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Studies of patriarchy typically focus on women’s subordination to men and the detrimental consequences for females. In this study, however, the authors predict that greater social empowerment of women will be associated with smaller mortality differences between women and men, which may seem counterintuitive from a nonevolutionary perspective. In other words, they predict that higher levels of societal patriarchy will be associated with greater levels of excess male mortality. They propose that the degree of patriarchy reflects both the extent of male control of females as reproductive assets, as well as the degree of male competition for positions of high status and power that have historically conferred disproportionate reproductive benefits. The intensity of this male competition directly predicts the extent to which male mortality rates exceed female mortality rates. The authors examined national level sociodemographic and mortality data from the WHO Mortality Database, United Nations, CIA World Factbook, and the Encyclopedia of World Cultures. They found that across nations, women’s social and economic empowerment had a strong inverse relationship with the disparity between male and female mortality from both external (direct behavioral) and (behaviorally mediated) internal causes, even when accounting for general economic inequality and the prevalence of polygyny. This study demonstrates the usefulness of an evolutionary framework for explaining contemporary social phenomena and important public health issues. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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Patriarchy, Male Competition, and Excess Male Mortality
Daniel J. Kruger
University of Michigan
Maryanne L. Fisher
St. Mary’s University
Paula Wright
Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Studies of patriarchy typically focus on women’s subordination to men and the
detrimental consequences for females. In this study, however, the authors predict that
greater social empowerment of women will be associated with smaller mortality
differences between women and men, which may seem counterintuitive from a non-
evolutionary perspective. In other words, they predict that higher levels of societal
patriarchy will be associated with greater levels of excess male mortality. They propose
that the degree of patriarchy reflects both the extent of male control of females as
reproductive assets, as well as the degree of male competition for positions of high
status and power that have historically conferred disproportionate reproductive benefits.
The intensity of this male competition directly predicts the extent to which male
mortality rates exceed female mortality rates. The authors examined national level
sociodemographic and mortality data from the WHO Mortality Database, United
Nations, CIA World Factbook, and the Encyclopedia of World Cultures. They found
that across nations, women’s social and economic empowerment had a strong inverse
relationship with the disparity between male and female mortality from both external
(direct behavioral) and (behaviorally mediated) internal causes, even when accounting
for general economic inequality and the prevalence of polygyny. This study demon-
strates the usefulness of an evolutionary framework for explaining contemporary social
phenomena and important public health issues.
Keywords:
patriarchy, mortality, polygyny, inequality, sex differences
Both evolutionary and feminist theorists
have a central focus on issues of power and
sex and thus often seek to explain the same
phenomenon (for a review, see Buss & Mala-
muth, 1996). In this article, we integrate evo-
lutionary and feminist perspectives on patri-
archy, noting the relationships to both power
imbalances between the sexes and power im-
balances among men. The latter is associated
with male competition for positions of high
status and power, which drives sex differ-
ences in mortality rates. Thus, higher levels of
patriarchy predict even higher levels of male
mortality, relative to those of women. The
goal of this article is to empirically present
support for the argument that greater social
empowerment of women is correlated with
smaller sex differences in mortality, such that
higher levels of patriarchy results in greater
levels of excess male mortality. We posit that
there are two reasons for this result: how
much male individuals control female indi-
viduals as reproductive resources and the de-
gree of male–male competition for status and
power.
It is imperative to define terms carefully, es-
pecially if there are multiple version of meaning
available (such as seen for “feminism,” see
Vandermassen, 2005, for a review). Before pro-
ceeding, it is also crucial to note that there is no
unified body of thought defining “feminist the-
ory,” but overall, feminism is a political move-
Daniel J. Kruger, School of Public Health, University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor; Maryanne L. Fisher, Department of
Psychology, St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia,
Canada; Paula Wright, Independent Researcher, Newcastle
upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-
dressed to Daniel J. Kruger, School of Public Health, Uni-
versity of Michigan, 1420 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor,
MI 48109-2029. E-mail: kruger@umich.edu
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences © 2014 American Psychological Association
2014, Vol. 8, No. 1, 3–11 2330-2925/14/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/h0097244
3
ment that contains assumptions about human
nature grounded in social constructionist theory
(Campbell, 2001; Vandermassen, 2005).
