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March 07, 2005

The Bond(s)

Perspectives on human attachment (pair bonding): Eve’s unique legacy of a canine analogue is a paper that examines the peculiarites of human pair-bonding and relative monogamy in light of our phylogenetic history and location, that is, our nearest relatives in both contemporary genetic distance as well as the past resemble the 95% of mammals which do not exhibit a great deal of long term pair-bonding, let alone male mate provisioning and parental investment. The Copernican Revolution might have "decentered" humanity's place in the universe, but our evolutionary path seems very peculiar, not only do we not conform to Rensch's Rule in an intraspecific context (between subpopulations), but we do not fall in line when examined comparatively with other homonoids. Human pair-bonding seems likely to be related to our extraordinarily long childhoods, but Helen Fisher has suggested that cross-cultural comparisons tend to converge upon a median figure of ~4 years for male-female pair-bonds, implying that the "distant father" is a feature, not a bug.

Addendum: Note that in pre-modern conditions it seems plausible if the father remained alive he would remain close to his children even if a relationship with the mother foundered as men and women are unlikely to switch bands or villages very often (exogamy would impose a one time transition depending upon matrilocality or partilocality).

Posted by razib at 04:59 PM