In this paper I use measures of childhood growth to assess from both an evolutionary theoretical and an applied public health perspective the impact of polygyny on maternal-child welfare among the Datoga pastoralists of Tanzania. I report that the growth and body composition of children varies in such a way as to suggest that polygyny is not generally beneficial to women in terms of offspring quality. Cross-sectional analysis of covariance by maternal marriage status revealed that children of first (...) and second wives in polygynous marriages grow relatively poorly, that this is correlated with maternal physical status, and that the pattern is not modified by household wealth. I discuss how the dynamics of sexual conflicts operating during the formation and maintenance of marriages may be important factors in the etiology of poor child growth in this population, leading to complex patterns of variation in anthropometric indicators of both women and children. The theoretical conclusion is that improved evolutionary models of polygyny should be designed to examine the potential for adaptive tradeoffs between the currencies of offspring quality and quantity for all types of parents in a polygynous population. The practical conclusion is that a better understanding of the relationships between marriage practices and health outcomes would assist in the development of culturally appropriate health and nutrition interventions. (shrink)
The Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI) was not designed to illuminate the sexually dimorphic mental mechanisms posited by evolutionary theories. Its results are therefore open to competing interpretations. Measures designed to tap the thought processes surrounding sexual experience generate findings that are more compatible with evolutionary than with social structural theory.
Amankwaa (1996) gives data on infant mortality in monogamous and polygynous families. However he does not categorise his data by sex. This is important because one might expect infant mortality to vary by sex; moreover the offspring sex ratios of polygynous and monogamous women reportedly differ.
Applications of sexual selection theory to humans lead us to expect that because of mammalian sex differences in obligate parental investment there will be gender differences in fitness variances, and males will benefit more than females from multiple mates. Recent theoretical work in behavioral ecology suggests reality is more complex. In this paper, focused on humans, predictions are derived from conventional parental investment theory regarding expected outcomes associated with serial monogamy and are tested with new data from a postreproductive cohort (...) of men and women in a primarily horticultural population in western Tanzania (Pimbwe). Several predictions derived from the view that serial monogamy is a reproductive strategy from which males benefit are not supported. Furthermore, Pimbwe women are the primary beneficiaries of multiple marriages. The implications for applications of sexual selection theory to humans are discussed, in particular the fact that in some populations women lead sexual and reproductive lives that are very different from those derived from a simple Bateman-Trivers model. (shrink)
Both behavioral ecological and social anthropological analyses of polygynous marriage tend to emphasize the importance of competition among men in acquisition of mates, whereas the strategic options to women both prior to and after the establishment of a marriage have been neglected. Focusing on African marriage systems that are in some senses analogous to resource-defense polygyny, I first review the evidence of reproductive costs of polygyny to women. Then I discuss why the conflict of interests between men and (...) women over mate number is often likely to be settled in favor of men. Using East African ethnographic data I examine the strategic responses of women and their families to polygynous marriage, focusing on four topics: mate choice (Kipsigis), attitudes toward incoming wives (Kipsigis), labor allocation and cooperation (comparative data, Kipsigis), and use of parental wealth (Datoga). The results of these quantitative analyses suggest that through a combination of judicious marriage choice and strategic responses within marriage, polygyny need not be costly to women in resource-defense polygynous systems. The conclusion is that a hierarchy of questions need to be addressed in the analysis of any polygynous marriage system. (shrink)
Polygamy is a hotly contested practice and open to widespread misunderstandings. This practice is defined as a relationship between either one husband and multiple wives or one wife and multiple husbands. Today, 'polygamy' almost exclusively takes the form of one husband with multiple wives. In this article, my focus will centre on limited defences of polygamy offered recently by Chesire Calhoun and Martha Nussbaum. I will argue that these defences are unconvincing. The problem with polygamy is primarily that it is (...) a structurally inegalitarian practice in both theory and fact. Polygamy should be opposed for this reason. (shrink)
In this article I consider whether there a right to incestuous marriage. I begin by suggesting that the liberal state get out of the "marriage" business by leveling down to a universal civil union or "registered domestic partnership" status. Removing the symbolism of the term "marriage" from political conflict, privatizing it in the same way as religion, would have the advantage of both consistency and political reconciliation. The question is then whether incestuous unions should be both legal and eligible for (...) this status. I argue that the arguments compatible with public reason for prohibiting them outright, or even for excluding them from the permissible types of legally registered partnerships, are quite weak. The objections to allowing such relations are those from (1) child abuse; (2) unfair burdening of society; and (3) the creation of bad lives. I argue that while rape and other forms of