Feminism and the Concept of Patriarchy
In 1963, the liberal feminist Betty Friedan
published a book about a “problem with no
name.” Seven years (and considerable cultural
upheaval) later, the radical feminist Kate Millet
was one of several who identified that problem
and named it as “patriarchy” (Millet, 1970).
Pointing to patriarchy as a culprit marked a
fundamental change in feminist strategy. The
feminist group shifted from a liberal policy of
achieving equality through reform, to a radical
strategy of smashing patriarchy. Patriarchy was
seen to be “a system characterized by power,
dominance, hierarchy and competition, a sys-
tem that [could not] be reformed but only ripped
out root and branch” (Tong, 1989,p.3;for
similar sentiments see Gamble, 2001, p. 302).
The first wave of feminism focused on wom-
en’s suffrage in the belief that once women had
the right to vote for political candidates, in-
equality with men would disappear (Heywood,
2003). That was not the case, and the problem
of patriarchy remains central to second-wave
feminism; however, both the existence and or-
igin of patriarchy are assumed rather than ex-
plored. What we find instead is a series of
axiomatic premises that place both the problem
and solution of patriarchy within social con-
structionist theory (Vandermassen, 2005). The
term patriarchy is so unwieldy that it has been
described as a panchreston, “something that
means different things to different people and
purports to explain everything, but really ex-
plains nothing” (Buss, 1996, p. 317). Today we
find that there is not one but many feminisms
(Kemp & Squires, 1998), and all conceive of
patriarchy in slightly different ways, but they
agree on three contentions. First, patriarchy is a
socially constructed phenomenon, enforcing no-
tions of sex and gender that equate to male
supremacy and female inferiority (de Beauvoir,
1949/1986; Cudd, 2011). Second, patriarchy is
the mechanism by which all men institutionally
oppress all women (Gamble, 2001). Last, all
creeds of feminism are united in the fight
against patriarchy (Gamble, 2001). These prem-
ises underlie the dominant themes of feminist
theory today. We note the contrast in the fem-
inist definition of patriarchy as a broad social
phenomenon with the traditional use in anthro-
pology, where patriarchy represents social sys-
tems based on patrilineality and fathers as the
within-household authority (e.g., Barfield,
1997).
Limitations of the Feminist Perspective
Darwinian social scientists observe the same
phenomena as feminists. They both document
power differentials between the sexes, espe-
cially in the control of resources, with men
coveting resources and excluding women from
political decisions in the distribution of re-
sources. Both discuss social norms regarding
and institutional enforcement of the sexual di-
vision of labor. Both also address male sexual
proprietariness and sexual violence toward
women. All these correspond to feminist con-
ceptions of patriarchy (for a review, see Buss &
Malamuth, 1996), though at a proximate level
of analysis (Buss, 2005; Hrdy, 1997).
Feminists are primarily concerned with the
battle of the sexes (i.e., intersexual conflict)
with a proximate interest of how men oppress
women, how they continue to get away with it,
and how this oppression can be countered. Fol-
lowing from the three premises above, about the
social construction of gender through patriarchy
ideology, the singular answer to the “how”
questions is to destroy patriarchy by disman-
tling the underlying ideology. On the other
hand, Darwinians posited that the mechanisms
underlying patriarchy are not socially con-
structed (though the social environment is a
mediating factor) but rather that the complex
and varied phenomena subsumed under the
feminist term “patriarchy”—the male control of
resources, which includes female sexuality—
have origins in our prehominid past (Smuts,
1994). These factors arise from differential pa-
rental investment, sexual selection, and female
choice, all of which are very likely to have their
own causal dynamics (Buss, 1995).
