The Evolutionary History of Pair-bonding and Parental Collaboration

Bernard Chapais

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Family Psychology

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195396690
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Evolutionary History of Pair-bonding and Parental Collaboration

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Most evolutionarily oriented studies on the human pair-bond infer its origins from its present-day functional aspects and adaptive character and propose on this basis that the family was born as a parental partnership. They view monogamy and the sexual division of labor as having evolved together as part of the same adaptive suite. They also assume, explicitly or implicitly, that the human pair-bond was born from a background of sexual promiscuity. The primate evidence discussed here rather suggests that human monogamy originated from a prior stage of polygyny and therefore as a result of constraints on the profitability of polygyny. This implies that both monogamy and polygyny were part of our evolutionary heritage. The primate data suggest that monogamy originated as a male strategy of mate guarding favoring paternity confidence and father–offspring recognition, and that it operated as a preadaptation for the evolution of parental cooperation in the provisioning of progressively altricial (helpless) children.

Keywords: Monogamy; pair-bond; polygyny; human family; sexual division of labor; paternal investment; cooperative breeding

Article.  12473 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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