Aja Watkins
Boston University
Menopause is an evolutionary mystery: how could living longer with no capacity to reproduce possibly be advantageous? Several explanations have been offered for why female humans, unlike our closest primate relatives, have such an extensive post-reproductive lifespan. Proponents of the so-called “grandmother hypothesis” suggest that older women are able to increase their fitness by helping to care for their grandchildren as allomothers. This paper first distinguishes the grandmother hypothesis from several other hypotheses that attempt to explain menopause, and then develops a formal model by which these hypotheses can be compared and tested by empirical researchers. The model is then modified and used to respond to a common objection to the grandmother hypothesis: that human fathers, rather than grandmothers, are better suited to be allomothers due to their physical strength and a high incentive to invest in their own children. However, fathers—unlike maternal grandmothers—can never be sure that the children they are caring for are their own. Incorporating paternity uncertainty into the model demonstrates the conditions under which the grandmother hypothesis is more plausible than a hypothesis that focuses on the contributions of men.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s40656-021-00455-x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,066
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Woman That Never Evolved.Sarah Blaffer Hrdy - 1981 - Harvard University Press.

View all 9 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Patriarch Hypothesis.Frank Marlowe - 2000 - Human Nature 11 (1):27-42.
A Distributive Explanation of “Grandmother” Cells.Gonzalo Munevar - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 34:25-31.
Grandmothers, Hunters and Human Life History.Catherine Driscoll - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):665-686.
Underdetermination and Evidence in the Developmental Plasticity Debate.Karen Kovaka - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):127-152.


Added to PP index

Total views
1 ( #1,539,100 of 2,498,788 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #421,542 of 2,498,788 )

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes