Development of Human Sociosexual Behavior

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Book Section

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The Arc of Life: Evolution and Health Across the Life Course


Springer New York

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Sociosexual behavior can be defined as behavior that entails the movements of sexual behavior (e.g., mounting) but occurs in wider social contexts (e.g., intercourse, play, reconciliation). An important goal of research on human evolution and health across the life course is to synthesize the limited data available on human infant and juvenile sociosexual behavior. To many, the subject of this chapter may seem like a non-starter, both because it is morally and religiously off limits to some, and also because of the conventional scholarly view that sexuality appears relatively suddenly at puberty. As we illustrate here, human sociosexual behavior has a start early in development, and an evolutionary perspective can highlight adaptive and health-related aspects of its patterning. Toward those ends, we first discuss the evolution of the human life history, highlighting the early ages of weaning and extended juvenile phases, and how those provide expanded opportunities for sociosexual play. We consider these aspects of the human life history in comparative context, drawing upon nonhuman primate examples of sociosexual development. We then review the scant available data on human subadult (including infants, nursing children, and weaned pre-adolescent juveniles) sociosexual behavior, also pointing toward health-related implications of this body of work. © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017.



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