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Hum Nat. 1996 Sep;7(3):257-80. doi: 10.1007/BF02733397.

Evolutionary pathway of child development : Lifestyles of adolescents and adults from father-absent families.

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Institute of Behavioral Sciences, University Medical School, Szigeti u. 12, H-7624, Pécs, Hungary,


An evolutionary theory of socialization suggests that children from father-absent families will mature earlier, and form less-stable pair bonds, compared with those from father-present families. Using a sample of about 1,000 persons the recent study focuses on elements of father-absent children's behavior that could be better explained by a Darwinian approach than by rival social science theories. As a result of their enhanced interest in male competition, father-absent boys were found to engage in rule-breaking behavior more intensively than father-present boys. Compared with father-present children, adolescents from widowed households (both boys and girls) showed a higher intensity of various kinds of noncompliant behavior, which can be linked to their earlier maturation. School attendance, age at marriage, and marital success proved to be influenced by the children's early family experiences, governed by adapted evolutionary strategies. Father-absent daughters conceived more children than those whose fathers were present during their childhood. As evolutionary theory predicts, reproductive behavior of individuals from divorced households differed from that of individuals who grew up in widowed households. Finally, the strong correlation found between spontaneous abortion/stillbirths and family arrangement indicates that father absence has certain direct impacts on the neurohormonal processes of child development.


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