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


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 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

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

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