Advertisement

Human Nature

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 381–401 | Cite as

Abnormal births and other “ill omens”

The adaptive case for infanticide
  • Catherine M. Hill
  • Helen L. Ball
Article

Abstract

We summarize the ethnographic literature illustrating that “abnormal birth” circumstances and “ill omens” operate as cues to terminate parental investment. A review of the medical literature provides evidence to support our assertion that ill omens serve as markers of biological conditions that will threaten the survival of infants. Daly and Wilson (1984) tested the prediction that children of demonstrably poor phenotypic quality will be common victims of infanticide. We take this hypothesis one stage further and argue that some children will be poor vehicles for parental investment yet are not of demonstrably poor quality at birth. We conclude that when people dispose of infants due to “superstitious beliefs” they are pursuing an adaptive strategy in eliminating infants who are poor vehicles for parental investment.

Key words

Breech birth Infanticide Multiple birth Natal teeth Parental investment 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alvarez, M. P., P. V. Crespi, and A. L. Shanske 1993 Natal Molars in Pfeiffer Syndrome Type 3: A Case Report.Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry 18:21–24.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, G., and C. Strong 1988 The Premature Breech: Caesarian Section or Trial of Labour?Journal of Medical Ethics 14:18–24.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, R. A. 1982 Natal and Neonatal Teeth: Histologic Investigation of Two Black Females.Journal of Dentistry for Children 49:300–304.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, R. H., F. J. Macartney, E. A. Shinebourne, and M. Tynan, eds. 1987Pediatric Cardiology. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.Google Scholar
  5. Ball, H. L., and C. M. Hill 1996 Re-evaluating Twin Infanticide.Current Anthropology, in press.Google Scholar
  6. Ballantyne, J. W. 1897 Note on Three Additional Cases of Congenital Teeth.Transactions of the Edinburgh Obstetrical Society 23:112.Google Scholar
  7. Barr, A., and A. C. Stevenson 1961 Stillbirths and Infant Mortality.Annals of Human Genetics 25:131–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bartlett, D., and N. Okun 1994 Breech Presentation—A Random Event or an Explainable Phenomenon?Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 36:833–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baxter, P. T. W., and A. Butt 1953The Azande and Related Peoples of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and Belgian Congo. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  10. Beischer, N. A., and D. W. Fortune 1968 Double Monsters.Obstetrics and Gynecology 32:158–170.Google Scholar
  11. Bender, S. 1952 Twin Pregnancy: A Review of 472 Cases.Journal of Obstetrics and Gynæcology of the British Empire 59:510.Google Scholar
  12. Benjamin, B., and M. R. H. Khan 1993 Pattern of External Birth Trauma in Southwestern Saudi Arabia.Journal of Trauma 35:737–741.Google Scholar
  13. Biggerstaff, R. H., and R. E. Belliveau 1968 Oral Manifestations of the Ellis-van Creveld Syndrome.Journal of the American Dental Association 77:1090–1095.Google Scholar
  14. Blickstein, I., and M. Lancet 1989 Second Breech Presentation in Twins—A Possible Adaptive Measure to Promote Fetal Growth.Obstetrics and Gynecology 73(5):700–702.Google Scholar
  15. Bodenhoff, J., and R. Gorlin 1963 Natal and Neonatal Teeth: Folklore and Facts.Journal of Pediatrics 32:1087–1093.Google Scholar
  16. Bogin, B. 1988Patterns of Human Growth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Bradbury, R. E. 1957The Benin Kingdom and the Edo-Speaking Peoples of South-Western Nigeria. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  18. Braun, F. H. T., K. L. Jones, and D. W. Smith 1975 Breech Presentation as an Indicator of Fetal Abnormality.Journal of Pediatrics 86:419–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Brenner, W. E., R. D. Bruce, and C. H. Hendricks 1974 The Characteristics and Perils of Breech Presentation.American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 118:700–709.Google Scholar
  20. Brown, L., T. Karrison, and L. A. Cibils 1994 Mode of Delivery and Perinatal Results in Breech Presentation.American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 171:28–34.Google Scholar
  21. Buck, G. M., A. M. Michalek, A. A. Kramer, and R. E. Batt 1991 Labor and Delivery Events and Risk of Sudden-Infant-Death-Syndrome (SIDS)American Journal of Epidemiology 133(9):900–906.Google Scholar
