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Quotes from:

Mackey W.C.

Adult-Male/Juvenile Association as a Species-Characteristic Human Trait: A Comparative Field Approach

Chapter 11 in: Feierman (ed.) Pedophilia: Bisocial Dimensions, Springer, New York, p.69-90 (1990)


The adult-male/juvenile relationship reflects patterns of behavior that have been found in all human societies that have been studied. The systematic availability of a stable adult male to the offspring of mothers appears to be a universal event

(Barry and Paxson, 1971; Levinson and Malone, 1980; Mackey, 1985; Murdock, 1957; Murdock, 1967; Murdock and Provost, 1973; Stephens, 1963).

The biological father is usually the adult male who is readily available to his offspring, but occasionally the mother's brother fulfils this role

(Alexander and Noonan, 1979; Schlegel, 1972; Van den Berghe, 1979).

The purpose of this chapter is to explore, in a systematic manner, the character, trends, and variations of the association between adult males and juveniles across a wide array of societies.

[...] The data that do exist can be divided into two time frames [...].

Until the 1970's [...] theorists did not consider the father figure as being very important in the overall social, emotional, and cognitive development of the juvenile.
By the mid-1970's, a clear shift had occurred [...], fathers were considered to be important but, also, to be underachieving in the actual execution of their parenting responsibilities.

Both the earlier imaginary and the more current expectations of fathering were constructed without reference to data gathered systematically from actual adult-male/juvenile interactions. [...]

As it is with any facet of human behavior, because of the added dimension of culture, there are two bases of the maintenance and transmission of adult-male/juvenile behavior:

A genetic basis and
a cultural basis. Included in the cultural basis are
those behaviors that represent seemingly arbitrary traditions, that are not a direct result of ecological imperatives, and
the societies' linguistic symbolic/folklore traditions.

Although it is clear that the genetic and cultural bases overlap considerably and are interdependent, it is possible to study them separately.

The Genetic Basis

If any behavior, in this instance adult-male/juvenile association, is biased by genetic information and if this gnetic information was asquired early in human evolution, then the behavior ought to exist and be found in a recognizable form in geographically and culturally diverse human societies. This notion reflects similarity by homology, or by common origin [...].

The Cultural Basis

[...] societies, which have funcitoned independently from one another over millennia, might be expected to generate independently similar cultural solutions to similar ecological problems [...]. This notion reflects similarity by analogy [...].

It should be noted that articulated belief systems (folklore) can strongly affect behavior in a variety of ways. However, although myth systems can clarify or buttress actual behavior patterns, they also can just as well hide or camouflage them [...].

Background of the Human Adult-Male/Juvenile Association:
The Genetic Basis of the Behavioral Central Tendency of the Relationship

There are two possible origins of any genetic contribution to adult-male/juvenile association behavior. These origins include

(a) a phylogenetic heritage that Homo shares with some subset of the order Primate and
(b) a uniquely human heritage that become selected for after the divergence of (early) Homo from Pongids 5-10 million years ago.

Primate Phylogeny

Although primate paternalism, across species, covers a wide range of behaviors, high levels of interaction within the perimeter of the troop's territory are relatively rare, with exceptions such as occur in some macaques, and are virtually nonexistent outside the perimeter of the troop's territory when no adult female is present

(Highley and Suomi, 1986; Mitchell, 1979; Redican and Taub, 1981; Taub, 1984; see Taub, this volume).

[...] Consequently, predictions about humans based on the behavior of terrestrial monkeys would include very low levels of association outside the domicile, especially in the absense of adult females.

Ecological Heritage of Homo as a Social Omnivore

[...] It is suggested here that the onset of systematic hunting and scavenging as being a progressively important subsistence strategy exerted correspondingly stronger selective pressures upon early Homo.

One characteristic of these selective pressures would favor the tendency of adult males to bring back and actively share meat with the adult females and young of the social group. This [...] is not a primate trait, but it is a trait of some social omnivores, e.g., the wolf, coyote, jackal, hunting dog, and fox [...].

The adult males in the above-mentioned species also have been reported to "play" with their pups

(Isaac, 1978; Mowat, 1963; Rasa, 1986; Schaller and Lowther, 1969; cf. Bunn, 1981; Bunn and Kroll, 1986).

[...] Inferential evidence suggests that subsistence hunting and scavenging progressively was, primarily of exclusively, a males-only prerogative (

Murdock, 1937; Murdock and Provost, 1973; cf. Brown, 1970).

Systematic study of the Human Adult-Male/Juvenile Association Among Diverse Societies



Over a period of approximately a dozen years, 19 societies in 15 countries on five continents were surveyed. [...]

In each society, at least four sites were used for observing adults and juveniles interacting with each other. [...]

Fieldworkers coded the biological-sex combination of each adult/juvenile group. [...]

(See Mackey, 1985 for a complete discussion of the method.)


The filedworkers coded each juvenile who was associated with at least one adult into one of three types of adult groups:

An "adult-males-only" group [...],
An "adult-females-only" group [...],
An "adult-males/adult-females" group [...].

The interactive indices from the adult to the juvenile also were coded:

Personal distance, and
Visual inclusion (See/Nonsee).



The biological sex of the juvenile was important solely for "adult-males-only" groups; in 15 of 19 cultures, juvenile males were overrepresented in these groups. [...]

Interaction Between Age and Biological Sex

Of special pertinence to this volume is the distribution of older juveniles (8 years to onset of puberty) among the three adult groups. On the six combinations that occurred based on the biological sex of the juvenile and the biological-sex mix of the three adult groups, the adult-male/older-juvenile-(peripubescent-)male dyad was uniquely elevated across societies.

Variation Among Societies: The "Teeter-Totter Effect"

An additional point of interest was the relationship between

the percentage of juveniles in "adult-males/adult-females" groups versus
the percentage of juveniles in the "adult-males-only" groups.

Specifically, the question was asked: When the percentage of juveniles in "adult-males-only" groups decreased, did the juveniles tend

to gravitate towards "adult-females-only" groups
or towards "adult-males/adult-females" groups
or was the redistribution equally divided between both [...]?

The answer was clear: the juveniles systematically increased their association with the "adult-males/adult-females" groups. A teeter-totter effect is in evidence. A strong negative correllation exists between the percentage of juveniles in "adult-males/adult-females" groups and the percentage in "adult-males-only" groups. [...]

These data are compatible with a hypothesis propounding that there is a genetically transmitted threshold of adult-male/juvenile association below which societies do not go.

[...] The teeter-totter effect occurs for the "all-juveniles" (i.e., the "all-children") category and especially for the "juvenile-males-only" ("boys-only") category.

Proximate Mechanisms Underlying Behavioral Association Between Adult Males and Juveniles

[...] Two candidates for a proximate mechanism that wuld mediate such an association are

(a) affiliative bond and
(b) alliance formation.

Affiliative Bond

[...] It is reasonable that the sharing of a most valuable commodity - food - is much easier for the provisioner if the provisioner "likes" the recipient, and conversely, a recipient tends to like someone who feed him or her. [...]

Alliance Formation




The finding that illustrates the atypical elevation of adult-male/older-juvenile-male dyads is suggested to reflect the primordial pattern in which older males recruit peripubescent males into all-male (e.g., hunting and scavening) groups.

(See Mackey, 1981b, and Tiger, 1969, for a discussion).

This latter finding may be an important determinant in science's understanding of the biosocial roots of sexual behavior that occasionally occurs between adult-male and prepubescent-male humans.

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