Family of Origin and Family of Choice: Polyamory in America
Bryn Mawr College. Department of Anthropology
Place of Publication
Table of Contents
Bi-College users only
Polyamory, also known as "consensual non-monogamy," is not given a lot of attention in academics or the media, but exists nonetheless as a lifestyle many people choose as an alternative to the socially idealistic monogamous dyad. As political and public discourse shines light on the existence of this alternative form of romantic relationship, misconceptions and misunderstandings invariably arise. Classical kinship studies in Anthropology do not address modern Western society, and the assumption that "The Family" is a universal phenomenon is pervasive. Through ethnographic field work with four separate self-identified polyamorous families— seven individuals altogether— this thesis seeks to demonstrate the intention, function, and success of polyamory as a lifestyle. Using primarily this interview data, this thesis addresses the philosophy of polyamory, the human emotion behind it, the nature of polyamory as an identity or orientation, and the structure and benefits of a polyamorous family. It concludes that polyamory, while certainly not an easy fix for any relationship nor a simple switch to make, is a viable option for individuals and couples who find that, for whatever reason, monogamy does not suit them; it also concludes that families built through polyamorous networks of relationships are as strong and stable as ideal monogamous "nuclear" families, and can benefit all members of the family, be they adult participants or dependent children.