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Parent-Offspring Conflict

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icb/14.1.249 249-264 First published online: 1 February 1974


When parent-offspring relations in sexually reproducing species are viewed from the standpoint of the offspring as well as the parent, conflict is seen to be an expected feature of such relations. In particular, parent and offspring are expected to disagree over how long the period of parental investment should last, over the amount of parental investment that should be given, and over the altruistic and egoistic tendencies of the offspring as these tendencies affect other relatives. In addition, under certain conditions parents and offspring are expected to disagree over the preferred sex of the potential offspring. In general, parent-offspring conflict is expected to increase during the period of parental care, and offspring are expected to employ psychological weapons in order to compete with their parents. Detailed data on mother-offspring relations in mammals are consistent with the arguments presented. Conflict in some species, including the human species, is expected to extend to the adult reproductive role of the offspring: under certain conditions parents are expected to attempt to mold an offspring, against its better interests, into a permanent nonreproductive.

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