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On the Origin of the Family

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  • Marco Francesconi
  • Christian Ghiglino
  • Motty Perry

Abstract

This paper presents an overlapping generations model to explain why humans live in families rather than in other pair groupings. Since most non-human species are not familial, something special must be behind the family. It is shown that the two necessary features that explain the origin of the family are given by uncertain paternity and overlapping cohorts of dependent children. With such two features built into our model, and under the assumption that individuals care only for the propagation of their own genes, our analysis indicates that fidelity families dominate promiscuous pair bonding, in the sense that they can achieve greater survivorship and enhanced genetic fitness. The explanation lies in the free riding behavior that characterizes the interactions between competing fathers in the same promiscuous pair grouping. Kin ties could also be related to the emergence of the family. When we consider a kinship system in which an adult male transfers resources not just to his offspring but also to his younger siblings, we find that kin ties never emerge as an equilibrium outcome in a promiscuous environment. In a fidelity family environment, instead, kinship can occur in equilibrium and, when it does, it is efficiency enhancing in terms of greater survivorship and fitness. The model can also be used to shed light on the issue as to why virtually all major world religions are centered around the importance of the family.

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Paper provided by The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem in its series Discussion Paper Series with number dp534.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp534

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Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Why families?
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2010-02-02 15:39:00
  2. Why monogamy?
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-11-01 16:00:00
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
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Cited by:
  1. de la Croix, David & Mariani, Fabio, 2012. "From Polygyny to Serial Monogamy: A Unified Theory of Marriage Institutions," IZA Discussion Papers 6599, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Dirk Bethmann, 2011. "Marriage Regimes," FEMM Working Papers 110029, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management.
  3. Tomoki Fujii, 2012. "Dynamic Poverty Decomposition Analysis: An Application to the Philippines," Working Papers 34-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
  4. Brishti Guha, 2012. "Gambling on Genes: Ambiguity Aversion Explains Investment in Sisters’ Children," Working Papers 33-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
  5. Brishti Guha, 2012. "Grandparents as Guards: A Game Theoretic Analysis of Inheritance and Post Marital Residence in a World of Uncertain Paternity," Working Papers 37-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.

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