child abuse would be no more legal or tolerated than they are now, the concern about any form of weakening a society's legal and political resources to combat such abuses does indeed register on the justificatory scale, but does not prove that such first-degree incestuous sexual relations are inherently bad enough to warrant intervention in their own right. I then argue that the concern about unfairly burdening society with unhealthy persons is not as dangerously totalitarian as we might initially fear, but nor is it strong enough to justify an outright prohibition. Finally, I argue that a concern to dissuade persons from creating certain kinds of lives (children with extreme birth defects) is also not as dangerously totalitarian as we might initially fear, and in fact goes further towards explaining why we might have a legitimate interest in intervening. Nonetheless, I argue that the criminalization of such acts only make sense when they are indicators of other offenses, namely negligence or abuse, and it thus seems that the act of consanguineous reproduction is itself insufficient. One potentially surprising conclusion of this inquiry is that far from creating strong reasons for tolerating these practices, religious or cultural reasons for valuing incest (as well as polygamy) actually seem to count against tolerating them. The reason is that from a liberal perspective, tolerating polygamy and incest involves the assumption that it is possible to disassociate polygamy and incest simpliciter from abusive practices associated with them, including environments where children are raised to devalue their own sexual (and other) autonomy. However, the presence of comprehensive doctrines which include polygyny or incest as part of a good life actually makes it harder to justify disassociating polygamy and incest themselves from the likely abuse and coercion practiced by those who would value polygyny or incest. (shrink)
Even in secular and civil contexts, marriage retains sacramental connotations. Yet what moral significance does it have? This book examines its morally salient features - promise, commitment, care, and contract - with surprising results. In Part One, "De-Moralizing Marriage," essays on promise and commitment argue that we cannot promise to love and so wedding vows are (mostly) failed promises, and that marriage may be a poor commitment strategy. The book contends with the most influential philosophical accounts of the moral value (...) of marriage to argue that marriage has no inherent moral significance. Further, the special value accorded marriage sustains amatonormative discrimination - discrimination against non-amorous or non-exclusive caring relationships such as friendships, adult care networks, polyamorous groups, or urban tribes. The discussion raises issues of independent interest for the moral philosopher such as the possibilities and bounds of interpersonal moral obligations and the nature of commitment. The central argument of Part Two, "Democratizing Marriage," is that liberal reasons for recognizing same-sex marriage also require recognition of groups, polyamorists, polygamists, friends, urban tribes, and adult care networks. Political liberalism requires the disestablishment of monogamous amatonormative marriage. Under the constraints of public reason, a liberal state must refrain from basing law solely on moral or religious doctrines; but only such doctrines could furnish reason for restricting marriage to male-female couples or romantic love dyads. Restrictions on marriage should thus be minimized. But public reason can provide a strong rationale for minimal marriage: care, and social supports for care, are a matter of fundamental justice. Part Two also responds to challenges posed by property division on divorce, polygyny, and supporting parenting, and builds on critiques of marriage drawn from feminism, queer theory, and race theory. It argues, using the example of minimal marriage, for the compatibility of liberalism and feminism. (shrink)
Africa is a continent in transition amidst a revival of cultural practices. Over previous years the continent was robbed of the benefits of medical advances by unfounded cultural practices surrounding its cultural heritage. In a fast moving field like genetic screening, discussions of social and policy aspects frequently need to take place at an early stage to avoid the dilemma encountered by Western medicine. This paper, examines the potential challenges to genetic screening in Africa. It discusses how cultural practices may (...) affect genetic screening. It views genomics science as a culture which is trying to diffuse into another one. It argues that understanding the existing culture will help the diffusion process. The paper emphasizes the importance of genetic screening for Africa, by assessing the current level of burden of diseases in the continent and shows its role in reducing disease prevalence. The paper identifies and discusses the cultural challenges that are likely to confront genetic screening on the continent, such as the worldview, rituals and taboos, polygyny, culture of son preference and so on. It also discusses cultural practices that may promote the science such as inheritance practices, spouse selection practices and naming patterns. Factors driving the cultural challenges are identified and discussed, such as socialization process, patriarchy, gender, belief system and so on. Finally, the paper discusses the way forward and highlights the ethical considerations of doing genetic screening on the continent. However, the paper also recognizes that African culture is not monolithic and therefore makes a case for exceptions. (shrink)
Polygyny does not necessarily entail sexual selection of men. All factors that affect the operational sex ratio must be considered. Data from contemporary hunter-gatherers indicate higher mortality rates in men than in women, and lost female reproductive time. If sexual selection did occur in ancestral hunter-gatherers, it was probably men selecting women and not women selecting men.
