ancient dowry custom

A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to the marriage.[1] It contrasts with bride price, which is paid by the groom or his family to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property given to the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both dowry and bride price. Dowry is an ancient custom, and its existence may well predate records of it. Dowries continue to be expected in some parts of the world, mainly South Asia.

Many authors believe that the giving and receiving of dowry reflects the status and even the effort to climb high in social hierarchy.[2]

One function dowry may be to provide the husband with "seed money" or property for the establishment of a new household and to help feed and protect the family.[citation needed] Another to provide the wife and children some support if he were to die.[citation needed] Still another function may be as compensation for bride price.[3]

A dowry may also have served as a form of protection for the wife against the possibility of ill treatment by her husband and his family.[4] In other words, the dowry provides an incentive to the husband not to harm his wife.

An evolutionary psychology explanation for dowry and bride price is that bride price is common in polygynous societies which have a relative scarcity of available women. In monogamous societies where women have little personal wealth dowry is instead common since there is a relative scarcity of wealthy men who can choose from many potential women when marrying.[5]

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