Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mothers are more altruistic than fathers but only if they are acting alone

Date:
June 26, 2014
Source:
Radboud University Nijmegen
Summary:
The assumption that mothers are more driven by altruism with regard to their children than fathers is more complex than once thought. The results add qualifications to an important evolutionary theory.

The assumption that mothers are more driven by altruism with regard to their children than fathers is more complex than once thought. This is the conclusion of an article published by experimental economists from Radboud University in the journal PLOS ONE (25 June 2014). The results add qualifications to an important evolutionary theory. Mother with child, Tanzania, photo Jana Vyrastekova Mother with child, Tanzania.
Credit: Photograph by Jana Vyrastekova

The assumption that mothers are more driven by altruism with regard to their children than fathers is more complex than once thought. This is the conclusion of an article published by experimental economists from Radboud University in the journal PLOS ONE. The results add qualifications to an important evolutionary theory.

When economists conduct research on decisions in families, their models include assumptions about parental altruism. They relate these assumptions to choices having to do with jobs, education, fertility, etc.. Based on evolutionary considerations, economists assume that parents are altruistic towards their children and that mothers are more altruistic than fathers.

Altruism under conditions of scarcity

The evolutionary-biological Assymetric Parental Altruism (APA) Hypothesis predicts that mothers are more altruistic with regard to their children than fathers, because mothers are certain that their children are their own, while there is always some uncertainty on the part of fathers. From an evolutionary perspective, it is thus more advantageous for mothers to invest in their children than it is for fathers.

Nevertheless, this assumption had not yet been experimentally tested under conditions of scarcity, in which it is most relevant. For this reason, researchers Jana Vyrastekova, Jeroen Smits and Janine Huisman of Radboud University (Economics/Development Studies) collaborated with a Tanzanian colleague to conduct experiments in rural Tanzania to investigate the altruism of mothers and fathers under a variety of conditions.

Mother and father, mother or father

'The results of our experiment indicate that mothers are indeed more altruistic', explains Vyrastekova, 'but only if they bear complete responsibility for the decision. The difference between men and women disappears when the partner is involved in the decision. The addition of a social element thus affects the asymmetry in altruism between fathers and mothers. We are the first researchers to draw this connection between the traditional biological theory concerning altruism, the influence of the social context and the process of taking economic decisions'.

Sandals, sugar or cash

In the experiments designed by Vyrastekova and colleagues, Tanzanian parents with small children received rewards that they had earned previously in another experiment. The parents could choose between something for themselves (money or sugar) or a pair of sandals for their children. The sandals were of relatively high value, and the experiment took place in a region where most children must walk long distances to school or to work in the fields, either barefoot or in worn-out sandals.

One or two parents

In the one-parent condition, fathers and mothers were asked to participate without their partners being involved in the experiment. In the both-parents condition, both partners participated in the experiment. When selecting the reward, the participants did not know what their partners had chosen.

In the one-parent condition, the mothers were clearly more likely to select the sandals than the fathers were. This difference disappeared, however, in the situation in which the partner was also involved. The frequency with which the men selected the sandals was approximately the same in both situations. The reason for this outcome will require further study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Radboud University Nijmegen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jana Vyrastekova, Janine Huisman, Idda Mosha, Jeroen Smits. Mothers More Altruistic than Fathers, but Only When Bearing Responsibility Alone: Evidence from Parental Choice Experiments in Tanzania. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (6): e99952 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099952

Cite This Page:

Radboud University Nijmegen. "Mothers are more altruistic than fathers but only if they are acting alone." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140626094618.htm>.
Radboud University Nijmegen. (2014, June 26). Mothers are more altruistic than fathers but only if they are acting alone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140626094618.htm
Radboud University Nijmegen. "Mothers are more altruistic than fathers but only if they are acting alone." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140626094618.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) — A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins