This paper investigates the impact of kin on child survival in a matrilineal society in Malawi. Women usually live in close proximity to their matrilineal kin in this agricultural community, allowing opportunities for helping behavior between matrilineal relatives. However, there is little evidence that matrilineal kin are beneficial to children. On the contrary, child mortality rates appear to be higher in the presence of maternal grandmothers and maternal aunts. These effects are modified by the sex of child and resource ownership: (...) female children and children in households where women, rather than men, own land suffer higher mortality rates in the presence of maternal kin. These modifiers suggest the detrimental effects of matrilineal kin may result from competition between such kin for resources. There are some positive effects of kin on child survival: the presence of elder siblings of both sexes is correlated with higher survival rates, and there is some weak evidence that paternal grandmothers may be beneficial to a child’s survival chances. There is little evidence that any male kin, whether matrilineal or patrilineal, and including fathers, affect child mortality rates. This study highlights the importance of taking social and ecological context into account when investigating relationships between kin. (shrink)
Is fertility relevant to evolutionary analyses conducted in modern industrial societies? This question has been the subject of a highly contentious debate, beginning in the late 1980s and continuing to this day. Researchers in both evolutionary and social sciences have argued that the measurement of fitness-related traits (e.g., fertility) offers little insight into evolutionary processes, on the grounds that modern industrial environments differ so greatly from those of our ancestral past that our behavior can no longer be expected to be (...) adaptive. In contrast, we argue that fertility measurements in industrial society are essential for a complete evolutionary analysis: in particular, such data can provide evidence for any putative adaptive mismatch between ancestral environments and those of the present day, and they can provide insight into the selection pressures currently operating on contemporary populations. Having made this positive case, we then go on to discuss some challenges of fertility-related analyses among industrialized populations, particularly those that involve large-scale databases. These include “researcher degrees of freedom” (i.e., the choices made about which variables to analyze and how) and the different biases that may exist in such data. Despite these concerns, large datasets from multiple populations represent an excellent opportunity to test evolutionary hypotheses in great detail, enriching the evolutionary understanding of human behavior. (shrink)
Studies of the association between wealth and fertility in industrial populations have a rich history in the evolutionary literature, and they have been used to argue both for and against a behavioral ecological approach to explaining human variability. We consider that there are strong arguments in favor of measuring fertility (and proxies thereof) in industrial populations, not least because of the wide availability of large-scale secondary databases. Such data sources bring challenges as well as advantages, however. The purpose of this (...) article is to illustrate these by examining the association between wealth and reproductive success in the United States, using the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979. We conduct a broad-based exploratory analysis of the relationship between wealth and fertility, employing both cross-sectional and longitudinal approaches, and multiple measures of both wealth (income and net worth) and fertility (lifetime reproductive success and transitions to first, second and third births). We highlight the kinds of decisions that have to be made regarding sample selection, along with the selection and construction of explanatory variables and control measures. Based on our analyses, we find a positive effect of both income and net worth on fertility for men, which is more pronounced for white men and for transitions to first and second births. Income tends to have a negative effect on fertility for women, while net worth is more likely to positively predict fertility. Different reproductive strategies among different groups within the same population highlight the complexity of the reproductive ecology of industrial societies. These results differ in a number of respects from other analyses using the same database. We suggest this reflects the impossibility of producing a definitive analysis, rather than a failure to identify the “correct” analytical strategy. Finally, we discuss how these findings inform us about (mal)adaptive decision-making. (shrink)
In Western societies, height is positively correlated with reproductive success (RS) for men but negatively correlated with RS for women. These relationships have been attributed to sexual selection: women prefer tall men, and men prefer short women. It is this success in the marriage market which leads to higher RS for tall men and short women. We have already shown that the relationship between height and RS for women is quite different in a non-Western context. In a subsistence farming community (...) in rural Gambia, height is positively correlated with reproductive success for women, largely owing to the higher survival of the children of tall women. Here, the relationship between height and reproductive success is analyzed for men in the same community. For these Gambian men, there is no significant relationship between height and the number of children they produce, although tall men do contract more marriages than shorter men. We conclude that environmental context needs to be taken into account when analyzing human reproductive behavior. (shrink)
Human beings persist in an extraordinary range of ecological settings, in the process exhibiting enormous behavioural diversity, both within and between populations. People vary in their social, mating and parental behaviour and have diverse and elaborate beliefs, traditions, norms and institutions. The aim of this theme issue is to ask whether, and how, evolutionary theory can help us to understand this diversity. In this introductory article, we provide a background to the debate surrounding how best to understand behavioural diversity using (...) evolutionary models of human behaviour. In particular, we examine how diversity has been viewed by the main subdisciplines within the human evolutionary behavioural sciences, focusing in particular on the human behavioural ecology, evolutionary psychology and cultural evolution approaches. In addition to differences in focus and methodology, these subdisciplines have traditionally varied in the emphasis placed on human universals, ecological factors and socially learned behaviour, and on how they have addressed the issue of genetic variation. We reaffirm that evolutionary theory provides an essential framework for understanding behavioural diversity within and between human populations, but argue that greater integration between the subfields is critical to developing a satisfactory understanding of diversity. (shrink)
Over the last three decades, the application of evolutionary theory to the human sciences has shown remarkable growth. This growth has also been characterised by a ‘splitting’ process, with the emergence of distinct sub-disciplines, most notably: Human Behavioural Ecology (HBE), Evolutionary Psychology (EP) and studies of Cultural Evolution (CE). Multiple applications of evolutionary ideas to the human sciences are undoubtedly a good thing, demonstrating the usefulness of this approach to human affairs. Nevertheless, this fracture has been associated with considerable tension, (...) a lack of integration, and sometimes outright conflict between researchers. In recent years however, there have been clear signs of hope that a synthesis of the human evolutionary behavioural sciences is underway. Here, we briefly review the history of the debate, both its theoretical and practical causes; then provide evidence that the field is currently becoming more integrated, as the traditional boundaries between sub-disciplines become blurred. This article constitutes the first paper under the new editorship of the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, which aims to further this integration by explicitly providing a forum for integrated work. (shrink)
Pepper & Nettle offer a nuanced and humane view on poverty that should be required reading for policy makers, particularly those interested in “behaviour change” policy. We suggest, however, that the emphasis on “future-discounting” in this paper downplays the importance of differences in the payoffs to behavioursin the presentand how these payoffs may be realised in different currencies.
Coall & Hertwig (C&H) demonstrate the importance of grandparents to children, even in low fertility societies. We suggest policy-makers interested in reproductive timing in such contexts should be alerted to the practical applications of this cooperative breeding framework. The presence or absence of a supportive kin network could help explain why some women begin their reproductive careers or.