- Dec 3, 2017
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
New study finds that only 1-2% of men unknowingly raise children who aren't theirs .
New study finds that only 1-2% of men unknowingly raise children who aren't theirs.
Reading the internet, or even perusing the scientific literature, you'd get the idea that people are constantly cheating on their spouses. Indeed, scientists have estimated that anywhere from 10-30 percent of men are unknowingly raising children who are not their own. This situation is referred to as cuckoldry, or scientifically as "extra-pair paternity." Now, however, it appears that our estimates of cuckoldry rates were way off.
A new survey published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution sums up a number of recent studies that show the actual rate of cuckolds in the general population, based on genetic testing and ancestor research, is 1-2 percent. This challenges evolutionary psychologists who have suggested that human women "routinely ‘shop around’ for good genes by engaging in extra-pair copulation to obtain genetic benefits." This idea came in part from studying socially monogamous songbirds, which mate for life but have roughly 1 in 10 babies as a result of "extra pair" matings.
Scientists were so unwilling to believe that human women were different from songbirds that some suggested the discrepancy between expected and actual rates of cuckoldry was a recent development caused by birth control. One study asserted that women who cheat may be getting pregnant less often than they would have historically. But that assumption turned out to be wrong as well. As the study authors write, human extra-pair paternity rates "have stayed near constant at around 1% across several human societies over the past several hundred years."
The researchers call this a "puzzle," because contraceptives would have been far less available centuries ago. Why are there so few cuckolds? The authors speculate that women may be remaining faithful due to "anti-cuckoldry tactics, such as male sexual jealousy, religious practices that regulate female sexuality, and strongly negative reactions towards female adultery." It's also possible that they fear sexually transmitted diseases, spousal abuse, divorce, or "reduced paternal investment by the social partner or his close relatives if the infidelity was discovered."
Ultimately, conclude the researchers, "the (potential) genetic benefits of extra pair children are unlikely to be offset by the (potential) costs of being caught, particularly in such a long-lived species as humans with heavy offspring dependence and massive parental investment." Basically, women aren't cheating because the costs are too great. Or, you know, it could just be that researchers have completely misunderstood the role of extra-marital sex in women's lives.
Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2016.03.004 [PDF]
I enjoyed my share of one night stands when I traveled for work but have no idea if anyone is walking around today with half my DNA. I believe all of the women I have known sexually were single & intentionally infertile.