  22. Carothers, A. D., A. Prackiewicz, R. deMey, S. Collyer, P. E. Polani, M. Osztoovicas, K. Horvath, Z. Dapp, H. M. May, and M. A. Ferguson-Smith 1980 A Colaborative Study of the Ætiology of Turner Syndrome.Annals of Human Genetics 43:353–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cerulli, E. 1956Peoples of South-West Ethiopia and Its Borderland. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  24. Chen, S.-J., B. R. Vohr, and W. Oh 1993 Effects of Birth Order, Gender and Intrauterine Growth Retardation on the Outcome of Very Low Birth Weight in Twins.Journal of Pediatrics 123:132–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Clark, S., E. Colson, J. Lee, and T. Scudder 1995 Ten Thousand Tonga: A Longitudinal Anthropological Study from Southern Zambia, 1956–1991.Population Studies 49:91–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Colson, E. 1958Marriage and the Family among the Plateau Tonga of Northern Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Confino, E., N. Gleicher, H. Elrad, B. Ismajovich, and M. P. David 1985 The Breech Dilemma: A Review.Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey 40:330–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Daly, M., and M. Wilson 1984 A Sociobiological Analysis of Human Infanticide. InInfanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives, G. Hausfater and S. B. Hrdy, eds. Pp. 487–502. New York: Aldine.Google Scholar
  29. 1988Homicide. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  30. Danielson, C. O. 1960 Twin Pregnancy and Birth Survey of 1006 Cases.Acta Obstetrica et Gynecologica Scandinavica 39:63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Darwish, S., K. A. Sastry, and A. Rupert 1987 Natal Teeth, Bifid Tongue, and Deaf Mutism.Journal of Oral Medicine 42:49–56.Google Scholar
  32. Dickemann, M. 1975 Demographic Consequences of Infanticide in Man.Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 6:107–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Donaldson, R. S., and S. G. Kohl 1965 Perinatal Mortality in Twins by Sex.American Journal of Public Health 55:1411–1418.Google Scholar
  34. Downes, R. M. 1933The Tiv Tribe. Kaduna: Government Printer.Google Scholar
  35. Early, J. D., and J. F. Peters 1990The Population Dynamics of the Mucajai Yanomama. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  36. Eiberg, H., and J. Mohr 1987 Major Locus for Red Hair Color Linked to MNS Blood Groups on Chromosome 4.Clinical Genetics 32:125–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Edwards, J. H. 1968 The Value of Twins in Genetic Studies.Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 61:227–229.Google Scholar
  38. Feinstein, A., and J. Schewach-Millet 1988 Pachyoychia Congenita.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 19:705–711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Firth, R. 1957We, the Tikopia. London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  40. Forde, D. 1951The Yoruba-Speaking Peoples of South-Western Nigeria. Ethnographic Survey of Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Forde, D., and G. I. Jones 1950The Ibo and Ibibio-Speaking Peoples of South-Eastern Nigeria. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  42. Forde, D., P. Brown, and R. G. Armstrong 1955Peoples of the Niger-Berne Confluence. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  43. Freeman, M. M. R. 1971 A Social and Ecologic Analysis of Systematic Female Infanticide among the Netsilik Eskimo.American Anthropologist 73:1011–1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Gardner, M. O., A. M. Amaya, and J. Sakakini 1990 Effects of Prenatal Care on Twin Gestations.Journal of Reproductive Medicine 35:519–521.Google Scholar
  45. Gorlin R. J., J. J. Pindborg, and M. M. Cohen 1976Syndromes of the Head and Neck. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  46. Gunn, H. D., and F. P. Conant 1960Peoples of the Middle Niger Region, Northern Nigeria. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  47. Hannekam, R. C. M., and J. M. W. Doorne 1990 Oral Aspects of Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome.American Journal of Medical Genetics, Supplement 6:42–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hausfater, G., and S. B. Hrdy, eds. 1984Infanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives. New York: Aldine.Google Scholar
  49. Hay, S., and D. A. Wehrung 1970 Congenital Malformations in Twins.American Journal of Human Genetics 22:662–678.Google Scholar
  50. Hill, C. M., and H. L. Ball 1995 Does Twin Infanticide Exist?American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Supplement 20:110.Google Scholar
  51. Hill, K., and A. M. Hurtado 1995Ache Life History: The Ecology and Demography of a Foraging People. Hawthorne, New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  52. Hinderaker, T., A. K. Daltveit, L. M. Irgens, A. Uden, and O. Reikeras 1994 The Impact of Intrauterine Factors on Neonatal Hip Instability—An Analysis of 1,059,479 Children in Norway.Acta Orthopedica Scandanavica 65(3):239–242.Google Scholar
