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«In this article we present a biosocial model of human male parental care that allows re- lationship (mating) effort to influence male parental ...»

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Paternal Care by Genetic Fathers and

Stepfathers II: Reports by Xhosa

High School Students

Kermyt G. Anderson

Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Hillard Kaplan

Human Evolutionary Ecology Program, Department of Anthropology, University of

New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico

David Lam

Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Jane Lancaster

Human Evolutionary Ecology Program, Department of Anthropology, University of

New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico In this article we present a biosocial model of human male parental care that allows re- lationship (mating) effort to influence male parental allocations. The model recognizes four classes of relationships between men and the children they parent: genetic off- spring of current mates (combined relationship and parental effort), genetic offspring of previous mates (parental effort solely), step offspring of current mates (relationship ef- fort solely), and stepchildren of previous mates (essentially no expected investment). We test the model using data on parental investment collected from 340 Xhosa high school students in Cape Town, South Africa. Six measures of paternal investment are exam- ined: the amount of money men spent on students for school, clothing, and miscella- neous expenditures, respectively, and how often men spent time with children, helped them with their homework, or spoke English with them. The tests provide support for the roles of both parental and relationship effort in influencing parental care: men in- vest significantly more in their genetic offspring and in the children of their current mates. We also examine several proximate influences on parental care, specifically the age and sex of the child, and the percentage of the child’s life the father figure coresided with him or her. © 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.

KEY WORDS: Paternal investment; Mating effort; Xhosa; South Africa.

Received January 12, 1999; revised July 31, 1999.

Address reprint requests and correspondence to: Kermyt G. Anderson, Population Studies Center, Univer- sity of Michigan, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248, U.S.A. E-mail: kganders@umich.edu Evolution and Human Behavior 20: 433–451 (1999) © 1999 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. 1090-5138/99/$–see front matter PII S1090-5138(99)00022-7 655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010 434 K. G. Anderson et al.

uman males often provide substantial amounts of care and resources to H children (Hewlett 1991a, 1992). In fact, the investment of time and re- sources in children (which we refer to more generally as parental care) is not always limited to the genetic offspring of men or even to geneti- cally related individuals. As a result of divorce, separation, and death, men often form marital relationships with women who are parenting children from previous unions with other men (Hewlett 1991b; Hill and Hurtado 1996; Lancaster 1997), and they help provide care for those children (Anderson et al., in preparation a, in preparation b; Kaplan et al. 1998; Lancaster and Kaplan, in press). Such practices raise a number of important theoretical issues about the conditions that affect the amount of care men provide to children and about the fitness costs and benefits of such investments. This article presents a simple biosocial model of male parental care and tests the model with data collected among Xhosa high school students in Cape Town, South Africa. The companion article (Anderson et al., this volume) presents further results using reports from a sample of men living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A.


Fuller treatment of the theory underlying the model is presented in the companion article (Anderson et al., this volume). Here we will simply note that for humans and other species in which both sexes can provide investment to offspring, investment itself can be a basis for mate choice. Females can select males on the basis of their ability or willingness to provision offspring in addition to their genetic qualities.

When this is the case, mating effort and parental effort become difficult to distinguish; care provided to offspring can function as mating effort in addition to or instead of parental effort. Thus, we can argue that, among humans (and some other organisms), individuals may select mates in part on their ability or willingness to provide parental care. Specifically, by providing care to the children of their mates—both their genetic and step offspring—men can influence the “quality” or the duration of their relationships with their mates, above and beyond the effects the care has on the wellbeing of the offspring themselves. Male parental care can thus be a form of mating effort.

Because human marital relationships involve economic and reciprocity issues in addition to solely reproductive considerations, we have adopted the phrase “relationship effort” as an expanded version of mating effort. Relationship effort includes all activities and expenditures that increase the probability of entering into or remaining in a marital (or marriage-like) relationship with another individual, or which increase the “quality” of that relationship. Relationship effort encompasses the traditional definition of mating effort (Low 1978; Trivers 1972), but the concept is expanded to include investments and allocations that are unlikely to directly affect an individual’s future reproductive opportunities. In many contexts, relationship effort and mating effort are synonymous; we preferentially use the former term to acknowledge the importance of nonreproductive aspects of human marital relationships.

435 Paternal Investment in Xhosa Students


We have argued that male parental care is influenced by both relationship effort and parental effort. We will now specify how these forms of reproductive effort influence men’s decisions to allocate parental care to the children they have parented.

Table 1 presents four classes of male/offspring relationships, defined by the male’s relatedness to the child and the male’s relationship with the child’s mother. Class 1 relationships involve a genetic offspring whose mother is the man’s current mate.

Men receive direct genetic benefits from investing in these offspring. In addition, because women are likely to prefer males who invest highly in their offspring—and will be more likely to leave men who do not—men also receive relationship (“mating”) benefits from investing in these children. Class 2 offspring are genetic offspring whose mothers are now previous mates. Men receive genetic benefits from investing in these children, but no relationship benefits, because the relationship with the child’s mother has terminated. Thus, care for these offspring can be considered parental investment only. Class 3 offspring are stepchildren through a man’s current mate. Because these children are not genetically related to the man, investments in those children provide no kin or parenting benefits. However, investing in these children may improve the quality or increase the duration of the man’s relationship with the child’s mother; thus, care for these offspring is relationship investment solely. Finally, Class 4 offspring are stepchildren from previous relationships.

