We are interested in whether family relations are replicated from generation to generation. Is the daughter of a single mother, for example, more likely to become a single mother herself? Inter- and intra-cultural variation indicates that environment has strong influences on the development of family behavior. Different cultures each have distinct systems of mating and parenting, including patterns of within-culture variation. Reproductive behavior may be strongly influenced by environmental conditions and social experience during ontogeny (Alexander, 1990). There is controversy, however, concerning the effect of family environment on children's long-term developmental outcomes (Collins et al. 2000; Harris, 1995).
We use an evolutionary theoretical framework to explore intergenerational patterns of conjugal stability. The objective is to examine the effects of a child's family environment on her or his subsequent mating and parenting behavior as an adult. We test the hypothesis that father absence during early childhood is associated with conjugal instability as an adult. In contrast to this hypothesis, we suggest that adolescence may be more important than early childhood in shaping adult reproductive behavior. Lack of parental control of adolescents' sexual behavior may permit the formation of early and unstable conjugal unions.
A cross-cultural comparative perspective is essential for evaluating theories of family formation and development. We compare evidence of intergenerational transmission of conjugal stability in Western industrial populations with multi-generation patterns of conjugal stability in a rural Caribbean community. In addition, we compare the influence of parental supervision on children's behavior in Western populations and in a rural Caribbean community. Data analyzed include genealogies and quantitative behavioral observations collected during a twelve-year ethnographic study of Bwa Mawego, a rural village on Dominica in the Lesser Antilles.
ONTOGENY OF FAMILY ENVIRONMENTS: THE DRAPER-HARPENDING MODEL
Family environments presumably affect child development (Bornstein, 1995; Bowlby, 1982). Children in turn become parents, and generate family environments that are influenced by their own early experiences. The evolutionary basis for intergenerational transmission of family behavior, however, is controversial.
In their seminal work, Draper and Harpending (1982, 1988) propose that humans evolved psychological mechanisms that use conjugal stability in the early childhood family environment as a cue for development of subsequent reproductive strategies. Unstable conjugal unions of parents cue the child to develop a "mating effort strategy" (early maturation, short term mating relationships, high fertility). Conversely, stable conjugal unions cue the child to develop a "parental effort strategy" (delayed maturation, stable long term mating relationships, low fertility). Early childhood (the first five to seven years of life) is proposed as a sensitive period for reproductive development. Developmental canalization of reproductive behavior may be adaptive when adult environment is reliably predicted by childhood environment. In effect, toddlers can use cues in their family environment to prepare for their reproductive future.
Following the logic of parental investment theory (Trivers 1972), resource abundance is linked to father-absence: "If there is abundant food, then a male does not benefit from provisioning his offspring to the extent that he does if food is scarce, so the payoff to male labor must be a crucial element in our theory" (Draper & Harpending, 1988, p. 351). Mating effort strategies are hypothesized to be adaptive in environments with plentiful resources, because the added effort of a second parent may do little to improve children's survival and eventual reproduction. Parental effort strategies are hypothesized to be adaptive in environments with scarce resources, because biparental care is important for child survival and ultimate reproduction (i.e., two parents are needed to provide sufficient resources for child well-being). Conversely, because biparental care is less important in resource-rich environments, father-absence in early childhood may be an indicator of resource abundance. Father-absence, hence, may serve as a cue for development of a mating effort strategy.
In Western industrialized cultures, consistent with the Draper-Harpending model, children of divorced parents have higher rates of divorce (Amato, 1996; Bereczkei & Csansky, 1996; Bumpass, Martin & Sweet, 1991; Glenn & Kramer, 1987; Keith & Finlay, 1988; McLanahan & Bumpass, 1988) and more negative attitudes about marriage (Booth, Brinkerhoff & White, 1984; Chisholm, 1999a; Kulka & Weingarten, 1979; Sororsky, 1977; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980; Waynforth, Hurtado & Hill, 1998), than do their counterparts from intact families. In contrast, other studies indicate that parental marital status has little or no influence on attitudes and beliefs about marriage and family (Amato, 1988; Carson & Pauly, 1990; Ganong, Coleman & Brown, 1981; Greenberg & Nay, 1982; Gottman, 1989; Jones & Nelson, 1996; Kinnaird & Gerraard, 1986; Kozuch & Cooney, 1995; Landis-Kleine, Foley, Nail, Padgett, & Waiters-Palmer, 1995; Wallerstein, 1985). In sum, patterns of conjugal stability may be replicated, if imperfectly, from generation to generation. The precise mechanism for replication of conjugal patterns is unknown; however, it appears that beliefs and attitudes about marriage are not primarily involved in the transmission of conjugal stability.
HYPOTHESES AND PREDICTIONS I: INTERGENERATIONAL CONSEQUENCES OF FATHER-ABSENCE
The Draper-Harpending model suggests humans evolved psychological mechanisms for canalization of mating and parental effort. Reproductive behaviors are posited to adaptively respond to conditions during early childhood. Early childhood environment is hypothesized to cue subsequent adult behavior. Children are predicted to replicate their parents' reproductive decisions resulting in either relatively stable or unstable conjugal unions.
Here, we examine the intergenerational transmission of conjugal stability. If the Draper-Harpending hypothesis is correct, then individuals reared in father-absent family environments should themselves have unstable conjugal unions as adults.
Prediction 1; Individuals who lived in father-absent households during early childhood are more likely to have father-absent offspring than individuals who lived in father-present households.
Prediction 2: Individuals who lived in father-absent households during early childhood are more likely to have offspring with multiple mates than individuals who lived in …