A Darwinian Perspective on Patriarchy
Evolutionary-based theories provide a deeper
(ultimate) level of explanation (Tinbergen,
1963), creating a comprehensive framework for
understanding of how patriarchy affects both
women and men. Only evolutionary theory ad-
4 KRUGER, FISHER, AND WRIGHT
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dresses the ultimate explanations for why men
are motivated to gain power over women, and
why this power so often involves the control of
female sexuality (Smuts, 1992). In fact, “evi-
dence from other primates of male sexual coer-
cion and female resistance to it indicates that the
sexual conflicts that underlie patriarchy predate
the emergence of the human species” (Smuts,
1992,p.1).
Human behavior is often a product of two
different and interacting evolutionary pro-
cesses: genetic evolution and cultural evolution
(Boyd & Richerson, 1985). The invention of
agriculture enabled residential stability and the
accumulation of wealth.
Variance in male wealth and power increased
through sociopolitical arrangements and inter-
generational resource and social status transfers.
The increasing skew in male social status and
resource control led to increasing control of
women’s sexuality by a few of the most pow-
erful men (Smuts, 1992). Male intrasexual con-
test competition may have been the primary
mechanism of sexual selection in human men
(Puts, 2010). Women’s preferences for high sta-
tus, resource-controlling men may have co-
evolved with men’s competitive strategies, re-
sulting in the cross-cultural tendency for men to
have more control over resources and generally
higher social status than women (Buss, 1996).
Several studies document the positive associa-
tion between the degree of male social hierarchy
and male control of females (Betzig, 1986;
Dickemann, 1979; Lerner, 1986).
Patriarchy and Male Control of Males
In social species, such as humans, control
over female individuals is necessarily conjoined
with control over other male individuals. Men
would be likely to interfere with coercive mat-
ing attempts by other men, as this could simul-
taneously reduce a competitor’s reproductive
success and increase one’s own potential to
mate with the woman (Smuts, 1992). Without a
substantial difference in male power, a coercive
strategy would be unstable and men would need
to use an investment-based strategy. The repro-
ductive conflict of interest between the greater
male focus on partner quantity and greater fe-
male focus on partner quality can be mitigated
through male investment, or female resistance
may be overcome at a lower male cost through
force or the threat of force, that is, sexual coer-
cion (Smuts & Smuts, 1993).
In societies where some male individuals can
dominate others, powerful men can monopolize
control over women, resulting in skewed male
reproductive success corresponding with the
status hierarchy (e.g., Betzig, 1992, 1993). In
these societies, strategies based on investment
are less effective because lower status men have
a reduced capacity for investment and because
higher status men constrain female mate choice
by prohibiting them from freely choosing a
mate (Smuts, 1992). Thus, male dominance of
women and control of their sexuality is parallel
with male dominance of other men (Betzig,
1986; Smuts, 1992). Human males make con-
siderable investments in offspring, and paternal
resource provisioning, training in life skills, and
defense from threats contributes to the prospects
of offspring survival and reproduction (Geary,
2005). Yet there is evidence that male compe-
tition may have a stronger effect on the human
mating system than paternal investment, with
male-mate status competition and mate-guard-
ing predicting female-defense polygyny and en-
vironmental resource distribution in spatially
heterogeneous rich patches (though with a risk
of predators) predicting resource-defense po-
lygyny (Marlowe, 2000).
Thus, an evolutionary perspective brings a
novel insight to the properties of patriarchy.
Patriarchy can be understood as the degree to
which highly powerful men control both
women and other men, in addition to nonhuman
resources. In social-constructivist models, in-
equality among men and inequality between
women and men could vary independently.
