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Direct paternal care and aggression: an empirical exploration using the Standard Cross‐Cultural Sample

Sasha Johnson‐Freyd (South Eugene High School, Eugene, Oregon, USA and the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 15 July 2011




The rates of direct paternal care vary greatly across human cultures and primate species. Prior research reveals important hormonal differences between average fathers and non‐fathers in the same population, such as higher levels of prolactin and oxytocin and lower levels of testosterone. This evidence raises the question of whether rates of aggression would be lower in populations with higher paternal care. This study aims to test this hypothesis.


Analyses of correlation and χ2‐tests were applied to data from the Standard Cross‐Cultural Sample, a database of 186 pre‐industrial societies chosen for their independence for cross‐cultural research, to test the hypothesized relationship between paternal care and societal aggression.


High infant‐father closeness was found to be significantly associated with low levels of aggression towards other societies (external war), as predicted. There was not a statistically significant finding between infant‐father closeness and aggression inside a given society.

Research limitations/implications

This study only reports a correlational effect owing to the nature of the data. More research is needed to determine causality and to better understand the mechanisms underlying the found association. One future direction of research is to examine a similar question across difference nonhuman primate species.


This paper reports a previously unknown association between father closeness and low external warfare. It might inspire future research that could lead to interventions intended to reduce aggression.



Johnson‐Freyd, S. (2011), "Direct paternal care and aggression: an empirical exploration using the Standard Cross‐Cultural Sample", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 162-172.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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