Spousal violence and paternal disinvestment among Tsimane' forager-horticulturalists. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: We develop and test a conceptual model of factors influencing the likelihood of physical wife abuse. The paternal disinvestment model emphasizes that spousal conflict over resource use results from men's attempts to increase individual fitness at a cost to the family (e.g., through pursuit of extramarital affairs). We propose that men use violence to control women's responses to the diversion of resources away from the family: to quell women's objections to male disinvestment, maintain women's parental investment, and to dissuade women from pursuing relationships with other men. METHODS: Interviews were conducted among men and women to determine rates of violence and demographic and behavioral covariates. Structural equation modeling and generalized estimating equations analyses were used to test predictions derived from the model. We also collected data on frequent complaints in marriage and women's perceptions of arguments precipitating violence. RESULTS: Over 85% of women experienced physical wife abuse (n = 49). Indicators of paternal disinvestment positively covary with indicators of marital strife and with rates of wife abuse. The wife's age, matrilocal residence, and presence of joint dependent offspring decrease the likelihood of violence through direct and indirect routes. CONCLUSIONS: Wife abuse is linked to the importance of paternal investment in human families, and is a means by which men control women's responses to a dual reproductive strategy of familial investment and pursuit of extramarital sexual relationships. This framework is more general than traditional sociological and evolutionary perspectives emphasizing patriarchy and men's sexual jealousy, respectively.

published proceedings

  • Am J Hum Biol

altmetric score

  • 4

author list (cited authors)

  • Stieglitz, J., Kaplan, H., Gurven, M., Winking, J., & Tayo, B. V.

citation count

  • 27

publication date

  • July 2011