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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 accepted in Imperial China up until the Qing Dynasty of 1636-1912.

This constitutes a form of de facto polygyny referred to as concubinage.

This provides support for the widow and her children (usually also members of the brothers' kin group) and maintains the tie between the husbands' and wives' kin groups.

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 fall into two types: sororal polygyny, in which the co-wives are sisters, and non-sororal, where the co-wives are not related.Worldwide, different societies variously encourage, accept or outlaw polygamy.Of societies which allow or tolerate polygamy, in the vast majority of cases the form accepted is polygyny.and the first husband is acknowledged as the father of all her children.However, the woman may never cohabit with that man, taking multiple lovers instead; these men must acknowledge the paternity of their children (and hence demonstrate that no caste prohibitions have been breached) by paying the midwife.In Europe, this outcome was avoided through the social practice of impartible inheritance, under which most siblings would be disinherited.Fraternal polyandry was traditionally practiced among nomadic Tibetans in Nepal, parts of China and part of northern India, in which two or more brothers would marry the same woman.Like "monogamy", the term "polygamy" is often used in a de facto sense, applied regardless of whether the state recognizes the relationship.In sociobiology and zoology, researchers use polygamy in a broad sense to mean any form of multiple mating.According to the Ethnographic Atlas (1998), of 1,231 societies noted, 588 had frequent polygyny, 453 had occasional polygyny, 186 were monogamous and 4 had polyandry; From a legal point of view, in many countries, although marriage is legally monogamous (a person can only have one spouse, and bigamy is illegal), adultery is not illegal, leading to a situation of de facto polygamy being allowed, although without legal recognition for non-official "spouses".According to scientific studies, the human mating system is considered to be moderately polygynous, based on both surveys of world populations, Polygyny, the practice wherein a man has more than one wife at the same time, is by far the most common form of polygamy.