MPIDR Working Paper

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

Voland, E., Willführ, K. P.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2015-005, 22 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (October 2015)
Open Access


In the population of the Krummhörn (Ostfriesland, Germany) in the 18th and 19th centuries, paternal death led to an accelerated marriage of his children on average. 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 pre-pubertal experience of uncertainty within the framework of evolutionary life history theory, (ii) an adaptive adjustment of life and reproduction decisions within the theoretical framework of behavioral ecology as a reaction to the personal cost-benefit balances changed by the father’s death, and (iii) in view of 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 primarily from church registers and compiled into a family reconstitution study, attribute the greatest explanatory power to the behavioral ecology approach (ii) for the circumstances in the Krummhörn.

Keywords: Germany, family reconstitution, historical demography
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