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Does investment in the sexes differ when fathers are absent? Sex-biased infant survival and child growth in rural Ethiopia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263 - 276
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective
DatePublished - Jul 2008


This study examines child survival and growth in a patrilineal Ethiopian community as a function of father absence and sex. In line with evolutionary predictions for sex-biased parental investment, the absence of a father and associated constraints on household resources is more detrimental for sons’ than daughters’ survival in infancy. Father absence doubles a son’s risk of dying in infancy but has a positive influence on the well-being of female members of the household, improving daughter survival, growth, and maternal nutritional status. Lack of paternal investment may be compensated for by other matrilateral kin through increased reciprocity between mother, daughter, and sister.


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