Relationship status and elevated avuncularity in Samoan fa’afafine


  • Various stages of this research were supported by the University of Lethbridge, by a NSERC of Canada Graduate Scholarship-D3, a Sigma Xi, Grant in Aid of Research, and a Ralph Steinhauer Award of Distinction to DPV as well as by a NSERC of Canada Discovery Grant to PLV. The authors wish to thank Resitara Apa, Nancy Bartlett, Peniamina Tolovaa Fagai, Vester Fido Collins, Liulauulu Faaleolea Ah Fook, Vaasatia Poloma Komiti, Anita Latai, Tyrone Laurenson, Fang Fang Li, Gaualofa Matalavea, Nella Tavita-Levy, Palanitina Toelupe, Trisha Tuiloma, Avalogo Togi A. Tunupopo, John Vokey, Erin Zelinski, the Kuka family of Savai'i, the National University of Samoa, the Samoan AIDS Foundation, the National University of Samoa, the Government of Samoa, the Editor, and three anonymous referees. We are grateful to all the individuals who agreed to participate in our study. We extend special thanks to Alatina Ioelu without whose help this study would not have been possible.

Doug P. VanderLaan, Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, T1K 3M4, Canada, e-mail:


“Androphilia” and “gynephilia” refer to sexual attraction to adult males and females, respectively. Samoan androphilic males are known as fa’afafine. Previously, fa’afafine reported greater avuncular tendencies compared to those of men as well as the materteral (i.e., aunt-like) tendencies of women. Here, the Samoan male sexual orientation difference in avuncular tendencies was replicated. Furthermore, we hypothesized fa’afafine might form and invest in intimate sexual/romantic relationships less, leaving them with more resources, thus facilitating increased avuncularity. Fa’afafine, men, and women were comparable for sexual/romantic relationship involvement. Men and women tended to lower avuncular/materteral tendencies when involved in sexual/romantic relationships, which partially mediated the difference between fa’afafine and women for avuncular/materteral tendencies. Discussion detailed alternate explanations for elevated avuncularity among Samoan fa’afafine.