Human Ecology

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 287–321 | Cite as

Birth seasonality, photoperiod, and social change in the Central Canadian Arctic

  • Richard G. Condon
Article

Abstract

Birth seasonally at high latitudes is a complex phenomenon which is undoubtedly affected by a subtle interaction between environmental rhythmicity (most notably in photoperiod and temperature) and cultural adaption. There is intriguing evidence that human gonadotrophic activity (and hence fertility) may be affected by seasonal fluctuations in light intensity and duration. Nevertheless, cultural factors are important insofar as they mediate between environmental rhythmicity and human fertility/birth patterns. This article examines the distribution of births over several decades in an Inuit community located 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Several shifts in birth seasonality are noted, the most significant of which is a dramatic shift from pronounced seasonality in the 1970s to non-seasonality in the 1980s. Longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork has allowed an examination of social and economic changes accounting for the rather sudden disappearance of birth seasonality. These include increasing reliance upon wage employment and social assistance, decreased dependence upon subsistence hunting and trapping, changing attitudes on the part of young people entering their prime reproductive years, and the introduction of television, radio, and southern-style recreational activities.

Key words

birth seasonality photoperiod social change Canadian Arctic Inuit 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abrahamson, G., Gillespie, P. J., McIntosh, D. J., and Williamson, H. A. (1963). The Copper Eskimos: An Area Economic Survey. Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources.Google Scholar
  2. Aschoff, J. (1965). Circadian rhythms in man.Science 148: 1427.Google Scholar
  3. Batschelet, E., Hillman, D., Smolensky, M., and Halberg, F. (1973). Angular linear correlation co-efficient for rhythmometry and circannual changes in births at different latitudes.International Journal of Chronobiotogy 1: 183.Google Scholar
  4. Birket-Smith, K. (1928). The Greenlanders of the present day.Greenland II: 1–207.Google Scholar
  5. Brimblecombe, F., and Barltrok, D. (1978).Children in Health and Disease. Bailliere and Tindall, London.Google Scholar
  6. Carletti, B., Kehyayan, E., and Fraschini, F. (1964). Remarkable seasonal variations of urinary gonadotrophin excretion in young girls.Experientia 20: 383.Google Scholar
  7. Chang, K. S. F., Chan, S. T., Low, W. D., and Ng, C. K. (1963). Climate and conception rates in Hong Kong.Human Biology 35: 366–376.Google Scholar
  8. Chief Medical and Health Officer. (1978). Report on Health Conditions in the Northwest Territories. Government of the N.W.T., Yellowknife.Google Scholar
  9. Condon, R. (1982). Inuit natality rhythms in the Central Canadian Arctic.Journal of Biosocial Science 14: 167.Google Scholar
  10. Condon R. (1983).Inuit Behavior and Seasonal Change in the Central Canadian Arctic. UMI Press, Ann Arbor, MI.Google Scholar
  11. Condon, R. (1987).Inuit Youth: Growth and Change in the Canadian Arctic. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.Google Scholar
  12. Condon, R. (1990). The rise of adolescence: Social change and life stage dilemmas in the Central Canadian Arctic.Human Organization 49: 266–279.Google Scholar
  13. Condon, R., and Scaglion, R. (1982). The ecology of human birth seasonality.Human Ecology 10: 495.Google Scholar
  14. Cook, F. (1894a). Dr. Cook among the Esquimaux: Editorial.New York Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics IV: 287.Google Scholar
  15. Cook, F. (1894b). Gynecology and obstetrics among the Eskimos.Brooklyn Medical Journal 8: 154.Google Scholar
  16. Cook, F. (1897). Some physical effects of arctic cold, darkness, and light.Medical Record 51: 833–836.Google Scholar
  17. Cowgill, U. (1966a). The season of birth in man: The northern new world.Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 35: 1–21.Google Scholar
  18. Cowgill, U. (1966b). Historical study of the season of birth in the city of York, England.Nature 209: 1967.Google Scholar
  19. Damas, D. (1969). History, environment, and central Eskimo society. In Damas, D. (ed.),Ecological Essays. National Museum of Canada Bulletin, Vol. 230, pp. 40–64.Google Scholar
  20. Damas, D. (1984). Copper Eskimo. In Damas, D. (ed.),Handbook of North American Indians, Arctic (Vol. 5). Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., pp. 397–414.Google Scholar
  21. Delvoye, P., Delogne-Desnoeck, J., and Robyn, C. (1976). Serum-prolactin in long-lasting lactation amenorrhea.The Lancet August 7: 288–289.Google Scholar
  22. Edwards, D. D. (1987). Does extremely low-frequency electromagnetic radiation harm our Health?Science News 131: 107–109.Google Scholar
  23. Ehrenkranz, J. R. L. (1983a). A gland for all seasons.Natural History 6: 18–23.Google Scholar
