The Evolution of Relationships in Nonhuman Families

Douglas W. Mock

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 Evolution of Relationships in Nonhuman Families

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Sexual reproduction generates genetic novelties, such that the individual members of a simple nuclear family have both shared and unshared evolutionary interests in the others. Hamilton’s rule is widely recognized as specifying how such relatedness can promote altruism and cooperation among close kin, but it simultaneously shows the evolutionary limits of selfishness. In addition, the pervasive tendency for parents to overproduce (to create more offspring than can normally be supported) exacerbates competition within the nursery, generating a rich array of behavioral dynamics that span the social range from nepotistic suicide to filial infanticide and siblicide. Full understanding of the three social dimensions of family life (parent–parent, parent–offspring, sibling–sibling) thus requires attention to the ecological limits on resource supply, the developmental requirements affecting demand, and the evolutionary genetics of kinship.

Keywords: Hamilton’s rule; relatedness; parent-offspring conflict; sibling rivalry; sexual conflict; overproduction; nepotism; selfishness

Article.  9093 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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