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Saturday, October 14, 2006

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Non-Paternity ("cuckoldry")

Rampant paternity fraud an 'urban myth'.

I have been interested in the (over-)estimation of non-paternity in modern society for some time. See my post here.

Figures of "10%" of children not being those of the nominal father of the family have been bandied about a lot in recent years. The figure seems prima facie too high. Also it seems inconsistent with the extraordinary rates of 'breeding true" seen in some populations, for example in the case of the Jewish priestly Y chromosome:

" One marker, however, present in more than 50% of Eastern European [Ashkenazi] Jewish Levites points to a common male ancestor within the last 2000 years for many Levites of the Ashkenazi community. "

I suppose it is possible that the Levites historically lived in separate communities, which might explain the tendency for the relevant Y chromosome to breed true, even in the presence of cuckoldry.

I should say one thing though. A low level of non-paternity (or cuckoldry in the sense of a woman bearing a child not her husband's) does not necessarily imply a low level of adultery. It is perfectly possible for wives to have historically had sex outside marriage in relatively large numbers. This is because between 25 and 50 acts of intercourse are typically required to produce one conception. So, my remarks in my earlier post about the apparent "good behaviour" of our ancestors were a bit naive.

Julian

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