7. Life-history Strategies
- In an early study, Hungarian Gypsies were described as r-strategists compared to non-Gypsy Hungarians in terms of birth weight, fertility, mortality, etc (Bereczkei 1993). A more recent paper has revealed that the extensiveness of kinship networks and the degree of the relatives’ assistance with childcare were strongly predictive of fertility among Gypsies. Our data proved to be highly supportive of the evolutionary hypothesis that personal services through kinship networks are particularly valuable resources, accounting for the higher fertility in more traditional societies compared to technologically more advanced ones (Bereczkei 1998).
- Other researches focused on female-biased reproductive strategies among Gypsies. We found that Hungarian Gypsies invest more heavily in daughters than in sons compared to co-resident Hungarians, in conformity with the predictions of the Trivers-Willard hypothesis. These effects are shown in four different measures of parental investment: sex ratio at birth, frequency of abortion, duration of breast-feeding and length of education. The preference for daughters over sons appears to be caused by a high opportunity for hypergamy into the wealthier Hungarian population, at least in the urban population (Bereczkei and Dunbar 1997). In the rural gypsy populations female-biased reproductive strategies are linked to helping-at-the-nest. Early-born Gypsy girls engage in a substantial amount of help in housework related to childcare of their younger siblings. Gypsy mothers giving birth to first-born daughters have significantly more additional children than those giving birth to sons first. On a proximate level, birth intervals are shorter for Gypsy mothers who bore daughters first (and they continue reproducing to an older age) compared to those having first-born sons (Bereczkei and Dunbar 2002).
- Now, we are searching the relationship between adult behavioral strategies and early attachment with mothers. As a preliminary result, we found significantly more anxious/ambivalent (C-type) children among Hungarian Gypsies than non-Gypsy Hungarians. This difference in attachment styles cannot be interpreted as a distinction between normal/abnormal bonding. From an evolutionary point of view, the different attachment patterns can be regarded as alternative developmental strategies that are adaptive to the particular environments. As we have found earlier, Gypsies traditionally live in an environment that is unstable and unpredictable in terms of infant mortality, high level of unemployment, many dependent children, risky way of life. We hypothesize that under these circumstances parents with few and inadequate resources will be less able to invest in offspring. Their children are wary of, and preoccupied with their mother’s moods and intentions because their mothers are underinvolved or inconsistent. These children steadily evaluate and test their mother’s emotions and try to elicit additional care and protection. In other words, infants who experience inconsistently responsive care develop a strategy of maximizing or exaggerating expressions of attachment in hopes of evoking more attention and proximity from the caregiver. This may lead to an anxious/ambivalent attachment style. This theoretical model is currently being tested.
- Bereczkei T., Birkas B., and Kerekes Zs. (2010) Altruism towards strangers in need: costly signaling in an industrial society. Evolution and Human Behavior 31, 95-103.
- Bereczkei T., Birkas B., and Kerekes Zs. (2007) Public charity offer as a proximate factor of evolved reputation-building strategy: An experimental analysis
of a real life situation. Evolution and Human Behavior 28: 277-284.
- Bereczkei T. (2007) Parental impact on development: how proximate factors mediate adaptive plans. In: Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (Eds. R. Dunbar and L. Barrett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 255-272.
- Bereczkei T. (2002) Humán viselkedésökológia. In: Viselkedésökológia. Barta Z., Liker A., and Szekely, T. (Szerk.).Osiris, Budapest, pp. 188-213.
- Bereczkei T.: Rokoni hálózat, gyerekgondozás és termékenység magyarországi cigány és nem-cigány populációkban. In: Az evolúciós szemlélet napjaink pszichológiájában, Szerk. Pléh Cs., Csányi V., és Bereczkei T. Osiris, Budapest, 2001.
- Bereczkei, T. and Dunbar, R. (2002) Helping-at-the-nest and reproduction in a Hungarian Gypsy population. Current Anthropology 43: 804-809.
- Bereczkei T. (1998): Kinship network, direct childcare, and fertility among Hungarian Gipsies. Evolution and Human Behavior. 19: 234-245.
- Bereczkei T. (1993) r-selected reproductive strategies among Hungarian Gipsies. Ethology and Sociobiology 14: 71-88.
- Bereczkei T. Adaptive behavioral strategies among Hungarian Gypsies. 5th Alps-Adria Conference, Pécs, 1999.