  24. Ehrenkranz, J. R. L. (1983b). Seasonal breeding in humans: Birth records for the Labrador Eskimo.Fertility and Sterility 40: 485–489.Google Scholar
  25. Ellis, H. (1942).Studies in the Psychology of Sex (Vol. I), Random House, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Graburn, N. (1969).Eskimos Without Igloos. Little-Brown, New York.Google Scholar
  27. Graburn, N. (1982). Television and the Canadian Inuit.Etudes/Inuit/Studies 6: 7–17.Google Scholar
  28. Hajek, E. R., Gutierrez, J. R., and Espinosa, G. (1981). Seasonality of conception in human populations in Chile.International Journal of Biometeorology 25(4): 281–291.Google Scholar
  29. Harrell, B. (1981). Lactation and menstruation in cultural perspective.American Anthropologist 83: 796–823.Google Scholar
  30. Hartung, J. (1978). Light, puberty, and aggression: A proximal mechanism hypothesis.Human Ecology 6: 273–297.Google Scholar
  31. Hellbrugge, T. (1960).The development of circadian rhythms in infants. Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Quantitative Biology, Vol. 25, p. 311.Google Scholar
  32. Hildes, J. A., Schaefer, O. (1973). Health of Igloolik Eskimos and changes with modernization.Journal of Human Biology 2: 241.Google Scholar
  33. Holmes, R. L. (1968).Reproduction and Environment. Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  34. James, W. H. (1971). Social class and season of birth.Journal of Biosocial Science 3: 309–320.Google Scholar
  35. Jenness, D. (1922). The Life of the Copper Eskimos. Report of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1913–1918, Vol. XII, Part A, King's Printer, Ottawa.Google Scholar
  36. Jenness, D. (1964). Eskimo Administration: II Canada. Arctic Institute of North American Technical Paper No. 14, Arctic Institute of North America, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  37. Johnson, J. T., Ann, T. B., and Palan, V. T. (1975). Seasonality of births for West Malaysia's two main racial groups.Human Biology 47: 295–307.Google Scholar
  38. Kippley, S. K., and Kippley, J. F. (1977). The relation between breastfeeding and amenorrhea: A report of a survey.Journal of Tropical Pediatrics 23: 239–245.Google Scholar
  39. Kirk, D. (1960). The influence of business cycles on marriage and birth rates. In Demographic and Economic Change in Developing Countries. Proceedings presented at National Bureau Committee for Economic Research, Special Conference Series, No. 11, Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. 241–260.Google Scholar
  40. Lam, D. A., and Miron, J. A. (1987). The Seasonality of Births in Human Populations. Research Report #87-114, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
  41. Lee, R. D. (1981). Short term variation: Vital rates, prices, and weather. In Wrigley, E. A., and Shofield, R. (eds.),The Population History of England, 1541–1871: A Reconstitution. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  42. Lobban, M. (1960). The Entrainment of Circadian Rhythms in Man. Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Quantitative Biology, Vol. 25, p. 325.Google Scholar
  43. Lobban, M. (1967). Daily rhythms of excretion in Arctic-dwelling Indians and Eskimos.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Physiology 52: 401.Google Scholar
  44. Luce, G. (1970).Biological Rhythms in Psychiatry and Medicine. National Institute of Mental Health, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  45. MacDonald, R. L. (1966). Lunar and seasonal variations in obstetric factors.Journal of Genetic Psychology 108: 81–87.Google Scholar
  46. Macfarlane, W. V. (1970). Seasonality of conception in human populations.International Journal of Biometerohgy 13: 167–182.Google Scholar
  47. Malina, R. M., and Himes, J. H. (1977). Seasonality of births in a rural Zapotec Municipio, 1945–1970.Human Biology 49: 125–137.Google Scholar
  48. Moore-Ede, M., Sulzman, F., and Fuller, C. (1982).The Clocks that Time Us. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  49. Mosher, W. W. (1979). Birth Seasonality among peasant cultivators: The interrelationship of workload, diet, and fertility.Human Ecology 7, 151–181.Google Scholar
  50. NOGAP (1987).Baseline Data Study (Vol. II). Northern Oil and Gas Action Program, Inuvik, N.W.T.Google Scholar
  51. Nurge, E. (1970). Birth rate and work load.American Anthropologist 72: 1434–1439.Google Scholar
  52. Ogun, G. E. O., and Okorafor, A. E. (1979). Seasonality of birth in Southeastern Nigeria.Journal of Biosocial Science 11: 209–217.Google Scholar
  53. Parkes, A. S. (1968). Seasonal variation in human sexual activity. In Thoday, J. M., and Parkes, A. S. (eds.),Genetic and Environmental Influence on Behavior. Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  54. Pasamanick, B., Dinitz, S., and Knobloch, H. (1959). Geographic and seasonal variations in births.Public Health Reports 74: 285–288.Google Scholar
  55. Pasamanick, B., Dinitz, S., and Knobloch, H. (1960). Socio-economic and seasonal variations in birth rates.Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 38: 248–254.Google Scholar
  56. Pasternak, B. (1976). Seasonality in childbirth and marriage: A Chinese case.Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica 41: 25–45.Google Scholar
  57. Pasternak, B. (1978). Seasons of birth and marriage in two Chinese localities.Human Ecology 6(3): 299–323.Google Scholar
  58. Rawlings, D. (1973).Peary at the Pole: Fact or Fiction? Robert Luce, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  59. Reinberg, A. (1973). Biological rhythms and energy balance in man. InCircannual Rhythms: Annual Biological Rhythms. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  60. Richards, T. (1980). Weather, nutrition, and the economy: Short-run fluctuations in births, deaths, and marriages, France 1740–1909.Demography 20: 197–212.Google Scholar
  61. Roenneberg, T., and Aschoff, J. (1990). Annual rhythm of human reproduction, parts I and II.Journal of Biological Rhythms 5(3): 195–239.Google Scholar
  62. Scaglion, R. (1978). Seasonal births in a Western Abelam Village, Papua New Guinea.Human Biology 50: 313–323.Google Scholar
  63. Scaglion, R., and Condon, R. (1979). Abelam Yam beliefs and sociorhymicity: A study in chronoanthropology.Journal of Biosocial Science 11: 17–25.Google Scholar
  64. Schaefer, O. (1959). Medical observations and problems in Canadian Eskimos, Part II.Canadian Medical Association Journal 81: 386.Google Scholar
  65. Schaefer, O. (1973). The changing health picture in the Canadian North.Journal of Opthamalogy 8(2): 196–204.Google Scholar
  66. Schaefer, O. (1986). The impact of culture on breastfeeding patterns.Journal of Perinatology 6(1): 62–65.Google Scholar
  67. Schaefer, O., and Timmermans, J. F. W. (1980). General and nutritional health in two Eskimo populations at different stages of acculturation.Canadian Journal of Public Health 71: 397.Google Scholar
  68. Shakir, A. (1974). The seasonal rhythm of menarche in girls attending schools in Baghdad.Annals of Human Biology 1: 95.Google Scholar
  69. Sharp, G. (1960). The effects of light on the morning increase in urine flow.Journal of Endocrinology 21: 219.Google Scholar
  70. Simpson, H., and Bohlen, J. (1973). Latitude and the Human Circadian System. In Mills, J. N. (ed.),Biological Aspects of Circadian Rhythms. Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  71. Smolensky, M., Halberg, F., and Sargent, F. (1972). Chronobiology of the life sequence. In Itoh, S., Ogata, K., and Yoshimura, H. (eds.),Advances in Climatic Physiology. Igaku Shoin, Tokyo.Google Scholar
  72. Spencer, B., and Hum, D. (1977). Workload and seasonal variation in birthrates reconsidered.American Anthropologist 79: 911–912.Google Scholar
  73. Spira, A. (1984). Seasonal variations in sperm characteristics.Arch. Androl. 12: 23–28.Google Scholar
  74. Stoeckel, J., and Choudhury, A. K. M. A. (1972). Seasonal variations in births in rural East Pakistan.Journal of Biosocial Science 4: 107–116.Google Scholar
  75. Takahashi, E. (1964). Seasonal variation in conception and suicide.Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine 84: 215–227.Google Scholar
  76. Thompson, R. W., and Robbins, M. (1973). Seasonal variation in conception in rural Uganda and Mexico.American Anthropologist 75: 676–686.Google Scholar
  77. Timonen, S., and Carpen, E. (1968). Multiple pregnancies and photoperiodicity.Annals Chir. Gynaecol. Fenn. 57: 135.Google Scholar
  78. Tjoa, W. S., Smolensky, M. H., Hsi, B., Steinberger, E., and Smith, K. D. (1982). Circannual rhythm in human sperm count revealed by serially independent sampling.Fertility and Sterility 38: 454–459.Google Scholar
  79. Tromp, S. W. (1963).Medical Biometerology. Elsevier, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  80. Usher, P. (1965).Economic Basis and Resource Use of the Coppermine-Holman Region, N.W.T. Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Ottawa.Google Scholar
  81. Villerme (1831). De la distribution pars mois des conceptions.Ann. d'Hygiene Publique 55.Google Scholar
  82. Watson, L. (1977).Television Among limit of Keewatin: The Rankin Inlet Experience. Institute of Northern Studies, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.Google Scholar
  83. Wenzel, G. (1985). Marooned in a blizzard of contradictions: Inuit and the anti-sealing movement.Etudes/Inuit/Studies 9: 77–91.Google Scholar
  84. Westermarck, E. (1922).The Histoiy of Human Marriage (Vol. I), Allerton, New York.Google Scholar
  85. Weyer, R. (1932).The Eskimos. Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  86. Wurtman, R. (1975a). The effects of light on the human body.Scientific American 233: 69.Google Scholar
  87. Wurtman, R. (1975b). The effects of light on man and other mammals.Annual Review of Physiology 37: 467.Google Scholar
  88. Zelnik, M. (1969). Socioeconomic and seasonal variation in births: A replication.Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 47: 159–165.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard G. Condon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ArkansasFayetteville

Personalised recommendations