Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Infant Abandonment

  • Prarthana Franklin
  • Katerina SchiralliEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_771-1



Terminating investment in an offspring by abandoning the offspring.


It has been well established that parenting is a complex behavior. Parental investment theory posits that this complexity is partially due to the lack of resources in the environment and the high cost of parental investment (e.g., physical energy during gestation, breastfeeding, and postnatal protection of the offspring; Trivers 1972). These factors may collectively compel parents to (both consciously and unconsciously) make harsh decisions about whether it may be more beneficial to invest in themselves or in their offspring. Evolutionary theory suggests that it may indeed be favorable for parents to, under certain circumstances, terminate investment in a given offspring to either (a) invest more in the other more viable offspring or (b) invest in the parents’ own growth and development so that they may have more viable...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. American Psychological Association (APA). What is postpartum depression and anxiety? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression.
  2. Bateman, A. J. (1948). Intra-sexual selection in Drosophila. Heredity, 2(Pt. 3), 349–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, C. T. (2001). Predictors of postpartum depression: An update. Nursing Research, 50, 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Belsky, J. (1984). The determinants of parenting: A process model. Child Development, 55, 83–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss (Vol. 3). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  6. Buss, D. M., & Greiling, H. (1999). Adaptive individual differences. Journal of Personality, 67, 209–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Franklin, P., & Volk, A. A. (2018). A review of infants’ and children’s facial cues’ influence on adults’ perceptions and behaviors. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 12(4), 296–321.Google Scholar
  9. Franklin, P., Volk, A. A., & Wong, I. (2018). Are newborns’ faces less appealing? Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(2), 269–276.Google Scholar
  10. Hagen, E. H. (1999). The functions of postpartum depression. Evolution and Human Behavior, 20(5), 325–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hrdy, S. B. (1979). Infanticide among animals: A review, classification, and examination of the implications for the reproductive strategies of females. Ethology and Sociobiology, 1(1), 13–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hrdy, S. B. (1992). Fitness tradeoffs in the history and evolution of delegated mothering with special reference to wet-nursing, abandonment, and infanticide. Ethology and Sociobiology, 13(5–6), 409–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hrdy, S. (1999). Mother nature: A history of mothers, infants, and natural selection. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  14. Jeronimus, B. F., Riese, H., Sanderman, R., & Ormel, J. (2014). Mutual reinforcement between neuroticism and life experiences: A five-wave, 16-year study to test reciprocal causation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(4), 751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kim, H. S. (2017). Analysis of newborn abandonment cases using media reports. International Information Institute (Tokyo). Information, 20(8B), 6095–6102.Google Scholar
  16. Kochanska, G., Lee Clark, A., & Goldman, M. S. (1997). Implications of mothers’ personality for their parenting and their young children’s developmental outcomes. Journal of Personality, 65(2), 387–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2004). Psychometric properties of the HEXACO personality inventory. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 39, 329–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Maestripieri, D., & Carroll, K. A. (1998). Child abuse and neglect: Usefulness of the animal data. Psychological Bulletin, 123(3), 211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mappes, Mappes, & Lappalainen. (1997). Unequal maternal investment in offspring quality in relation to predation risk. Evolutionary Ecology, 11, 237–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Megahead, H. A., & Cesario, S. (2008). Family foster care, kinship networks, and residential care of abandoned infants in Egypt. Journal of Family Social Work, 11(4), 463–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. O’Hara, M. W., & Swain, A. M. (1990). Rates and risk of postpartum depression – A meta-analysis. International Review of Psychiatry, 8, 37–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Prentice, A. M., & Prentice, A. (1998). Energy costs of lactation. Annual Review of Nutrition, 8(1), 63–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stewart, D. (2005). Depression during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician, 51(8), 1061.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Stuart, S., & O’Hara, M. W. (1995). Interpersonal psychotherapy for postpartum depression: A treatment program. The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 4(1), 18.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Suan, M. A. M., Soelar, S. A., & Chan, H. K. (2018). Rate and Predictors of Infant Abandonment among Unmarried Mothers at a Public Hospital in Kedah, Malaysia: A retrospective study. Thai Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 26, 103–113.Google Scholar
  26. Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man (pp. 136–179). London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  27. Volk, T., & Atkinson, J. (2008). Is child death the crucible of human evolution? Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2, 247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Volk, A., & Quinsey, V. L. (2002). The influence of infant facial cues on adoption preferences. Human Nature, 13, 437–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Voora, S., Srinivasan, G., Lilien, L. D., Yeh, T. F., & Pildes, R. S. (1982). Fever in full-term newborns in the first four days of life. Pediatrics, 69, 40–44.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Wasser, S. K., & Barash, D. P. (1983). Reproductive suppression among female mammals: Implications for biomedicine and sexual selection theory. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 58(4), 513–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Yelissinova, N., Grjibovski, A. M., Yelissinova, A., Rakhypbekov, T., Semenova, Y., Smailova, Z., & Meirmanov, S. (2015). Sociodemographic factors associated with infant abandonment in maternity hospitals in Kazakhstan: A case-control study. Public Health, 129(7), 1010–1013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Steven Arnocky
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and SciencesNipissing UniversityNorth BayCanada