Religion, Rank, and Ruthlessness: Polygyny and Intimate Partner Violence in Nigeria

Nkechi Owoo, University of Ghana
Victor Agadjanian , University of California, Los Angeles
Chitalu Chiliba, University of Zambia

Although some research points to a connection between polygyny and intimate partner violence (IPV), the evidence on the mechanisms underlying this connection remains inconclusive. To better understand this connection, we approach it from two interrelated perspectives – the meaning of polygynous marriage in a broader sociocultural context and the nature of relationships within polygynous unions. Using data from the 2013 Nigeria DHS we connect these two theoretical axes by focusing on the Muslim-vs-Christian context of polygyny and on co-wives’ rank. The results of multivariate probit models predicting reported experience of IPV show a clear disadvantage of polygynously married women, compared to monogamously married ones, but also that this disadvantage is particularly pronounced among Christians. Senior wives are more likely to experience IPV than junior wives, but again, this difference is much stronger among Christians. We interpret these findings as reflecting multi-dimensional gender inequalities embedded in the institution of polygynous marriage.

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 Presented in Session 4. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions