conflict between the siblings of the wives. The increase in conflict and violence is likely to result in earlier drop out from school and higher probability of succumbing to other social problems such as drugs.
(Krenawi & Lightman,353). Al-Krenawi’s journal links the children’s behavioural problems with their emotional state: “Jealousy, competition and fighting among the different wives leads to the children regarding the children of the other wife not as siblings but as enemies. The resulting hatred and hostility affected the children both emotionally and socially. ” (37). Research has shown that “Such problematic maternal psychosocial dynamics, in turn, may adversely influence adolescents’ self-identity, self-esteem and psychological well-being” (Shek 159).
Self-esteem is looked at in great deal throughout the research. Krenawi and Graham define self-esteem as a wish to think well of one’s self; It also relates to self-respect and the person’s perception of worth. Children from polygamous families are especially prone to this, due to low-interest from their fathers, especially children of senior wives. Studies showed lower parental interest, lower interest when compared with other siblings contributed to low self-esteem among children in polygamous families. (457).
Another table from this journal has results which show children from Polygamous families scored higher in areas including depression, anxiety, hostility, paranoid ideation and psychotism and scoring lower in family functioning (which includes relationships, functioning and communication within their family) as well as the self-esteem test. (452), We see that these psychological problems that polygamous children face are the major contributor to their lack of academic achievement, it is not as first thought a direct consequence of polygamy.
It is more of an indirect consequence of polygamy. Observing from another perspective, evidence is found by Cherian that reveals “A positive and statistically significant relationship was found between parental interest and children’s academic achievement, regardless of whether the family was monogamous or polygamous” (736). Throughout the research into polygamy there were occasions where interviews were conducted with members of polygamous families, first hand evidence can be very powerful however we see contrasting views here first we will look at those in favour of polygamy.
In the paper ‘Polygamy and its Impact on the Upbringing of Children’ by M. Khasawneh et al, we see a mother asked about the impact of polygamy, to which she answers “Did not affect the children” (577). There is also a statement from a child who states “Polygamy is a very appropriate process”. Clearly displays that both the mother and a child of polygamy both seem to support polygamy. However, if we look at the experts’ opinion of the mother Khasawnehs’ paper, we see that they believe that the wives views may not be accurate.
Since the families would be aware of their responses, it made it difficult for the wife to make an honest declaration, as this could negatively affect her family life (572). Although there is little doubt that the child’s statement was not an honest one, we see that there are other responses which do not show the children in favour of polygamy. Although a number of children believed that their fathers did not discriminate between or separate them, several also did not approve of polygamy and seen it as “something they were forces to adapt to” (572).
This view is further supported by a child who is asked their opinion and views on polygamy to which he answers: “Polygamy is for necessity only, and with conditions to be just and fair. I do not support polygamy at all no matter what the reasons are. ” (577). Another child answers the same question with: “I encourage polygamy because there is a large number of girls. ” (577) This brings up the condition which is very important for polygamy: If there is an imbalance in the ratios of male to female then it is a valid argument that polygamy is a solution to spinsterhood.
However Referring back to the question on Canada, we find from Statistics Canada online that the population of males and females is approximately equal 17. 6 to 17. 3 million (StatCan) . As for the argument on education, although we have observed that parental interest influences both monogamous and polygamous children’s academic achievement, equally, it is clear that other behavioural, emotional and physiological factors contribute and can potentially have a harmful effect on academic achievement too.
In conclusion it is clear, from studies on Polygamy in Muslim countries, that there is overwhelming evidence to show that Polygamy has a detrimental effect on the upbringing of children, and this is made clear in the research surrounding its negative effects on the wives, the senior wives in particular. Krenawi and Graham make that point that in order to reduce problems which associated with polygamy arising, early interventions by school officials and other services may help improve academic achievement, socioeconomic status as well as improved family functioning.
(455) . Referring back to the idea of parental interest being a big contributor to the academic achievement of the children no matter what family structure they belong to however it is clear to see that a father will have a certain about of time available to give to his children if this time which was once for one family alone is not split between 2 families in 2 different households, it becomes obvious that it will become impossible for the father to give an equal amount of his time that he was able to give in the past.
Therefore even with reasonable guidelines put in place ,possibly similar to the one practiced in Muslim countries, where the husband must prove he can financially look after his wives and children, I still feel there are a far greater number of disadvantages to this and therefore it should not be made legal in Canada. Word Count (1,442) Bibliography Al-Krenawi,A. Graham. J. R & Sonim-nevo, V. (2002) Mental Health Aspects of Arab-Israeli adolescents from polygamous versus monogamous families.
Journal of social Psychology, 142, 446-460. Al-Krenawi, S. Lightman, (2000). Learning, Achievement and Family conflict Among Bedouin-Arab children from polygamous and monogamous families. The journal of social psychology 140(3), 345-355. Cherian,V. I. (1993) . The Relationship between Parental interest and academic achievement of Xhosa Children from Monogamous and Polygamous families. The Journal of Social Psychology, 133, 733-736. M. Khasaweh,o,Y. Hijazi, H. Salman. N( 2011).
Polygomy and Its Impact on the Upbringing of children. A Jordanian Perspective, Journal of Comperative Family Studies. 563-577 Ozkan,M,Altindag,A. ,Oto R & Sentunali,E (2006) . Mental Health Aspects of Turkish Women from Polygamous Versus Monongamous Families. Turkey. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, (52), 214. Shek,D. T. L (1998) A Longitudinal Study of the Relation between Parental-adolesent conflict and adolescent psychological well-being. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 159, 53-67.
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