Adoption and Kinship in Oceania

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97 Scopus citations


The frequency and form of adoption practices in Oceania recently have been cited as evidence that human behavior is inconsistent with predictions derived from sociobiological theory (Sahlins 1976). Ethnographic data reviewed here, however, suggest otherwise. In Oceania kinship is an important factor in the selection and treatment of adopted children as adoption occurs almost exclusively among close relatives. Natal children often ally against their adopted siblings over the division of their common parents' estate while adoptive parents themselves frequently apportion their land unequally among their natal and adopted children. These patterns and other data are consistent with predictions generated by a socio biological model of adoptive decisions. The model illustrates how kinship facilitates adoption as a means of modifying extreme family sizes, and how asymmetries in the degrees of relatedness between parents and their adopted and natal children provide the basis of differential treatment of them. Adoption in Oceania provides an example of a clearly cultural behavior which is consistent with socio biological predictions, and suggests that both culture and biology are relevant to an understanding of human behavior. [sociobiology, kinship, adoption, Oceania] 1980 American Anthropological Association

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-820
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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