Journal Article

Why does paternal death accelerate the transition to first marriage in the C18-C19 Krummhörn population?

Voland, E., Willführ, K. P.
Evolution and Human Behavior, 38:1, 125–135 (2017)
Open Access


Among the population of the Krummhörn region (Ostfriesland, Germany) in the 18th and 19th centuries, the death of the father in the family led on average to the accelerated marriage of his children. Three evolutionary explanations are offered for this “paternal absence” effect in the literature: namely, (i) the assumption of an adaptive “psychosocial acceleration” of the children with prepubertal experience of uncertainty; (ii) an opportunistic adjustment of life and reproduction decisions as an adaptive reaction to the personal cost–benefit balances that are changed by the father's death; and (iii) given the genetic parent–offspring conflict, an increase in the reproductive autonomy of offspring after the loss of the dominant father figure. Our models, which are based on the analyses of the vital statistics data derived from church registers and tax rolls and compiled into a family reconstitution study, attribute the greatest explanatory power for the patterns found in the Krummhörn to the opportunistic adjustment approach (ii).

Keywords: Germany
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.