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The impact of polygamy on women's mental health: a systematic review

  • L. D. Shepard (a1)

Abstract

Aims.

The purpose of this systematic review is to identify and appraise the present state of prevalence research on the mental health of polygynous women, or plural wives, and to summarize its implications for future research and social work practice.

Methods.

PsycInfo (1967 to November 2011) and Medline (1985 to November 2011) databases, systematic bibliography hand-searches, personal communication with a leading expert, and gray literature searching were applied in a systematic literature search of the prevalence of mental-health issues in polygynous women compared to monogamous women. Twenty-two studies meeting eligibility criteria were identified. Study characteristics, methods and findings were systematically extracted and appraised for quality.

Results.

The identified studies are of mixed methodological quality, but generally suggest a more significant prevalence of mental-health issues in polygynous women compared to monogamous women. Individual studies report a higher prevalence of somatization, depression, anxiety, hostility, psychoticism and psychiatric disorder in polygynous wives as well as reduced life and marital satisfaction, problematic family functioning and low self-esteem.

Conclusions.

The current state of the research reveals with moderate confidence, a more significant prevalence of mental-health issues in polygynous women as compared to monogamous women. Implications for practice and research are indicated.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Lindsay Dianne Shepard, 395 South 1500 East no.111, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA. (Email: lindsayshepard@gmail.com)

References

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