Parental Investment Theory

The American biologist Robert L. Trivers (1943- ) introduced the notion of parental investment into the field of ethology, and defined the concept as any contribution that a parent makes towards an offspring, and which tends to increase that individual offspring's chances of survival and reproduction at the expense of the parent's ability to contribute to other offspring, including the production of sex cells, and the feeding and guarding/protection of the young (cf., parental imperative hypothesis - holds that biological and cultural factors cause humans to suppress certain behaviors and traits during parenthood where - when the demands of parenthood end - the suppressed characteristics and behaviors may appear; for example, many marriages may disintegrate where the parents/couples tend to return to earlier modes of behavior when their children leave home and the parents become "empty-nesters," or when "mid-life crises" surface in the parents). Parental investment theory suggests that in species in which female organisms/women provide more parental investment than male organisms/men, the latter compete among themselves for the female mates, as well as having consequences showing that the female organisms/women are more vulnerable to mate desertion (cf., the notion of sexual selection, a form of natural or evolutionary selection operating via the differential process of individuals of different genotypes in acquiring mates, working largely through mate choices that are made by members of the opposite sex, and based on variables/characteristics such as plumage, size, behavior, power, health, etc.). Species seem to vary in degree of parental investment, for instance, sea turtles offer very little to their offspring, whereas many birds and humans offer a great deal of investment). In most sexually-reproducing species, the sexes are asymmetrical concerning parental investment where the female organism invests more than the male, although there are exceptions to this rule (e.g., the male stickleback fish demonstrates more involvement than does the female stickleback). See also DARWIN'S EVOLUTION THEORY; DEMBER-EARL THEORY OF CHOICE/PREFERENCE; INFANT ATTACHMENT THEORIES. REFERENCE

Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871-1971. Chicago: Aldine.

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