Human Nature

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 319–341 | Cite as

Women’s work, child care, and helpers-at-the-nest in a hunter-gatherer society

  • Raymond Hames
  • Patricia Draper


Considerable research on helpers-at-the-nest demonstrates the positive effects of firstborn daughters on a mother’s reproductive success and the survival of her children compared with women who have firstborn sons. This research is largely restricted to agricultural settings. In the present study we ask: “Does ‘daughter first’ improve mothers’ reproductive success in a hunting and gathering context?” Through an analysis of 84 postreproductive women in this population we find that the sex of the first- or second-born child has no effect on a mother’s fertility or the survival of her offspring. We conclude that specific environmental and economic factors underlay the helpers-at-the-nest phenomenon.

Key words

Fertility Helpers-at-the-nest Hunter-gatherers Ju/’hoansi 


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Copyright information

© Aldine Transaction 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and GeographyUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincoln

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