Hypotheses
High levels of patriarchy may have an ad-
verse impact on a large proportion of men, as
only a minority can obtain positions of high
status and power when male social status is
highly skewed. On the basis of the theory and
evidence reviewed above, we make a prediction
that may be counterintuitive from a nonevolu-
tionary perspective. We predict that the sex
difference in social power will directly predict
the level of excess male mortality, as indicated
by the national ratio of the male mortality rate to
the female mortality rate (see Kruger & Nesse,
2006). The degree of patriarchy reflects both
5PATRIARCHY, COMPETITION, AND MALE MORTALITY
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male control of females as reproductive assets,
as well as the degree of male competition for
positions of power that confer reproductive ben-
efits. The intensity of male competition drives
the extent to which male mortality rates exceed
female mortality rates, leading to excess male
mortality. Thus, when comparing conditions
across nations, we expect to see an inverse
relationship between the extents of women’s
social empowerment and excess male mortality.
We perform a strong test of this hypothesis
by also including indicators of male reproduc-
tive inequality and general economic inequality,
a polygyny index and the Gini coefficient re-
spectively. These two indicators of reproductive
and economic inequality account for 53% of the
variance in sex differences in mortality rates
across nations (Kruger, 2010), thus the degree
of patriarchy (vs. women’s social empower-
ment) would need to account for a substantial
unique portion of the variance in excess male
mortality to make a statistically significant pre-
diction. We expect the degrees of patriarchy,
polygyny, and general economic inequality to
covary directly. As women’s social empower-
ment is the inverse of patriarchy, women’s so-
cial empowerment will inversely predict polyg-
yny, general economic inequality, and sex
differences in mortality rates. We examine these
influences on sex differences in mortality rates
from direct behavioral causes (i.e., external
causes) and behaviorally mediated internal
causes (such as cardiovascular disease). For a
holistic understanding of relationships, we test
our hypotheses by entering national indicators
into a path model.
Method
Data Sources
We examined national level sociodemo-
graphic and mortality data from the official re-
porting organizations, including the World
Health Organization’s WHO Mortality Data-
base (World Health Organization, 2007), the
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact-
book, the United Nations Demographic Year-
book, and the polygyny index created by Ka-
nazawa and Still (1999) based on the
Encyclopedia of World Cultures (Levinson,
1991–1995).
Measures
The outcome measure was based on the an-
nual rates of male and female mortality across
age groups provided by the WHO Mortality
Database. We created indices of mortality from
external causes (i.e., direct behavioral causes;
accidents, homicides, suicides) and behavior-
ally mediated internal causes (cardiovascular
disease, cerebrovascular disease, liver disease
and cirrhosis, malignant neoplasms, infectious
diseases).We included the polygyny index cre-
ated by Kanazawa and Still (1999) as an indi-
cator of male reproductive inequality based on
anthropological classifications of cultural
groups within nations weighted by their propor-
tion in the nation’s population. The cultural
group classifications are taken from the Ency-
clopedia of World Cultures (Levinson, 1991-
1995) and include: 0 monogamy is the rule
and is widespread; 1 monogamy is the rule
but some polygyny occurs; 2 polygyny is the
rule or cultural ideal but is limited in practice;
and 3 polygyny is the rule and is widespread.
We included Gini coefficients from the U.S.’s
Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.
Gini coefficients are the standard measure for
the degree of economic inequality in a popula-
tion, based on the degree of departure of the
Lorenz curve representing the proportion of the
total income by the proportion of income cu-
mulatively earned by the bottom X% of the
population from the line representing total in-
come equality (Gini, 1921). The United Nations
Gender Empowerment Measure (UN-GEM) is a
composite of the percentage of members of
parliament, legislators, senior officials and man-
agers, professional and technical workers who
are women; and the ratio of estimated female-
to-male earned income.
Analysis
We calculated the male-to-female mortality
ratio (M:F MR, the ratio of the male mortality
rate to the female mortality rate) across nations
and compared this with the UN-GEM. We also
calculated M:F MRs for external causes and
internal causes. We examined zero-order corre-
lations (see Table 1) and created a path model
with the UN-GEM, Gini coefficient, and polyg-
yny index as exogenous predictors of the M:F
6 KRUGER, FISHER, AND WRIGHT
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MRs for direct behavioral external and behav-
iorally mediated internal causes.
