Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

© The British Academy 2010. All rights reserved.Humans have an unusual mating system - nominally monogamous pair-bonds set within multimale/multifemale communities. In the context of large, dispersed communities, this inevitably places a significant stress on mating strategies, especially for males for whom paternity uncertainty is a real problem. This chapter discusses the nature of this bonding process in terms of the proximate mechanisms that make it possible, and then asks why such a phenomenon might have evolved. It suggests that the evidence for the importance of biparental care is weak, and a more likely explanation is that females attached themselves to males in order to reduce the risks of harassment and infanticide from other males. Finally, the discussion examines when pair-bonds of this kind might have evolved during the course of hominin evolution, and suggests that it might have been quite late.

Original publication





Book title

Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Publication Date