Bridewealth as an instrument of male parental control over mating: Evidence from the standard cross-cultural sample

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Abstract

Marriage is associated with some form of financial transaction, the most common of which is bridewealth. To bear the costs of bridewealth, sons rely on the assistance of their fathers, which in turn makes the latter influential over the former's mating decisions. Effectively, bridewealth becomes an instrument through which male parents impose their will on their male offspring. On these grounds three hypotheses are tested: first, it is hypothesised that in societies where bridewealth is practiced, men are more influential over marriage arrangements; second due to its material nature, bridewealth is more frequently practiced in agropastoral societies than in foraging ones. Finally, the hypothesis is tested that sons are more dependent upon their parents for shouldering the costs of bridewealth in agropastoral than in foraging societies. Using data from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample this study finds evidence in support for all three hypotheses. These findings partially explain why sexual selection under parental choice is stronger in agropastoral than in foraging societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-216
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Psychology
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010

Keywords

  • brideservice
  • bridewealth
  • marriage transactions
  • parental choice
  • parental control over mating
  • sexual selection
  • social institutions

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