Life history data, attractiveness ratings of male photographs, and attitudes towards partnership and child-rearing of 321 women were used to test four evolutionary models (quantitative reproductive strategy, male short-age, polygyny indication, and maternal reproductive interests) which attempt to explain the influence of family composition on reproductive strategies. Links between early menarche and other markers of reproductive strategy were investigated. Childhood stress and absence of a father figure, whether genetically related or not, were found to have accelerated menarche whereas having (...) younger siblings decelerated it. Early menarche was associated with attractiveness ratings, the number of partners desired for the immediate future, and the early onset of intimate relationships. It was not linked with sociosexual orientation, mate choice criteria, and investment in the subjects’ own children, but these three markers were interrelated. The implications of the findings for the four evolutionary models are discussed. (shrink)
This article examines women’s rights to property in marriage, upon divorce, and upon the death of a spouse in Uganda, highlighting the problematic aspects in both the state-made (statutory) and non-state-made (customary and religious) laws. It argues that, with the exception of the 1995 Constitution, the subordinate laws that regulate the distribution, management, and ownership of property during marriage, upon divorce, and death of a spouse are discriminatory of women. It is shown that even where the relevant statutory laws are (...) protective of women’s rights to property, their implementation is hindered by customary law practices, socialization, and the generally weak economic capacity of many women in the country. The article delves into the even weaker position of women’s rights to matrimonial property at customary and religious laws. In many homes, wives provide labor to support their husbands without having a stake in the use or monetary benefit from it. Under Islamic law regulating intestate succession to property, the entitlements for widows fall short of the constitutional standards on equality and non-discrimination. Polygyny is widely practiced by Muslims implying that the widows share the one eighth whenever there are children or one fourth in cases when there are no children. Radical reforms such as adopting an immediate community property regime instead of the present separate property regime are inevitable if women’s rights to property are to advance. (shrink)
Evolutionary biologists mostly assume that polygyny increases sexual dimorphism in size because, under polygyny, larger males monopolize mating opportunities and pass on their genes to their sons. Available data on parents height, but has no effect on men’s, and is consistent with the speculation that the origin of human sexual dimorphism in size may be cultural, not genetic.
Sexual size dimorphism is generally associated with sexual selection via agonistic male competition in nonhuman primates. These primate models play an important role in understanding the origins and evolution of human behavior. Human size dimorphism is often hypothesized to be associated with high rates of male violence and polygyny. This raises the question of whether human dimorphism and patterns of male violence are inherited from a common ancestor with chimpanzees or are uniquely derived. Here I review patterns of, and (...) causal models for, dimorphism in humans and other primates. While dimorphism in primates is associated with agonistic male mate competition, a variety of factors can affect male and female size, and thereby dimorphism. The causes of human sexual size dimorphism are uncertain, and could involve several non-mutually-exclusive mechanisms, such as mate competition, resource competition, intergroup violence, and female choice. A phylogenetic reconstruction of the evolution of dimorphism, including fossil hominins, indicates that the modern human condition is derived. This suggests that at least some behavioral similarities with Pan associated with dimorphism may have arisen independently, and not directly from a common ancestor. (shrink)