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More than Kin and Less than Kind: The Evolution of Family Conflict

More than Kin and Less than Kind: The Evolution of Family Conflict

by Douglas W. Mock


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More than Kin and Less than Kind: The Evolution of Family Conflict

Sibling rivalry and intergenerational conflict are not limited to human beings. Among seals and piglets, storks and burying beetles, in bird nests and beehives, from apples to humans, family conflicts can be deadly serious, determining who will survive and who will perish. When offspring compete for scarce resources, sibling rivalry kicks in automatically. Parents sometime play favorites or even kill their young. In More than Kin and Less than Kind, Douglas Mock tells us what scientists have discovered about this disturbing side of family dynamics in the natural world.

Natural selection operates primarily for the benefit of individuals (and their genes). Thus a family member may profit directly, by producing its own offspring, or indirectly, by helping close kin to reproduce. Much of the biology of family behavior rests on a simple mathematical relationship called Hamilton’s rule, which links the benefits and costs of seemingly altruistic or selfish behavior to the degree of relatedness between individuals.

Blending natural history and theoretical biology, Mock shows how Hamilton’s rule illuminates the study of family strife by throwing a spotlight on the two powerful forces—cooperation and competition—that shape all interaction in the family arena. In More than Kin and Less than Kind, he offers a rare perspective on the family as testing ground for the evolutionary limits of selfishness. When budgets are tight, close kin are often deadly rivals.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674022485
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/30/2006
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.62(w) x 8.12(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Douglas W. Mock is Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma and coauthor of The Evolution of Sibling Rivalry.

Table of Contents

1In a Family Way4
2The Problem with Sex14
3Nursery Life with Attitude24
4The Trouble with Parents34
5Raising Cain50
6Killing Me Softly67
7Parenting in an Uncertain World77
8The Ultimate Food-Fight84
9Gambling with Children105
10Beggars, Cheats, and Bad Fruit121
11Silly Squabbles and Serious Sabotage138
12Parent-Offspring Conflict Revisited156
13Till Death Do Us Part174
14Upgrading the Kids192
15Together Again207
Works Cited241

What People are Saying About This

Those fond of intoning piously that a biological universal is support and loyalty to one's family members may want to rethink their position. Doug Mock has many grim tales to tell about family dynamics in species that make the Simpsons look like the Brady Bunch. But the book is much more than the natural history of family dysfunction; it is a model of how behavioral ecology can and should be done. This is a gripping read. Just don't take the book to family reunions.

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