Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Polys in Court - week 4 - Prof Rose McDermott testimony

Summary of transcripts remainder of Dec 15 and morning of Dec 16,2010.
Professor Rose McDermott was called to the stand as a witness for the AG of Canada. She is currently a prof of political science at Brown University in Rhode Island. Among many other qualifications, Professor McDermott has held a research fellowship at Stanford studying an application of behaviour
 genetics to the origins of political ideology. Also she had a research fellowship at Harvard studying the biological basis of leadership comparing leaders and non-leaders looking at basically hormonal and genetic  underpinnings of leadership and political ideology.  Her area of expertise is political psychology with a focused interest in international elite decision making as opposed to mass politcal behaviour (ie - how voters react to economic downturn).
Professor McDermott has authored and co-authored several books in her area of interest as well as much involvement in academic organizations related. Through a series of unrelated coincidences began working on a research project to study polygamy about 10 yrs ago.
Her report was compiled specifically for this reference case and was to examine three points:
 1. the impact of polygynous relationships on women's equality
2. the influence of polygynous relationships on children including the health and welfare of children born of polygynous marriages
3. the influence of polygamy on various aspects of the nation state
The report has three parts:
 1. examination of existing literature on the topics
2.  the statistical analysis of the data from her 10 years of research which looks at 18 variables that are influenced by polygyny
3. discussion of some of the theoretical argument about some of the mechanisms that may help support the influence of polygyny
Prof McDermott makes a distinction between polygamy (defined here as where one spouse has multiple partners whether male or female), polygyny (male spouse has multiple partners only), and polyandry (female spouse has multiple partners only) and she focused her report on polygyny which she states is the more prevalent as polyandry is extremely rare.

My Comment:  I find it really interesting that the experts feel that polyandry is rare when it is a common configuration of relationship in polyamory communities in Canada. Perhaps we are just more willing to be identified as M-F-M families.)
In her report Prof McDermott has used several terms intermittently polygynous unions, polygynous relationships, and polygynous marriages but clarified that she restricted her report to polygynous marriages to determine the impact of legal marriages ("the institution of polygamous marriage")that are polygynous on things like parental investment strategy and does not include situations like a married man with mistresses or an unmarried man with several girlfriends.
Her findings from literature are as follows:
Impact on Women
- there was a statistically significant relationship between the degree of polygyny in a society and a whole
  host of specific outcomes which include with regard to women things like increased number of children, greater maternal mortality, shorter longevity.  Women in these societies are more subject to sex trafficking and female genital mutilation.
- fewer resources than monogamous counter parts (smaller plot of land, smaller house)
- in 22 countries where polygamy was banned there was a subsequent decrease in fertility by 40 percent, increased financial savings by 70 percent and a per capita outcome of an increase of 170 percent.
- higher rate of mental illness than monogamous counter parts
Impact on Children
- both boys and girls are less likely to receive both primary and secondary levels of
   education - more likely to fall into the criminal justice system
- 25 percent risk of increased mortality
- girls are more likely to get married early and suffer the consequences of prepubertal sex - girls more likely to be fertile at younger ages in polygynous communities than in monogamous communities
- children of young mothers have worse outcomes in life
- more likely to have shorter span between births - less than 24 months increases risk of birth defects - less than 12 months increases risks of child & mother mortality
Impact on Nation State
- higher levels of polygyny are correlated with greater discrepancy between what the law says on
   the books and hows it actually practised. There is a greater inequity in the treatment of men and women before the law. Larger amounts of money are spent on weapons procurement and arms expenditures and there are lower levels of political freedoms and civil liberties in societies with greater degrees of polygyny.
- ejection of boys from the community to preserve the gender balance for men to have multiple spouses causes problems for the state - boys are from poorer level of society without education or skills to survive and impact the criminal justice system - China is redirects them to monastery or mercenary activities.