Results
As predicted, the M:F MR and the UN-GEM
were inversely correlated, Pearson’s correlation
r(55) ⫽⫺.691, p .001. This strong binary
relationship, with 48% shared variance, ap-
peared to be linear and not driven by outliers
(see Figure 1). As predicted, the degrees of
polygyny, general economic inequality, and ex-
cess male mortality covaried directly (see Table
1). Also as predicted, the UN-GEM, women’s
social empowerment, was inversely related to
polygyny, general economic inequality, and ex-
cess male mortality.
Confirming our prediction, the relationship
between women’s social empowerment and ex-
cess male mortality was not accounted for by
the Gini coefficient representing economic in-
equality or the prevalence of polygyny, repre-
senting male reproductive inequality (see Fig-
ure 2). The Gini coefficient predicted sex
differences in mortality from direct behavioral
(external) causes, uniquely accounting for 29%
of the variance. The UN-GEM uniquely ac-
counted for 14% of the variance in sex differ-
ences in mortality from direct behavioral (ex-
ternal) causes. The UN-GEM was the only
unique predictor of sex differences in mortality
from (behaviorally mediated) internal causes,
accounting for 46% of the variance. Once these
factors were accounted for, the prevalence of
polygyny did not explain any additional vari-
ance in either external or internal mortality sex
differences. Also as expected, the potential pre-
dictors shared considerable variance. Greater
economic inequality predicted lower female so-
cial empowerment, sharing 21% variance, and a
greater extent of polygyny predicted lower fe-
male social empowerment, sharing 37% vari-
Table 1
Zero-Order Correlations and Descriptives
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 MSD
1. UN-GEM .607
ⴱⴱⴱ
.458
ⴱⴱ
.623
ⴱⴱⴱ
.675
ⴱⴱⴱ
0.59 0.14
2. Polygyny .524
ⴱⴱ
.493
ⴱⴱ
.542
ⴱⴱⴱ
0.26 0.52
3. Gini .713
ⴱⴱⴱ
.377
35.53 9.07
4. M:F MR External .566
ⴱⴱⴱ
2.99 1.11
5. M:F MR Internal 1.07 0.10
Note. N 37. UN-GEM United Nations Gender Empowerment Measure; M:F MR male-to-female mortality ratio.
p .05.
ⴱⴱ
p .001.
ⴱⴱⴱ
p .001.
Figure 1. The Male-to-Female Mortality Ratio by the United Nations Gender Empowerment
Measure Indicator of Female Social Empowerment.
7PATRIARCHY, COMPETITION, AND MALE MORTALITY
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ance. Greater economic inequality was associ-
ated with a greater extent of polygyny, sharing
27% variance.
Discussion
Evidence for how high levels of patriarchy
adversely affect men is scarce. To the best of
our knowledge, we are the first to quantify this
influence in tangible terms by examining trends
in male mortality risk in excess of female mor-
tality risk. The results supported our prediction
that lower female social empowerment is di-
rectly and positively related with a greater ex-
cess level of male mortality above that expected
at female mortality rates. These patterns are
consistent with theory on how sex differences
shaped by natural and sexual selection interact
with relevant aspects of the environment to re-
sult in mortality rates that are considerably
higher for men than for women.
Our findings provide further support that
men’s behavioral and physiological strategies
are sensitive to social conditions historically
related to the degree of skew in male reproduc-
tive success. When social conditions suggest
that a small proportion of men will gain dispro-
portionate reproductive benefits, male individu-
als respond with strategies entailing a greater
degree of risk, which for many men will result
in early fatalities. Evolutionary researchers have
documented the relationship between variation
in male reproductive success and the “young
male syndrome,” where men in circumstances
indicating a low probability of reproductive
success engage in heightened levels of risky or
violent competitive behavior (Wilson & Daly,
1985).
