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Group marriage or Circle Marriage is a form of polygamous marriage in which more than one man and more than one woman form a family unit, and all members of the marriage share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage.[1]

Line Marriage is a form of group marriage in which the family unit continues to add new spouses of both sexes over time so that the marriage does not end.

Group marriage is occasionally called polygynandry, from a combination of the words polygyny and polyandry.

Traditional Cultures[]

Group marriage is judged by some experts to be rare in traditional societies. Others find this judgement to be unwarranted, since the modern understanding of such societies is less than perfect. Many traditional societies have been nearly or totally destroyed by colonization and other forces. Among the cultures listed in George Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, the Caingang people of Brazil practiced group marriage most frequently as a socially accepted form of marriage, with 8% of unions being group marriage and 14% and 18% respectively being polyandrous and polygynous. [2]

Modern Culture[]

Group marriage occasionally occurred in communal societies founded in the 19th and 20th centuries. An exceptionally long-lived example was the Oneida Community founded by the Congregationalist minister John Humphrey Noyes in 1848. Noyes taught that he and his followers had undergone sanctification; that is, it was impossible for them to sin, and that for the sanctified, marriage (along with private property) was abolished as an expression of jealousy and exclusiveness. The Oneida commune practiced sexual communalism and shared parental responsibilities, and in effect functioned as a large group marriage until sometime in the period 1879-1881.

A form of group marriage where an individual (male or female) is married to a male and female is called polyemmory. This is unique from traditional group marriage in that each member of the group would be legally married to each other member of the group regardless of gender.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

The Kerista Commune practiced group marriage in San Francisco from 1971 to 1991.

It is difficult to estimate the number of people who actually practice group marriage in modern societies, as this form of marriage is not officially recognized or permitted in any jurisdiction, and illegal in many. It is also not always visible when people sharing a residence consider themselves privately to form (or self-identify as) a group marriage. With the legalization of Same-sex marriage in Canada and some parts of the United States, some members of the polyamory movement are talking about a reform movement to also allow group marriage. [verification needed]

See also[]

References & Bibliography[]

Key texts[]


  • Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, derived from George P. Murdock’s Ethnographic Atlas.
  • Emens, Elizabeth F. (2004). Monogamy's Law: Compulsory Monogamy and Polyamorous Existence. New York University Review of Law & Social Change 29 (2): 277.
  • {{cite book
| last = Murdock
| first = George Peter
| authorlink = George Murdock
| title = Social Structure
| location=  New York | publisher=The MacMillan Company
| year =  1949
| id = ISBN 0-02-922290-7


Additional material[]



External links[]


  1. ^ , Murdock, 1949, p. 24.
    group marriage or a marital union embracing at once several men and several women.
  2. ^ , Murdock, 1949, p. 24.