Evolutionary pathway of child development: Lifestyles of adolescents and adults from father-absent families

Tamas Bereczkei, Andras Csanaky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)


An evolutionary theory of socialization suggests that children from father-absent families will mature earlier, and form less-stable pair bonds, compared with those from father-present families. Using a sample of about 1,000 persons the recent study focuses on elements of father-absent children's behavior that could be better explained by a Darwinian approach than by rival social science theories. As a result of their enhanced interest in male competition, father-absent boys were found to engage in rule-breaking behavior more intensively than father-present boys. Compared with father-present children, adolescents from widowed households (both boys and girls) showed a higher intensity of various kinds of noncompliant behavior, which can be linked to their earlier maturation. School attendance, age at marriage, and marital success proved to be influenced by the children's early family experiences, governed by adapted evolutionary strategies. Father-absent daughters conceived more children than those whose fathers were present during their childhood. As evolutionary theory predicts, reproductive behavior of individuals from divorced households differed from that of individuals who grew up in widowed households. Finally, the strong correlation found between spontaneous abortion/ stillbirths and family arrangement indicates that father absence has certain direct impacts on the neurohormonal processes of child development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-290
Number of pages34
JournalHuman Nature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 1996


  • Adolescent behavior
  • Child development
  • Evolutionary pathways
  • Father-absent household
  • Innate learning rules
  • Reproductive strategies
  • Single-parent household

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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