Fathers' care in context: ‘facultative,’ flexible fathers respond to work demands and child age, but not to alloparental help, in Cebu, Philippines

Stacy Rosenbaum*, Christopher W. Kuzawa, Thomas W. McDade, Josephine Avila, Sonny Agustin Bechayda, Lee T. Gettler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Current evolutionary theory conceptualizes fathers' childcare as highly facultative and likely contingent on a variety of local socioecological predictors. Much of the evolutionarily-motivated work on the predictors of paternal care has focused on smaller-scale societies, while similar, potentially complementary research in larger-scale societies has focused on theoretical frameworks from (e.g.) economics and developmental psychology. Due to the different emphases, relatively few studies have incorporated information on variables known to predict paternal care in one context with those known to predict it in the other. Here, we assess whether paternal care conforms to predictions derived from the facultative fathering hypothesis and life history theory in Cebu, the Philippines. We evaluated which of 6 variables—hours worked outside the home, age and number of children, number of other caregivers, family residence pattern, and fathers' educational attainment—predicted the number of hours fathers reported spending on 12 common caregiving tasks. Consistent with the basic premise of facultative fathering, men who worked more spent less time on childcare. Additionally, the time fathers spent on different types of caregiving reflected changes in demand as children age. However, alloparental care appears to be a complement to, rather than a substitute for, paternal care in this context, in contrast to the predictions of the facultative fathering hypothesis. We also found that men with more education reported spending more time on childcare, consistent with a caregiving strategy that emphasizes heavy investment in embodied capital across generations. Our data illustrate the context-specific nature of ‘facultative’ caregiving in humans, and highlight the importance of considering locally-relevant predictors when testing predictions derived from evolutionary theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-546
Number of pages13
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Allocare
  • Allomaternal care
  • Cooperative breeding
  • Maternal care
  • Parental care
  • Paternal care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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