Because men receive neither relationship nor parental benefits from providing care for these children, we expect to see virtually no investment in these offspring.

This simple framework clarifies the relationships between men and the children they have parented, and it provides insight into men’s parental allocation decisions. For example, the model predicts that male investment in genetic offspring will decrease after divorce, in part because paternal care during the marriage was motivated not solely by the effects of the care on the child’s well-being (or fitness), but also by its effect on the parents’ relationship. Once the marriage has terminated, men may reallocate the relationship effort portion of the parental care they once provided to establishing new mating relationships, leading to a decline in parental investment in genetic offspring after divorce. The model predicts that genetic children of current mates will receive the highest levels of investment, because men obtain both parental and relationship benefits from doing so, whereas step offspring of previous mates will receive the least, because men receive neither form of benefit. To the best of our knowledge, no previous study has compared these two classes of off

–  –  –

spring. Whereas the model predicts that genetic children of previous mates and stepchildren of current mates will each receive decreased levels of investment relative to genetic children of current mates (see Amato 1987; Cooksey and Fondell 1996;

Daly and Wilson 1981, 1988; Flinn 1988; Judge 1995; Marlowe 1999; Marsiglio 1991; Simpson 1997; Smith et al. 1987; Teachman 1991; Weiss and Willis 1985, 1993 for evidence in support of that prediction), we know of no previous investigators who compared investments between these two classes of children. The relative level each will receive is difficult to predict, as the effects of parental care on a male’s parental or mating success will vary across cultures and ecological contexts.

We expect that under a variety of circumstances, however, the care received by Class 2 (genetic offspring of previous mates) and Class 3 (step offspring of current mates) children will be similar to each other, and intermediate between what genetic offspring of current mates and step offspring of previous mates receive.

We now present a test of the predictions derived from the model, using interview data on male parental care provided to urban Xhosa high school students in Cape Town, South Africa. The companion article(Anderson et al., this volume) presents further tests using self-reported data from men living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A.


Study Population Cape Town, one of South Africa’s largest cities, is located at the southern tip of the African continent. Since 1994, the Republic of South Africa has been governed by a democratically elected government and a liberal, nonracial constitution. However, South Africa’s sociopolitical history is dominated by themes of colonialism and racial inequality. Predominant among these was the policy of Apartheid (“separateness”), which the South African government adopted in 1948 with the goal of enforcing and increasing the de facto racial segregation that existed in the country.

The law recognized four distinct racial groups: Africans, Asians (Indians), Coloreds (mixed African and European ancestry), and Whites. Legislation was passed dictating where individuals of each race could live, what jobs they could hold, whom they could marry, etc. The quality of employment, education, housing, and other opportunities varied greatly across racial groups, with whites having access to the best opportunities and blacks the worst. Although Apartheid laws were repealed by the early 1990s, their effects still linger on the sociopolitical and physical landscape.

For example, the Group Areas Act of 1954 circumscribed members of each racial group to living within certain restricted areas of the country, as well as to certain regions of major cities. In Cape Town as well as other cities, Africans were restricted to townships, small ghettos that generally had inferior housing, utilities, public facilities, etc. Although Africans are no longer legally restricted to living in the townships, historical reasons as well as present-day poverty mean that most Africans in Cape Town live in concentrated pockets within the greater metropolitan area (Saff 1996).

437 Paternal Investment in Xhosa Students South Africa contains diverse racial and ethnic groups, and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa recognizes 11 official languages. In Cape Town, however, most Africans are of Xhosa descent. The Xhosa, traditionally a pastoralist people, have occupied the plains of the Transkei region, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, for centuries (Mayer 1971). During the mid-20th century, poverty, unemployment, and other factors triggered an urban relocation of many Xhosa from the rural areas to Cape Town and other cities (Jones 1993; Thompson 1990; Younge 1982). The combination of urbanization and Apartheid affected nearly every aspect of Xhosa family life (Burman and van der Spuy 1996). For example, Apartheid legislation stipulated that African men could come to cities such as Cape Town on 1-year contracts only, and they were prohibited from bringing their wives and children with them (Jones 1993; Reynolds 1989). As a result, Xhosa men were often forced to live and seek employment apart from their wives and families. Zoning laws and poverty resulted in extreme housing shortages for Africans in Cape Town and elsewhere (Jones 1993; Younge 1982). In many families, women became de facto heads of household, especially among women who had moved to cities.

These changes marked a general shift among Africans from patrilocal to matrilocal or neolocal residence patterns (Pauw 1963; Simkins 1986; Wilson and Mafeje 1963) and to greatly increased complexity in household organization (Jones 1998; Niehaus 1994; Preston-Whyte and Zondi 1992; van der Vliet 1991). Additionally, cultural practices such as lobola (bridewealth) and traditional marriages have become increasingly rare in urban settings (Jones 1998; Moeno 1977). Divorce and nonmarital births have increased greatly in recent years (Burman and van der Spuy 1996; Simkins 1986; Thompson 1990). These changes in household structure had strong negative consequences on children’s survival, health, and education (Burman 1986; Cherian 1994; Cock et al. 1986; Jones 1993). Although Apartheid legislation has been repealed, its historical effects linger in the urbanization, poverty, and altered family states of many African families.

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