Date of Award

1-1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Supervisor

Martin Daly

Abstract

This thesis presents research on the nature of human kin relations, with an emphasis on the impact of sex and birth order on familial sentiment. This aspect of human kinship is viewed from the perspective of evolutionary psychology and a brief explanation of what this entails is given in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 examines sex differences in the salience and meaning of kin relations for contemporary Canadians. The studies here demonstrate greater kin knowledge on the part of sisters, a greater inclination on the part of women to place value on their kinship roles in self-characterizations, and a greater inclination to be emotionally attached to kin. Chapter 3 focuses specifically on the unique nature of middleborns, especially with regard to familial relations, illustrating that they tend to be less close to parents, less inclined to turn to them in need, and less likely than first and lastborns to engage in genealogical research. Chapter 4 presents work on the evocative nature of kin terms when used in political rhetoric, indicating that such terms are effective in eliciting support but also that they are more effective with first and lastborn audiences than middleborn ones, another reflection of the impact of birth order on aspects of kin relations. Chapter 5 examines the relationships between sex, birth order, and contact with kin, particularly grandparents. These two studies demonstrate the strength of maternal kin ties and the intergenerational impact of birth order. The results of all these studies suggest that sex and birth order play major roles in shaping the interactions between an individual and his, or her, kin.

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