Across cultures, families are characterized by different forms of marriage. Marriage is a legally recognized and/or socially approved arrangement between two or more individuals that carries certain rights and obligations and usually involves sexual activity. In most societies, marriage involves a mutual commitment by each partner. and linkages between two individuals and families are publicly demonstrated. In the United States, the only legally sanctioned form of marriage is rnonogamy-a marriage between two partners, usually a woman and a man. For some people, marriage is a lifelong commitment that ends only with the death of a partner. For others, marriage is a commitment of indefinite duration. Through a pattern of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, some people practice serial mO/logllmy-a succession of marriages in which a person has several spouses over a lifetime but is legally married to only one person at a time. Polygamy is the concurrent marriage of a person of one sex with two or more members of the opposite sex (Marshall. 1998). The most prevalent form of polygamy is concurrent marriage of one man with two or more women. Polygyny has been practiced in a number of Islamic societies. including some regions of contemporary Africa and southern Russia. For example, government officials in Africa estimate that 20 percent of Zambian marriages today are polygynous (Chipungu, 1999). How many wives and children might a polygynist h-weat one time? According to one report, Rodger Chilala of southern Zambia claimed to have 14 wives and more than 40 children; he stated that he previously had 24 wives but found that he could not alford the expenses associated with that many spouses (Chipungu, 1999). Although the cost of providing for multiple wives and maIl¥ children makes the practice of polygyny implausible for all but the wealthiest men, such marriages still exist in both urban and rural areas of Africa and among people of divergent social status and age groups (Chipungu, 1999). Polygyny is also allowed in southern Russia, where efforts are under-way to revive Islamic traditions (JTAR/TASS, 1999b). However, after legislation was passed in the Republic of Ingushetia that allowed men to have up to four wives, only three men took advantage of the new law (ITARITASS, 1999a). Some analysts believe that the practice of polygamy contributes to the likelihood that families will live in poverty (Chipungu, 1999). The second type of polygamy is polyandry-the concurrent marriage of one woman with two or more men. Polyandry is very rare; when it does occur, it is typically found in societies where men greatly outnumber women because of high rates of female infanticide or where marriages are arranged between two brothers and one woman ("fraternal polyandry"). According to recent research. polyandry is never the only form of marriage in a society: Whenever polyandry occurs, polygyny co-occurs (Trevithick, 1997).