top of page

[Paper spotlight] Fatherhood, egalitarianism, & child health in two small‐scale societies

Out now from members Adam Boyette, Sheina-Lew-Levy, and their colleagues in the American Journal of Human Biology [Open Access].


The study goals were to (a) characterize the cultural model of fatherhood among the BaYaka, a community of egalitarian foragers in the Republic of the Congo; (b) test if BaYaka fathers' quality in relation to the cultural model predicts their children's energetic status; and (c) compare the variance in BaYaka children's energetic status to that of children of neighboring Bondongo fisher‐farmers, among whom there is less cooperative caregiving, less resource sharing, and greater social inequality.


We used informal interviews to establish the cultural model of fatherhood, which we used to build a peer ranking task to quantify father quality. Children's energetic status was assessed by measuring height, weight, and triceps skinfold thickness. We then tested for associations between father quality scores derived from the ranking task and children's energetic status using ordinary least squares regression. Equality of variance tests were used to compare BaYaka and Bondongo children's energetic statuses.


The BaYaka described fathers as responsible for acquiring resources and maintaining marital harmony, welcoming others to the community and sharing well with them, and teaching their children about the forest. Agreement on men's quality in these domains was high, but father quality did not significantly predict children's energetic status. BaYaka children had lower variance in energetic status overall compared to Bondongo children.


We suggest that the core BaYaka values and practices that maintain egalitarian social relations and distribution of resources help buffer children's health and well‐being from variation in their fathers' qualities in culturally valued domains.


bottom of page