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Senior wives can benefit as well when the addition of junior wives to the family lightens their workload.
Wives', especially senior wives', status in a community can increase through the addition of other wives, who add to the family's prosperity or symbolize conspicuous consumption (much as a large house, domestic help, or expensive vacations operate in a western country).
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 primarily monogamous, with cultural practice of polygamy to be in the minority, based on both surveys of world populations, Muslim-majority countries and some countries with a sizeable Muslim minority accept polygyny legally and culturally to varying extents; some secular countries also accept it to varying degrees.
The family of the late wife, in other words, must provide a replacement for her, thus maintaining the marriage alliance.
In such cases, the deceased man's heir may inherit his assets and wife; or, more usually, his brothers may marry the widow.
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.
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.
For such reasons, senior wives sometimes work hard or contribute from their own resources to enable their husbands to accumulate the bride price for an extra wife.