The Impact of Parents and Self-Selection on Child Survival among the Tsimane of Bolivia Academic Article uri icon


  • The impact of the parental investment provided by a mother or father on the well-being of a child depends on many factors. The effect of fathers is of particular theoretical interest, as there has been considerable debate concerning the importance of fathers in the evolution of our species and of our reproductive strategies involving long-term pair bonds and biparental care. A common strategy for investigating the impact that parents have on child outcomes is to compare children raised in households without a mother or father to those raised in households with both parents. There is question, however, as to what degree any such effects are simply the result of covarying mortality hazards within families or through time and not necessarily a direct impact of parental absence. Here we explore the issue of self-selection in our investigation of the effects of fathers and mothers on offspring survival among the Tsimane, a forager-horticultural population of central Bolivia. We find strong associations between mother death and child death, while father death has a lesser although still significant effect. We also show the potential for self-selection in parent-absence studies and the need to control for family effects. 2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • Current Anthropology

author list (cited authors)

  • Winking, J., Gurven, M., & Kaplan, H.

citation count

  • 22

publication date

  • January 2011