Helpful grandmothers in rural Ethiopia: A study of the effect of kin on child survival and growth

MA Gibson, R Mace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

117 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Kin selection and parental investment theories state that, in highly social species, such as humans, individuals can increase their inclusive fitness by extending support to their relatives. Here, we document patterns of kin support in a rural Ethiopian community, where postmarital residence practices provide differential access to relatives. Using demographic, anthropometric, and behavioral data collected from four villages we are able to (a) identify the effects of the presence of kin on child mortality and growth patterns and (b) provide detailed information on the role of relatives within the household. Mortality analyses indicate that grandmothers had a positive effect on child survival. Anthropometric data reveal that maternal grandmothers had a particularly beneficial effect on child height, but paternal grandmothers less so. Time allocation data suggest that grandmothers continued to visit their daughters' households, irrespective of postmarital residence, where they relieved their daughters of heavy domestic tasks rather than helping with direct grandchild care. Matrilocal postmarital residence was associated with improved child survival, although children in matrilocal households were actually smaller. This may be due to wealth effects, increased competition between siblings, or higher survival of smaller infants in matrilocal households.
Translated title of the contributionHelpful grandmothers in rural Ethiopia: A study of the effect of kin on child survival and growth
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469 - 482
Number of pages13
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume26 (6)
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Elsevier Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Helpful grandmothers in rural Ethiopia: A study of the effect of kin on child survival and growth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this