The evolution of human post-marital residence

  • Edith Invernizzi

Student thesis: Master of Philosophy


Post-marital residence is an aspect of human cultures strongly connected to ecology. It influences the dynamics of fitness conflict within the family nucleus, but it also interacts with environment's ecology through its dependence on resources. The problem of why this trait should take different forms within the same species has been the subject of a longstanding debate. Here, I will present a theoretical simulation study modelling the emergence of post-marital residence strategies (PMRS), whose results show how reproductive cost and offspring investment are drivers of sex-biased dispersal. The mechanism described represents an underlying factor to strategy evolution, in-built in human life-history, with which other ecological aspects are likely to interact. This outcome places the two factors mentioned at the centre of the discussion on strategy emergence. To attempt an empirical investigation of sex differences in offspring investment, I will present a fieldwork study conducted among a Chinese ethnic minority, the Mosuo, in which members of a married couple reside separately, each with their matrilineal kin. This study consists in a series of exploratory analyses of labour effort allocation and is aimed at addressing the problem of male contribution to household subsistence (here seen as a form of family investment). My perspective, as formed from the results, is of the emergence of different strategies as (also) resulting from the unstable balances reached in the conflict for reproductive investment between the sexes.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAndrew Chamberlain (Supervisor) & Robert Gilman (Supervisor)


  • Cultural evolution
  • Human behavioural ecology
  • Human sex-biased dispersal

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