  53. Hoefnagel, D., and K. Benirschke 1962 Twinning in Klinefelter’s Syndrome (letter).Lancet ii:1212.Google Scholar
  54. Hole, J. W. 1993Human Anatomy and Physiology, sixth ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown.Google Scholar
  55. Howell, N. 1979Demography of the Dobe !Kung. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  56. Hrdy, S. B. 1992 Fitness Trade-offs in the History and Evolution of Delegated Mothering with Special Reference to Wet-nursing, Abandonment, and Infanticide.Ethology and Sociobiology 13:409–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Huntingford, G. W. B. 1953East Central Africa: The Northern Nilo-hamites. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  58. Johnston, C., M. Prior, and D. Hay 1984 Prediction of Reading Disability in Twin Boys.Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 26:588–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Jonas, O., and D. Roder 1993 Breech Presentation in South Australia, 1987–1989.Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynæcology 33:17–21.Google Scholar
  60. Jonas, O., A. Chan, D. Roder, and T. Macharper 1991 Pregnancy Outcomes in Primigravid Women Aged 35 Years and over in South Australia, 1986–1988.Medical Journal of Australia 154:246–249.Google Scholar
  61. Karsten, R. 1932 Indian Tribes of the Argentine and Bolivian Chaco.Ethnological Studies. Helsingfors: Societal Scientaiarum Fennica.Google Scholar
  62. Kiely, J. L. 1991 Mode of Delivery and Neonatal Death in 17587 Infants Presenting by the Breech.British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynæcology 98:898–904.Google Scholar
  63. Koletzko, S., B. Koletzko, A. Lamprecht, and H. G. Lenard 1987 Ataxia-deafness-retardation Syndrome in Three Sisters.Neuropediatrics 18:18–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Kromberg, J. G., D. Z. Castle, E. M. Zwane, J. Bothwell, S. Kidson, P. Bartel, J. I. Phillips, and T. Jenkins 1990 Red or Rufous Albinism in Southern Africa.Ophthalmic Pædiatric Genetics 11:229–235.Google Scholar
  65. Langer, W. L. 1974 Infanticide: A Historical Survey.History of Childhood Quarterly 1:353–365.Google Scholar
  66. Larroche, J. C., P. Droulle, A. L. Delezoide, F. Narcy and C. Nessmann 1990 Brain Damage in Monozygous Twins.Biology of the Neonate 57:261–278.Google Scholar
  67. Layde, P. M., J. D. Erickson, A. Falek, and B. J. McCarthy 1980 Congenital Malformations in Twins.American Journal of Human Genetics 32:69–78.Google Scholar
  68. Leis, P. E. 1972Enculturation and Socialization in an Ijaw Village. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  69. Leung, A. K. 1986 Natal Teeth.American Journal of the Diseases of Childhood 140:249–251.Google Scholar
  70. Lindblom, G. 1920 The Akamba in British East Africa.Archives D’Etudes Orientales 17.Google Scholar
  71. Little, J., and E. M. Bryan 1988 Congenital Abnormalities.Twinning and Twins. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  72. Mackinnon, J. A., M. Perlman, H. Kirpalani, V. Rehan, R. Sauve, and L. Koracs 1993 Spinal Cord Injury at Birth: Diagnostic and Prognostic Data in Twenty-two Patients.Journal of Pediatrics 122:431–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Manonkian, M. 1951Tribes of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast. Ethnographic Survey of Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Massler, M., and B. H. Savara 1950 Natal and Neonatal Teeth.Journal of Pediatrics 36:349–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Masters, A. V. 1989 Comments on Anthropological Approaches to Human Infanticide.Journal of Psychohistory 17:195–201.Google Scholar
  76. McCulloch, M. 1951The Southern Lunda and Related Peoples. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  77. McDonald, R. M., and W. B. Reed 1976 Natal Teeth and Steatocystoma Multiplex Complicated by Hidradenitis Suppurativa.Archiva Dermatologica 112:1132–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Meggitt, M. J. 1962Desert People: A Study of the Walbiri Aborigines of Central Australia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  79. Middleton, J., and G. Kershaw 1972The Kikuyu and Kamba of Kenya. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  80. Minturn, L., and J. Stashak 1982 Infanticide as a Terminal Abortion Procedure.Behavior Science Research 17:70–90.Google Scholar
  81. Montag, B. A., and T. W. Montag 1979 Infanticide: A Historical Perspective.Minnesota Medicine (May):368–372.Google Scholar
  82. Morgan, H. S., and S. H. Kane 1964 An Analysis of 16,237 Breech Births.Journal of the American Medical Association 187(4):262.Google Scholar
  83. Murphy, Y., and R. F. Murphy 1985Women of the Forest. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  84. Myrianthopoulos, N. C. 1970 An Epidemiological Survey of Twins in a Large Prospectively Studied Population.American Journal of Human Genetics 22:611–629.Google Scholar
