Paternal Reassurance or Material Reassurance? Parental Investment in an American Polygamous Community


Paul Davis & Harmon R. Holcomb III

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Academic Press

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In this paper we will argue that there are a multiplicity of motives that affect the formation of women’s parenting strategies in an American polygamous community. While biological factors may be compelling, unusual circumstances can modify or supersede parenting propensities. In this setting a woman may work to elicit her husband’s parental contribution less through developing a love bond and more through the achievement of other statuses such as occupation success or dominance over other co-wives. Both of these avenues provide a woman with access to additional resources that she may then extend to her children or keep entirely for herself.

In presenting this argument we will concentrate on the politics of namesaking as a primary means for examining the interplay between parental investment concerns, cultural beliefs, and identity formation in two polygamous communities. The motives behind men’s and women’s namesaking decisions will be examined in order to provide a richer, more complete explanation for competing sex-linked parenting strategies. We will primarily focus on Angel Park, the oldest and largest Mormon Fundamentalist polygamous community in North America. Supplemental data from a Mormon polygamous community in northern Mexico will also be evaluated. The data presented in this chapter were collected between 1994 and 1998, during a four-year study of Angel Park, and in a one-month study conducted in 1995 in the Juarez colony of northern Mexico.


Anthropology; Evolutionary Biology; Cognitive Psychology; Philosophy of Science


Anthropology | Cognitive Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Theory and Philosophy




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