The evolution of female-biased kinship in humans and other mammals

Siobhán M. Mattison, Mary K. Shenk, Melissa Emery Thompson, Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, Laura Fortunato

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Female-biased kinship (FBK) arises in numerous species and in diverse human cultures, suggesting deep evolutionary roots to female-oriented social structures. The significance of FBK has been debated for centuries in human studies, where it has often been described as difficult to explain. At the same time, studies of FBK in non-human animals point to its apparent benefits for longevity, social complexity and reproduction. Are female-biased social systems evolutionarily stable and under what circumstances? What are the causes and consequences of FBK? The purpose of this theme issue is to consolidate efforts towards understanding the evolutionary significance and stability of FBK in humans and other mammals. The issue includes broad theoretical and empirical reviews as well as specific case studies addressing the social and ecological correlates of FBK across taxa, time and space. It leverages a comparative approach to test existing hypotheses and presents novel arguments that aim to expand our understanding of how males and females negotiate kinship across diverse contexts in ways that lead to the expression of female biases in kinship behaviour and social structure. This article is part of the theme issue 'The evolution of female-biased kinship in humans and other mammals'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190007
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1780
StatePublished - Sep 2 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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