Food Sharing among Hadza Hunter-Gatherer Children

Alyssa N. Crittenden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
David A. Zes


Human prosociality is one of the defining characteristics of our species, yet the ontogeny of altruistic behavior remains poorly understood. The evolution of widespread food sharing in humans helped shape cooperation, family formation, life history, language, and the development of economies of scale. While the behavioral and ecological correlates of food sharing among adults are widely studied, very little is known about food sharing among children. Here, in the first study to analyze the food sharing patterns of hunter-gatherer children, we show that while sharing may be biased towards kin, reciprocity characterizes the majority of all sharing dyads, both related and unrelated. These data lend support to the recent claim that discrimination among kin might be linked with reciprocal altruism theory. Furthermore, we show that age positively correlates with an increase in sharing, both in frequency and amount, supporting recent suggestions that prosocial behaviors and egalitarianism develop strongly in middle childhood when children acquire the normative rules of their society.