If we ever doubted that monogamy was an imposed cultural value (vs instinct) we need not look beyond the latest news of our political leaders. Or, perhaps, just look within. Yet monogamy seems to have offered our species survival advantages which favor its presence in many of our cultural traditions. 

A recent NYTimes article by Carl Zimmer addresses this topic.  Perhaps the greatest benefit to monogamy was to keep the paternal unit in the picture for an extended period of time.  No longer merely a sperm donor, a monogamous family arrangement allowed emotional bonds to develop between a father and his offspring.  The result was a committment to provide food, shelter, protection and care.  Such is the recipe for survival for the individual child and the society in which they reside. 

But because monogamy is not biology, we see far too many examples of fatherless families.  The results are almost always extremely negative if not devastating.  

And yet polygamous social arrangements could still conceivably offer some of these benefits.  It just seems that the more dilute the father’s influence (emotional and financial) the less potent it would be.

So to a large extent monogamy is not about morality or ethics (although it certainly can be) it is more practical than that.  It offers our kind the best hope for creating an individual who can survive and contribute to the betterment of one and all.

Will monogamy ever become an instinctual drive?  Unlikely.  The temptation and ability to break that pattern remain a strong force in our culture and clearly in our genes (and jeans).  But the benefits of monogramy may continue to offer us a choice we choose to make.

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