A Sociobiological Perspective on the Development of Human Reproductive Strategies

  • Patricia Draper
  • Henry Harpending


A current view in the human sciences emphasizes an understanding of the individual as a representative of a past history of selection for survivorship and reproduction. All of us are descendants of individuals who lived long enough to produce reproductive offspring. Our current generation represents the variable mating success of our ascendants. Some of our grandparents and great grandparents had many offspring, others had only one or two. At each generation there are new opportunities to expand and to contract the genetic contribution of particular individuals to future generations. Since evolution favors those (1) who survive and (2) who are most successful at reproduction, we expect Darwinian theory to be most immediately helpful for comprehending our survivorship, mating, and parenting, while it may be less immediately applicable to domains like religion that are less intimately tied to fitness. In the case of humans, for whom learning plays a central role in differentiating reproductive success from failure, the social circumstances and social lessons we experience play a substantial role in influencing our reproductive behavior, the number of offspring we have, and the manner in which we rear those offspring. Learning also contributes to the social niche we occupy during the lifespan. Attention therefore is increasingly focused by sociobiologists on the evolution of human learning.


Reproductive Strategy Reproductive Behavior Nonhuman Animal Father Absence Parent Rear 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

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  • Patricia Draper
  • Henry Harpending

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