Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 18 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Recreation of the socioecology in which the human family evolved can be guided by the paleontological record, comparisons of closely related species, and of course by the study of family formation across human cultures and the historical record. Following this approach, we propose that the socioecology of our australopithecine ancestors was similar to that found in modern gorillas (Gorilla gorilla); specifically, single-male harems with several females and their offspring. Such a social structure explains many features of the human family, including high levels of paternal investment, long-term male–female relationships, and concealed ovulation, that are not readily explained if our ancestors were more similar to modern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Moreover, the evolutionary changes needed to move from a gorilla-like social structure to the current human pattern are much less complex than the changes needed to move from a chimpanzee-like social structure. After describing the gorilla-like start point for the human family and evolutionary changes in our socioecology, we reflect on how this model relates to the different patterns of family formation found across and within human cultures and to our understanding of sibling relationships and grandparental investment.

Keywords: Human family, evolution, gorilla, grandmother hypothesis, siblings, australopithecines, socioecology

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.