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Polyandry in Sri Lanka: A Test Case for Parental Investment Theory

L. R. Hiatt
Man
New Series, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), pp. 583-602
DOI: 10.2307/2801535
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2801535
Page Count: 20
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Polyandry in Sri Lanka: A Test Case for Parental Investment Theory
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Abstract

Parental investment theory is concerned with strategies for maximising reproductive success, especially as they differ between the sexes. Although polygyny is the preferred male strategy in man, polyandry is adopted, according to sociobiologists, as a last resort in severe ecological circumstances, or at the bottom of stratified hypergamous systems with polygyny prevailing at the top. Polyandry in Sri Lanka constitutes a difficulty for this hypothesis, inasmuch as it occurs throughout the social hierarchy. Men of high status practise polyandry in order to limit family size in relation to property holdings and thus to preserve future social ascendancy. A consideration overlooked by sociobiologists and social anthropologists alike is female initiative in the formation and maintenance of polyandrous associations. Another possible factor is male cuckoldry-anxiety in a context of female rebellion against regimes imposed for the purpose of guaranteeing and safeguarding natural paternity. Although behavioural strategies involved in polyandry may be compatible with parental investment theory, they do not correspond to particular genes or gene-combinations. Constitutional factors in their causation, such as intelligence, cortical control, and certain affective states or dispositions, are general properties of the species.

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