Coresidence duration and cues of maternal investment regulate sibling altruism across cultures

Daniel Sznycer, Delphine De Smet, Joseph Billingsley, Debra Lieberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Genetic relatedness is a fundamental determinant of social behavior across species. Over the last few decades, researchers have been investigating the proximate psychological mechanisms that enable humans to assess their genetic relatedness to others. Much of this work has focused on identifying cues that predicted relatedness in ancestral environments and examining how they regulate kin-directed behaviors. Despite progress, many basic questions remain unanswered. Here we address three of these questions. First, we examine the replicability of the effect of two association-based cues to relatedness-maternal perinatal association (MPA) and coresidence duration-on sibling-directed altruism. MPA, the observation of a newborn being cared for by one's mother, strongly signals relatedness, but is only available to the older sibling in a sib-pair. Younger siblings, to whom the MPA cue is not available, appear to fall back on the duration of their coresidence with an older sibling. Second, we determine whether the effects of MPA and coresidence duration on sibling-directed altruism obtain across cultures. Last, we explore whether paternal perinatal association (PPA) informs sibship. Data from six studies conducted in California, Hawaii, Dominica, Belgium, and Argentina support past findings regarding the role of MPA and coresidence duration as cues to siblingship. By contrast, PPA had no effect on altruism. We report on levels of altruism toward full, half, and step siblings, and discuss the role alternate cues might play in discriminating among these types of siblings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-177
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Altruism
  • Kinship
  • Maternal perinatal association (MPA)
  • Paternal perinatal association (PPA)
  • Westermarck effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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