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Behav Processes. 2000 Oct 5;51(1-3):45-61.

Paternal investment and the human mating system.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Peabody Museum, 02138, Cambridge, MA, USA


Paternal investment has long been considered responsible for the evolution of predominantly monogamous marriage in humans. However, male-male competition resulting in mate-guarding and male coercion could be equally important. In this review, I use a comparative approach to examine the effect of variation in human paternal investment on our mating system. I conclude paternal investment is important but so too is mate-guarding. I propose a model of our mating system incorporating both factors. Variation in the mating system is explained by variation in male resource control and contribution, resulting in ecologically imposed monogamy or polygyny, as predicted by the polygyny threshold model, as well as variation in male-male competition for status, resulting in socially imposed monogamy or polygyny.

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