Materteral and Avuncular Tendencies in Samoa

Human Nature 20 (3):269-281 (2009)
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Abstract

Androphilia refers to sexual attraction and arousal to adult males, whereas gynephilia refers to sexual attraction and arousal to adult females. In Independent Samoa, androphilic males, most of whom are effeminate or transgendered, are referred to as fa’afafine, which means “in the manner of a woman.” Previous research has established that fa’afafine report significantly higher avuncular tendencies relative to gynephilic men. We hypothesized that Samoan fa’afafine might adopt feminine gender role orientations with respect to childcare activity. If so, then the fa’afafine’s femininity might be a proximate mechanism for promoting their elevated avuncular tendencies. Our analyses indicated that fa’afafine had significantly higher willingness to assist in the childcare of nieces and nephews than childless women, mothers, or men, none of whom differed from each other on this measure. Thus, femininity does not appear to explain the fa’afafine’s pattern of avuncular tendencies, nor the women’s pattern of materteral (i.e., aunt-like) tendencies, relative to gynephilic men. We discuss how the fa’afafine “third” gender status might influence the expression of their elevated avuncular tendencies

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