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It is most common in societies marked by high male mortality.It is associated with partible paternity, the cultural belief that a child can have more than one father.The women remain in their maternal home, living with their brothers, and property is passed matrilineally.
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.
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 family of the late wife, in other words, must provide a replacement for her, thus maintaining the marriage alliance.
Both levirate and sororate may result in a man having multiple wives.
Worldwide, different societies variously encourage, accept or outlaw polygamy.