If you’re a male born to a father who’s a strong and enduring community leader, you’re more likely to become a leader yourself, due to the social advantages accruing from your dad’s position. And even if your old man isn’t a leader, other men in your community may be more likely to take you under their wing than your sisters, lavishing attention on you and showing you the ropes.
Sound like the description of an old boys’ network?
Maybe so, but it’s also the social structure that prevails among white-faced capuchin monkeys, those cute little New World primates associated in popular culture with organ grinders, says University of California Los Angeles anthropologist Susan Perry. Her new work offers a glimpse into how our male ancestors may have jockeyed for power and passed it on to their male offspring.
“Offspring, especially male offspring, raised in a group in which their father is the alpha [dominant] male, throughout their juvenile phase enjoy a host of advantages over less fortunate monkeys,” said Perry, who has studied capuchins for 22 years. “A stable, peaceful family environment may have been important to the well-being and future success of children among our remote ancestors, just as it is to children today.
Perry reports her findings in the current issue of the research journal Advances in the Study of Behavior.