Mothers Versus Fathers

The asymmetry in parental investment enables men, not only to compete between them in being selected by women or by their parents (intersexual selection) but also to fight directly between them (intrasexual selection). The consequence of intrasexual selection forces for men is to be physically stronger than women and to tend to monopolize resources, to dominate the political scene, and to have exclusive access to weaponry (Puts, 2010). Thus, fathers and other male relatives control more resources than mothers and other female relatives, and these resources can be withheld if their children disobey them (wfathers > wmothers).

One clarification that needs to be made at this point is that, although mothers usually divert more parental investment than fathers to their children, this difference does not mean that they have a stronger say in their children’s mating decisions. One reason is that they divert more of what they have (i.e., time, affection, caring, effort, etc.), but not more in absolute terms. Since fathers usually control more resources (i.e., wealth, land, weapons, etc.), they can potentially divert more of these resources to their children. Therefore, children risk losing more if they disobey their fathers than if they disobey their mothers, even though mothers divert more of what they have toward them (Apostolou, 2016).

Another reason is that mothers divert more parental investment to their children when the latter are young (e.g., breastfeeding, keeping them warm and safe, etc.). Nevertheless, older children are less dependent on maternal investment (e.g., they do not breastfeed) and more on general family resources, which are typically controlled by the father. For instance, in pastoral societies, sexually mature offspring base their subsistence on the herding of animals, which belong to the father (e.g., the pastoral Fulbe, see Hopen, 1958).

Furthermore, the defense and safety of the family unit predominantly rest with its male members, who are typically physically stronger, control weaponry, and have political connections. Therefore, children are more dependent on their fathers than on their mothers for protection (efathers > emothers). Also, because fathers are physically stronger than mothers, they can inflict a higher cost by using physical force on their children (hfathers > hmothers). In the same vein, because men have better access to political institutions (Apostolou, 2013b), fathers can easier than mothers employ or appeal to these institutions to inflict a cost on their children (ifathers > imothers).

On the other hand, by being physically weaker than men, women have to rely on psychological manipulation in order to promote their interests (Apostolou, 2013a). As a consequence, mothers are typically more effective psychological manipulators than fathers (Apostolou & Papageorgi, 2014), and, thus, they can inflict a higher psychological and emotional manipulation cost on their children (jfathers < jmomers).

In addition, due to internal gestation, mothers are 100% certain that their children are their own; however, this is not the case for fathers, who are far less certain about paternity. As a consequence, the adjusted r is lower for fathers than for mothers (fathers < iLtheis), which means that the cost parents have to suffer from inflicting a cost on their children (q x r) is lower for the former than for the latter. Overall, fathers can inflict a higher cost than mothers on their children to align them with

their win (dfathers > dmothers).

A further implication of paternal uncertainty is that the costs from making compromises in order to get benefits from in-law traits (c x r) are lower for fathers than for mothers. In consequence, fathers can potentially gain more from a mating deal than mothers, as they are less constrained by the cost that this may have on their children.

Moreover, due to menopause, women conclude their reproductive careers at an earlier age than men do. This difference means that the residual reproductive value (i.e., the contribution to the population through future reproduction) is less for older women—to the point of being zero if they have passed the age of menopause—than it is for men of the same age (Apostolou, 2014b). As a consequence, a mating deal involving their children can be more beneficial for fathers, as it can provide them with resources, which can be used for future reproduction.

In addition, men have a higher reproductive variance than women, as they are not constrained by their biology in the number of children they can father. Men’s reproductive success is positively related to the resources they control (Buss, 2003), with men being able to deploy resources in such a way that enables them to practice polygyny and/or to attract multiple casual mates (Goode, 1982). On the other hand, because women are constrained by their biology, polyandrous marriage and having multiple casual mates will not increase their reproductive success. Accordingly, a mating deal for their children which provides parents with resources can potentially be more beneficial for a father than for a mother, as the former could use these resources to directly increase his reproductive success: For instances, the resources from a mating deal have the potential to increase the direct reproductive success of the father to a considerably greater extent than the direct reproductive success of the mother (f&tes > fathers) (Apostolou, 2016).

In sum, because fathers can inflict a higher cost on their children, and because they can convert more of the benefits they extract by controlling mate choice into reproductive success, they have more to lose if they allow their children to exercise mate choice freely (odivergintfathers > odivergin^m0thers). This difference refers to the average case, and it does not preclude the possibility that the diverging opportunity cost is higher for a mother than for a father. For instance, in a family where the father is very old but the mother is relatively young, the latter can inflict more cost to children, and she is more likely to convert benefits from a mating deal into a direct reproductive success (e. g., in order to get a desirable husband after her husband dies).

On the other hand, due to paternal uncertainty, if children make erroneous choices which reduce their fitness, mothers have potentially more to lose because they are certain that the children are actually their own; consequently, oconverging_ fathers < oconverging_mothers. When the diverging opportunity cost is higher than the converging opportunity cost, influence over mating will be dominated by fathers (mfathers > mmothers), but when the diverging opportunity cost is lower than the converging one, influence over mating will be dominated by mothers (mfathers < mmothers). Which opportunity cost is going to be higher, and, thus, which one of the parents exercises greater control over mating, depends on the specific conditions prevailing in a given society and in any given family.

Overall, sexual reproduction gives rise to conflict of interest between parents, children, and children-in-law; conflict of interest exercises selection pressure on parents to control their children’s mating decisions and choose daughters- and sons- in-law who best promote their own interests. In addition, sexual reproduction results in parents to have converging interests with their children but diverging interests with their prospective children-in-law. These interests exercise selection pressure on parents to exercise influence over mate choice and screen prospective mates for those who are not best for their children. Parental control over mating, and parental choosiness, gives rise to competition between individuals to be chosen as daughters- and sons-in-law, which gives rise to sexual selection under parental choice. In the next three chapters, I will attempt to explore how the model developed here can account for the variation in the strength of parental choice across different society types.

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