A model explaining the matrilateral bias in alloparental investment [Evolution]
Maternal grandmothers invest more in childcare than paternal grandmothers. This bias is large where the expression of preferences is unconstrained by residential and lineage norms, and is detectable even where marriage removes women from their natal families. We maintain that the standard evolutionary explanation, paternity uncertainty, is incomplete, and present an expanded model incorporating effects of alloparents on the mother as well as on her children. Alloparenting lightens a mother’s load and increases her residual nepotistic value: her expected fitness from later investments in personal reproduction and in her natal relatives. The mother’s mother derives fitness from all such investments, whereas her mother-in-law gains only from further investment in children sired by her son, and thus has less incentive to assist the mother even if paternity is certain. This logic extends to kin other than grandmothers. We generate several hypotheses for future research.
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