Paternal investment and status-related child outcomes: Timing of father's death affects offspring success

Mary K. Shenk, Brooke A. Scelza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent work in human behavioural ecology has suggested that analyses focusing on early childhood may underestimate the importance of paternal investment to child outcomes since such investment may not become crucial until adolescence or beyond. This may be especially important in societies with a heritable component to status, as later investment by fathers may be more strongly related to a child's adult status than early forms of parental investment that affect child survival and child health. In such circumstances, the death or absence of a father may have profoundly negative effects on the adult outcomes of his children that cannot be easily compensated for by the investment of mothers or other relatives. This proposition is tested using a multigenerational dataset from Bangalore, India, containing information on paternal mortality as well as several child outcomes dependent on parental investment during adolescence and young adulthood. The paper examines the effects of paternal death, and the timing of paternal death, on a child's education, adult income, age at marriage and the amount spent on his or her marriage, along with similar characteristics of spouses. Results indicate that a father's death has a negative impact on child outcomes, and that, in contrast to some findings in the literature on father absence, the effects of paternal death are strongest for children who lose their father in late childhood or adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-569
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Biosocial Science
Volume44
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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