Evolutionary perspectives on father involvement

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Theoretical Perspectives and Historical Overview The crux of evolutionary approaches to variation in paternal involvement is quite straightforward: evolutionary theorists attempt to understand and predict variation in paternal involvement based on the premise that men will provide a level of paternal involvement which maximizes their reproductive success. Any genetically influenced paternal trait which does not maximize genetic contribution to future generations will occur less and less frequently with the passing of generations. Because in our evolutionary past paternal behavior is likely to have In had a significant impact on men's reproductive success through influencing child survival and viability, human paternal behavior is almost certain to have a strong evolutionary underpinning. However, in practice, demonstrating evolutionary influences on paternal involvement is quite complex and fraught with difficulties. One problem is that the environments in which humans evolved, and in which paternal behaviors were shaped by natural and sexual selection, are not necessarily similar to present day conditions due to the rapid changes to human societies and environments that occurred with the development of modern technology and medicine. Thus, studying the reproductive consequences of paternal behavior in present-day humans may not provide the evolutionary insights that researchers hope to achieve, and important questions, such as quantifying typical benefits of paternal care for children's survival and viability, become difficult to answer. Without answers, it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty what paternal involvement patterns are reproductively optimal, and therefore what our fundamental paternal genetic adaptations will consist of: evolution will have produced a pattern of typical paternal care based on its reproductive costs and benefits in past generations. A partial solution to this problem has been to collect data on father involvement and its outcomes in living hunter-gatherers and in the shrinking number of other societies which remain at the subsistence level today. This approach has, not surprisingly, been adopted and applied by evolutionary anthropologists in the past three decades, while evolutionary psychologists have generally focused on attempting to discover evolved cognitive mechanisms rather than measuring reproductive outcomes (e.g., see Cosmides & Tooby, 1995).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of father involvement
Subtitle of host publicationMulti-disciplinary perspectives
EditorsNatasha J Cabrera, Catherine S Tamis-LeMonda
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9780415878678
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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