BRIEF COMMUNICATION: Women of Polygamous Marriages in an Inpatient Psychiatric Service in Kuwait

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The practice of polygamy, although varying from culture to culture, is widespread in many areas of the world. In Kuwait, for example, 8 to 12.5% of all marriages contracted are polygamous. Although sociologists and anthropologists, as well as common sense, have suggested that a polygamous marriage may have a negative effect on the wives involved, an extensive literature search failed to uncover any psychiatric research that attempts to examine this situation or objectively delineates possible psychiatric sequelae. The present study was a pilot effort to determine whether Kuwaiti wives of polygamous marriages were disproportionately represented in the inpatient psychiatric as opposed to the general population. A second purpose was to determine the extent of the relationship between psychiatric disorder and marital situation. Preliminary data indicated that the percentage of wives of polygamous marriages was significantly greater in the inpatient psychiatric population than in the general population of Kuwait, as reflected in the 1975 census. In addition, the results suggested a relationship between the nature of psychiatric disorder and the marital situation. Alternate explanations of the data are advanced, and the need for controlled future studies outlined.

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