Original article:

“Asia’s missing women” as a problem in applied evolutionary psychology?

Evolutionary Psychology 10(5): 910-925 Robert Brooks, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, rob.brooks@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

In many parts of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, women and children are so undervalued, neglected, abused, and so often killed, that sex ratios are now strongly male biased. In recent decades, sex-biased abortion has exacerbated the problem. In this article I highlight several important insights from evolutionary biology into both the origin and the severe societal consequences of “Asia’s missing women”, paying particular attention to interactions between evolution, economics and culture. Son preferences and associated cultural practices like patrilineal inheritance, patrilocality and the Indian Hindu dowry system arise among the wealthy and powerful elites for reasons consistent with models of sex-biased parental investment. Those practices then spread via imitation as technology gets cheaper and economic development allows the middle class to grow rapidly. I will consider evidence from India, China and elsewhere that grossly male-biased sex ratios lead to increased crime, violence, local warfare, political instability, drug abuse, prostitution and trafficking of women. The problem of Asia’s missing women presents a challenge for applied evolutionary psychology to help us understand and ameliorate sex ratio biases and their most severe consequences.

Keywords

sex ratio, parental care, violence, Trivers-Willard, Local Resource Enhancement, infanticide

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Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)
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