With respect to patriarchy, excess male mor-
tality presumably stems from increased male
intrasexual competition for access to fertile
mates or access to the resources necessary to
secure these women. This competition may take
many forms at the individual or group level; the
latter is readily observed in warfare. High male
mortality in warfare is more likely a conse-
quence of the drive of young males in patriar-
chal societies to acquire mates directly through
conquest, as well as acquire the resources, so-
cial status, and power that would make them
desirable partners (Buss & Shackelford, 1997;
Chagnon, 1988). Because the women in one’s
cohort are likely acquired by older, more pow-
erful men, young males must attempt to acquire
mates by means other than through the court-
ship of their peers. These strategies may require
a greater degree of risk than monogamous peer
courtship, because of the high degree of com-
petition in a system where every male, includ-
ing mated high-status males, could potentially
obtain additional partners and thus reduce fe-
male availability (Daly & Wilson, 1988a).
Indicators of patriarchy and polygyny covar-
ied substantially. High degrees of human polyg-
yny resemble harem competition in other spe-
cies, where one male has control of numerous
females, reducing the number of females who
would potentially be available to other males.
One historical solution in such situations is to
procure females from other groups in intergroup
raids, increasing the potential availability of
mates and fostering male alliances within the
group (Chagnon, 1988). Intergroup raiding is
documented in both chimpanzees and preindus-
trial human populations as a male activity
thought to serve male reproductive interests
(Manson & Wrangham, 1991). Polygynous
mating systems may exacerbate intertribal war-
fare because of the greater potential benefit of
acquiring multiple female mates. Although the
Figure 2. Unique Predictors of Sex Differences in Mortality Rates. UN-GEM United
Nations Gender Empowerment Measure; M:F MR male-to-female mortality ratio.
2
(4)
4.34, p .362,
2
/df 1.09, goodness-of-fit index .958, normed fit index .951,
comparative fit index .996, root-mean-square error of approximation .049; N
37.
p 05.
ⴱⴱ
p .01.
ⴱⴱⴱ
p .001.
8 KRUGER, FISHER, AND WRIGHT
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increased reproductive success for some males
is advantageous, increased male mortality in
general is another result.
We do not deny that patriarchy adversely
affects women. As Hartmann (2001) described,
in patriarchical systems, women are excluded
from access to means to achieve economic gain
and resources, and their sexuality is restricted.
“Men exercise their control in receiving per-
sonal service work from women, in not having
to do housework or rear children, in having
access to women’s bodies for sex” (Hartman,
2001, p. 676). In more tangible terms, patriar-
chy seems to have deleterious costs for wom-
en’s health. Kawachi, Kennedy, Gupta, and Pro-
throw-Stith (1999) examined women’s political
involvement, economic autonomy, employment
and earnings, and reproductive rights across 50
American states and found that women’s mor-
tality was correlated with each of these vari-
ables in the predicted direction.
We note the diversity of perspectives falling
under the label of feminism. Evolutionary the-
ory on human psychology and behavior is also
not monolithic, including divergent perspec-
tives even among the pioneers of the modern
empirical era of evolutionary psychology on
issues such as whether modern homicide is the
product of adaptations for sublethal motivations
such as competition combined with lethal mod-
ern technology (Daly & Wilson, 1988b)ora
product of contingent psychological adaptations
that facilitate homicide (Buss, 2005). There are
multiple levels of evolutionary theory, from
universally accepted basic general principles
such as mammalian sex differences in parental
investment (Trivers, 1972) to specific hypothe-
ses such as whether rape is an adaptive sexual
strategy of low-status men with weak prospects
of reproduction through socially sanctioned
means, where even coauthors have diverging
perspectives (e.g., Thornhill & Palmer, 2000).
Researchers in any field will have theoretical
disagreements, and evolutionary theory on hu-
man psychology and behavior may be remark-
able for a relatively high level of convergence in
perspectives on basic principles. As in any area
of science, specific hypotheses need to be crit-
ically examined for theoretical consistency and
rigorously evaluated with empirical evidence.
