Rob Quinlan is Assistant Professor of Evolutionary and Cultural Anthropology at Washington State University. His main interests include family, kinship, life history, and psychosocial development. He has a dual research program thatincludes cross-cultural analysis and a long-term ethnographic study in the Commonwealth of Dominica. He recently published several studies on the effects of environmental risk on parenting and ideational culture (http://www.wsu.edu/∼rquinlan/).
Human pair-bonds: Evolutionary functions, ecological variation, and adaptive development
Article first published online: 28 OCT 2008
Copyright © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
Volume 17, Issue 5, pages 227–238, September/October 2008
How to Cite
Quinlan, R. J. (2008), Human pair-bonds: Evolutionary functions, ecological variation, and adaptive development. Evol. Anthropol., 17: 227–238. doi: 10.1002/evan.20191
- Issue published online: 28 OCT 2008
- Article first published online: 28 OCT 2008
- reproductive strategies;
- parental investment;
- mating effort;
- life history;
- conjugal union
Stable mating relationships are widespread in our species, with important economic, social, and reproductive implications.1 Pair-bonds are part of the unique human mosaic, including very large brains, childhood, concealed ovulation, sexual intercourse in private, cultural symbols, and complex social groups. Yet we understand relatively little about the evolution of human pairing, its functions, and consequences for human diversity. We can define pair-bonds as the long-term affiliation, including a sexual relationship, between two individuals. The important point is that the union, whether monogamous or polygamous, is relatively enduring. Recent debate about human pair-bonds highlights apparently conflicting hypotheses: Are pair-bonds the evolutionary consequence of male mating competition2,3 or are they an adaptation for paternal provisioning?4,5 Unfortunately, a simple answer seems unlikely. The evidence indicates selective pressures from both mating competition and provisioning needs, suggesting different benefits of pair-bonds in different contexts. Whether a bond emphasizes mating or parenting effort may depend on environmental cues. Childhood experience evidently affects pair-bond development, suggesting further adaptive design for flexible life-history strategies. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.