Parent–Offspring Conflict

Catherine A. Salmon and James Malcolm

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

Parent–Offspring Conflict

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At first glance, the relationship between parent and offspring seems to begin in perfect harmony. In particular, the image of human parents’ devotion to their infant is one that has been depicted in art for thousands of years. It often seems to stand in sharp contrast to the modern image of the typical adolescent–parent relationship, usually portrayed as full of strife. It’s also in contrast to the abrupt end of parent–child relations seen in many animal species. But are either really accurate? Should we expect total harmony or total conflict? What factors affect the degree of conflict between parent and child? Are there particular stages in the life of a child or parent that attenuate or exaggerate the degree of conflict? An evolutionary perspective on human and animal families provides useful insights to these and other questions.

Keywords: Parental investment; parent–offspring conflict; fitness; maternal–fetal conflict; kin selection

Article.  11067 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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