Research portion of report: 
 Professor McDermott reviewed the data analysis of 18 variables from statistics of 170 countries with populations of over 200,000 in a PowerPoint presentation.  She developed a 5 point scale (0 no polygyny to 4 25% or more of female population is in polygynous marriages) looking at polygyny in every country and whether or not it was legal in that country and secondly how prevalent it was in that country.  In cases where the two conflicted (instances where polygyny is legal but quite uncommon or where it's illegal but quite common) she gave priority to prevalence over legitimacy to see the institutional impact.
Her findings:
As the prevalence of polygyny increases:
- the birth rate per thousand increases from 15 (zero women in polygynous marriages) to 25 (25% of women in polygynous marriages)
- increase in birth rate of mothers who are 15 - 19 yrs of age
- girls enrolled in primary education has a slow decline while minimal decline for boys
- girls enrolled in high school education has a sharp decline with a sharper decline for boys
- increase in infection rate of HIV in females
- age of marriage of females declines - zero polygyny has an average age of 25 yrs and declines to average of 20 yrs at higher levels of polygyny prevalence
- maternal mortality rate rises steadily
- female life expectancy decreases - zero polygyny has an average of 78 or 79 yrs and higher rate of polygyny is average of 60 years
- increase in domestic violence - from 20% (zero polygyny) to 60% (highest polygyny prevalence)
- female genital mutilation - at highest level of polygyny prevalence 90% probability that 50% of the women are suffering this procedure with 25% of women in polygynous marriages
- substantial increase in inequality under the law where the highest prevalence of polygyny exist
- substantial decrease in civil rights and political freedom
- sex trafficking as practiced and willingness of the country to enforce laws forbidding it - prevalence of polygyny correlates to increase of sex trafficking and decrease in enforcement.
- increase in the discrepancy between what is the laws state and what is practiced
- increase in size of defense budget and military expenditure
Prof McDermott's summary:
- patriarchy is supportive and permissive of polygynous structures which involve typically the financial dependence of women on men and male control over female reproductive choices and options.
- men in patriarchal polygynous marriages obtain both social status and economic welfare from their control over female productive and reproductive benefits.
- sex ratio imbalances which exacerbate polygyny but reflect actually a slightly different underlying statistical reality as many more older women which are typically not of reproductive interest.
- while some individuals certainly claim to benefit from being in a polygynous union there has been no statistical demonstration that polygyny benefits most men or women, boys or girls or society considered as a whole.

Cross-examination by the Amicus:
- stats analysis specific to Canada from McDermott report quoted by Amicus - "we have found no evidence that polygynous marriages are a national issue and at the top of the page they do not even appear to be a cultural or regional occurrence. Other evidence may be found in the future but as of this comment the practice appears to be extremely minimal or non-existent." Prof McDermott confirmed that would be her knowledge of Canada.
- McDermott referenced website chart shows Canada as a zero polygamy prevalence which is defined for that chart as "monogamy is the rule and wide spread".  Prof McDermott confirmed this as her understanding.
Amicus asked McDermott for some stats on polygynous,polyamorous and polyandrous marriages in Canada, Prof McDermott sited  BBC reports indicating 10,000 polygynous marriages in Canada and was unaware of polyandrous marriages.
- in regards to the use of Ms. Jessop's book ("Escape" by Caroline Jessop and Laura Palmer) as a source for her report - Amicus questioned the weight placed on it as it isn't a peer reviewed piece of literature comparative to other sources  - Amicus asked Prof McDermott if Jessop wanted the polygamy decriminalized. Prof McDermott said no that Jessop wanted the law to stand.
- Amicus produced transcripts from "the source of all knowledge" (Oprah Winfrey) and the show on which the author of the book was interviewed.  
- "I think decriminalizing polygamy is the answer because it's more middle of the road...A blanket prosecution is disastrous and sets up the elements I came from. It set up the elements and stage for the very abuses to occur that are occurring now...and so if there was a way to decriminalize it so people could live honestly in the open and their children could be more mainstreamed." 
Prof McDermott was unaware of that statement although a similar quote is in the promotional materials for Jessops book  and was also made in a speech to the US House Judiciary committee.
- in regards to the use of Brent Jeff's book as a source for her report, Amicus confirmed with Prof McDermott that peer reviewed quality was not applied to books but only articles in this report. She hadn't read a chapter of the book that he wanted to question her on though.
- regarding her scale of prevalence of polygyny and negative outcomes, there was some lengthy discussion on whether she was saying that polygamy was a cause of these outcomes and how each country made it into the category assigned particulary placing Canada as a country where the polygamy law was enforced when that is not historically the case.
- Amicus noted that in several examples at the low end of the chart (Canada scoring "1" versus El Salvador scoring "0") might also in fact show that where there is more polygamy there is also better educations and better opportunities for education.
- after some discussion the professor agreed that many other factors beside Gross Nation Product (the variable Prof McDermott had used to level the economic playing field of the countries reviewed) could influence the effects on all of these outcomes but deemed none of them more effective to all then GNP and did not consider war (for instance) in various countries as relative.
- regarding the correlation of polygyny to male aggression as displayed through larger defense budgets by various nations - her study began after 911 following some discussions with Al Gore and a team of 12 senior Harvard academics seeking to understand male aggression and the theory that polygyny was a factor which was not supported by 10 of the 12 but persued as a study anyway.

Cross-examination by the BC Teacher's Federation:
- primary education for this report is defined as grades 1 to 8 as many countries don't have kindergarten
- secondary education or high school for this report is defined as grades 9 to 12
- enrollment is the the criteria - completion of that education level is not noted

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all of your coverage and analysis of the trial.