What happens when the human biological imperative to maximize the passage of one’s genes comes into conflict with its own practices? One study by an interdisciplinary group of scientists concluded that this conflict results in a realization of the stereotype of parents’ disliking their daughter’s choice of partner. Embedded in the problem are economic practices by parents intended to assure the best possible environment for the grandchildren. These practices ironically create a disincentive for female children to aggressively seek partners who will fulfill this same goal: the bad boyfriend.
Each interested in different aspects of evolutionary imperatives, the scientists conducting the study were Piet van den Berg, a Ph.D. candidate in theoretical biology, Tim W. Fawcett, a research fellow in the modeling animal decisions group; the biologist Franjo Weissing; and the social psychologist Bram Buunk. Together, this group constructed a computer model premised on the theory that females originally sought out partners who shared a goal to invest maximum resources in raising children. This goal would assure that the progeny of these children would be able to apply these resources to the benefit of the next generation, thereby assuring additional grandchildren, successful and proliferate passing of their genetic material.
The model played out thousands of generations with this premise, and a recognizable phenomenon developed. The parents would allocate their resources among their female children unequally, giving additional resources to the children paired with less able partners. This allocation was intended by the parents to equalize the resources that each child would have towards to nurturing of the next generation. However, this pattern had the consequence of stunting the female children’s imperative to emulate the originating females’ pursuit of the males most likely to share this focus on resource investment. With the assurance of redistribution of resources by the parents, the female children did not have the need to find similarly minded partners in order to maximize resources for their children.
The model developed by these scientists demonstrates that, given the legacy of laxity among female children in seeking a partner to fulfill the parental goal, both parents and female children come into conflict. Parents, aware of this possibility, view all partners introduced to the family by their female children as unsuitable. Female children, aware of the parental practice of resource allocation, feel no imperative to select a partner likely to diminish their allocation. Furthermore, female children may even resent parental disapproval of their partner choice, since a more ‘suitable’ partner would diminish their share of the parental resources: a guaranteed resource unlike the chosen partner who would only represent the possibility of developing into such a resource.
I think the problem with this model is the underlying premise that parents will rely on resource distribution to maximize the proliferation of their genetic material. Other factors like intense indoctrination and rewarding of compliant behavior seem to be equally likely strategies enacted by parents. Female children demonstrating the highest likelihood of emulating the parental imperative, and therefore more likely to create a multi-generational proliferation of genetic material would be favored in this context, and the weaker candidates for success would be pushed to the periphery. It would be interesting to see the results of putting these parameters into the same model developed by the scientists. I think the daughter selecting the good partner would be more likely to obtain additional “reward” resources in this model.