Thursday, September 14, 2006

Paternity & all that   posted by Razib @ 9/14/2006 06:57:00 PM

Here is a nice little essay on issues surrounding paternity certainty. But this is the real interesting part:

Several studies have shown that a mother's relatives pay much more attention to her children than the father's relatives do. One proposed explanation is subconscious suspicions of paternity uncertainty. In 1997, Steven Gaulin, Donald McBurney, and Stephanie Brakeman-Wartell, at the time all affiliated with the psychology department at the University of Pittsburgh, asked 278 college students to rate on a scale from 1 to 7 how much their aunts and uncles seemed to care about their welfare. The students reported that the relatives on the mother's side of the family paid ``significantly more" attention to them.

The degree of reduced interest from the father's relatives was what you would expect, if those relatives were assuming a 13 to 20 percent chance the child wasn't related to them. Similar studies--including one published as recently as this May in Evolution and Human Behavior--have found that maternal grandparents pay significantly more attention to children than paternal grandparents, and have offered similar explanations.

The maternal grandmother effect seems real. I did a lit search on this last year, and I found ethnographies in which surveyed the Khasis of northeast India, and their Bengali neighbors to the south. The Khasis are matrilineal, while the Bengalis are most definitely not, and yet in both groups the maternal grandmother effect was noticeable. It is in the Bengalis that I found it most interesting, because I obviously know a little bit about this culture and it is very patrlineal.