We believe that we ground our hypothesis in a
solid theoretical framework and verify our pre-
diction with empirical data from appropriate
measures.
Limitations
We base our analyses on the best available
data, yet acknowledge that these measures are
not perfect. The World Health Organization
Mortality Database is created from data released
by national reporting systems, some of which
are more comprehensive and/or accurate than
others. The Gini coefficient is also calculated
from available data. The United Nations Gender
Empowerment Measure may be the gold stan-
dard for assessing women’s social empower-
ment, comprising several indicators of eco-
nomic, corporate, and political power. It does
not incorporate other domains, such as women’s
roles in selecting their own marital partners and
family decision making.
It would be interesting to compare women’s
relative levels of power within families and in
larger society and examine the relationships
with the other constructs. The polygyny indica-
tor is based on classifications of the degree to
which polygyny is accepted and considered
widespread, rather than a quantitative distribu-
tion of male mating, marital partners, or both.
Despite these limitations, the magnitude of as-
sociations are substantial, suggesting that even
crude and approximate indicators are sufficient
to reveal the hypothesized relationships. Better
measures may reveal stronger relationships, and
replications of these results will be likely when
more sophisticated data become available. We
note that all of our data is compiled at the
national level, which opens the possibility for
replications based on smaller aggregate units
such as states–provinces and municipalities.
There is likely variation with nations as well as
between nations.
We also do not claim to determine the direc-
tions of causality among constructs or validate
alternative evolutionary theoretical models. For
example, in Marlowe’s (2000) model, the envi-
ronmental characteristics related to resource de-
fense or female defense lead to a polygynous
mating system, which then motivates male–
male competition (presumably resulting in
higher male mortality). Examining these envi-
ronmental conditions, especially as they change
over time, would provide a better test of such a
model.
9PATRIARCHY, COMPETITION, AND MALE MORTALITY
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Implications for Perspectives on Patriarchy
This study provides evidence of the useful-
ness of an evolutionary framework for explain-
ing contemporary social phenomena. Our re-
sults suggest that a holistic definition of
patriarchy includes substantial social-power dif-
ferentials between men and women and among
men, with adverse health consequences for
many men. Power differentials and dominance
hierarchies exist in many species, not only in
humans (Smuts, 1994). Primatologists have ob-
served, “the possibility that primates actively
construct social strategies for winning competi-
tions” (Fedigan, 1982, p. xix). From an evolu-
tionary perspective, political behavior (includ-
ing behavior related to patriarchy) has evolved
in the service of reproductive interests (Vander-
massen, 2008). From a biocultural perspective,
patriarchy is a political strategy based on con-
ditional coalitions between male individuals to
control female sexuality as a primary resource
and to constrain rival male sexuality and gain a
reproductive advantage.
Patriarchy may be in part a product of our
evolutionary heritage, yet the cross-national and
historical variation in women’s social empow-
erment indicates that highly biased social con-
ditions are not inevitable. Some feminists and
evolutionary scholars (those who do not already
consider themselves feminists) may find some
common ground in an explanatory framework
for patriarchy that addresses the central compo-
nent of male reproductive skew. Greater skew
in male reproductive outcomes, or historically
related resource holdings and social status, may
be associated with a stronger male tendency to
view women as a resource, rather than an equal
partner in a social, reproductive, or both types
of relationships. Reductions in male status in-
equalities may converge with reductions in sta-
tus inequalities across the sexes, with resulting
health and longevity benefits for most men and
women. We realize that such efforts may face
substantial political opposition, especially from
men. Men are more sensitive to both their po-
sition in the social hierarchy and perceived
threats to their relative status (Cronin, 1991).
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Received May 15, 2013
Revision received September 2, 2013
Accepted September 11, 2013
11PATRIARCHY, COMPETITION, AND MALE MORTALITY
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