  85. 1975 Congenital Malformations in Twins.Acta Genetica Medica Gemellologica. 25:331–335.Google Scholar
  86. Nadas, S., F. Guidinchet, P. Capasso, and O. Reinberg 1993 Predisposing Factors in Obstetrical Fractures.Skeletal Radiology 22:195–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Nelson, K. B., and J. H. Ellenberg 1986 Antecedents of Cerebral Palsy. Multivariate Analysis of Risk.New England Journal of Medicine 315:81–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Njokanma, O. F., A. O. Suleodu, and F. A. Akesode 1994 Perinatal Mortality at the Ogun State University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, Nigeria.Journal of Tropical Pediatrics 40:78–81.Google Scholar
  89. Oliver, D. L. 1955A Solomon Island Society. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  90. Oliverio, A. F. 1994 Infanticide in Western Cultures: A Historical Overview. InInfanticide and Parental Care, S. Parmigiani and F. S. vom Saal, eds. Pp. 105–120. Chur, Switzerland, and Langhorne, Pennsylvania: Harwood Academic.Google Scholar
  91. Otlhogile, B. 1990 Infanticide in Bechuanaland: A Footnote to Schapera.Journal of African Law 34:159–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Oyejide, C. O., and G. A. Aderinokun 1992 Beliefs about Prematurely Erupted Teeth in Rural Yoruba Communities, Nigeria.Public Health 106:465–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Parmigiani, S., and F. S. vom Saal, eds. 1994Infanticide and Parental Care. Chur, Switzerland, and Langhorne, Pennsylvania: Harwood Academic.Google Scholar
  94. Perez, A. A., and F. M. Salzano 1978 Evolutionary Implications of the Ethnography and Demography of the Ayoreo Indians.Journal of Human Evolution 7:253–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Pfeiffer, R. A. 1964 Dominant Erbliche Akrocephalosyndaktylie.Zeitschrift fur Kinderheilkunde (Journal of Pediatrics) 90:301–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Rattray, R. S. 1932The Tribes of the Ashanti Hinterland. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  97. Robertson, J. G. 1964 Twin Pregnancy: Morbidity and Foetal Mortality.Obstetrics and Gynecology 23:330–337.Google Scholar
  98. Sargent, C. F. 1987 Born to Die: The Fate of Extraordinary Children in Bariba Culture.Ethnology 23:79–96.Google Scholar
  99. Schapera, I. 1938 A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom.Google Scholar
  100. Scheper-Hughes, N. 1992Death without Weeping. Oxford: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  101. Schiefenhovel, W. 1989 Reproduction and Sex-ratio Manipulation through Preferential Female Infanticide among the Eipo, in the Highlands of West New Guinea. InThe Sociobiology of Sexual and Reproductive Strategies, A. E. Rasa, C. Vogel, and E. Voland, eds. Pp. 170–193. London: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  102. Scrimshaw, S. C. M. 1984 Infanticide in Human Populations: Societal and Individual Concerns. InInfanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives, G. Hausfater and S. B. Hrdy, eds. Pp. 439–462. New York: Aldine.Google Scholar
  103. Service, E. R. 1969 The Northern Tepehuan. InHandbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. 8. E. Z. Vogt, ed. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  104. Suzuki, S., and T. Yamamuro 1985 Fetal Movement and Fetal Presentation.Early Human Development 11:255–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Taffel, S. 1992 Health and Demographic Characteristics of Twin Births in the United States, 1950–1988.Vital Health Statistics 50:1–17.Google Scholar
  106. Tew, M. 1950Peoples of the Lake Nyasa Region. London: International African Institute.Google Scholar
  107. Thomas, N. W. 1921 Twins in the Yoruba Country.Man 21:85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Townsend, G., and G. Richards 1990 Twins and Twinning, Dentists and Dentistry.Australian Dental Journal 35:317–327.Google Scholar
  109. Wagley, C. 1977Welcome of Tears: the Tapirapé Indians of Central Brazil. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  110. Wilson, R. S. 1979 Twin Growth: Initial Deficit, Recovery, and Trends in Concordance from Birth to Nine Years.Annals of Human Biology 6:205–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  111. Yerushalmy, J., and S. E. Sheerar 1940 Studies on Twins, II. On the Early Mortality of Like-sexed and Unlike-sexed Twins.Human Biology 12:247–263.Google Scholar
  112. Zlotogora, J., D. BenEzra, T. Cohen, and E. Cohen 1990 Syndrome of Brittle Cornea, Blue Sclera, and Joint Hyperextensibility.American Journal of Medical Genetics 36:269–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of DurhamDurhamUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations