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Spread of syphilis and gonorrhea apparently favored "marriage"
From a biological point of view, monogamy is actually not in human nature. Nevertheless, it is the most widespread relationship model in many cultures today. How can that be? Firm ties with just one partner appear to make a valuable contribution to society. Because, as two researchers from Canada and Germany report in the journal "Nature Communications", monogamous relationships in larger groups protect against the spread of venereal diseases.
Most people choose an exclusive partnership
In most western cultures, people today have strong ties with only one partner and strive for a lasting relationship with them. How is it that so many choose monogamy, even though the so-called “marriage” does not really correspond to the nature of man? Two researchers from Canada and Germany have now discovered that the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in larger groups could have made us monogamous today.
From "polygamy" to monogamous life
Chris Bauch from the University of Waterloo in Canada and Richard McElreath from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig asked themselves why in some cultures monogamy established itself as a social norm around 10,000 years ago. Because before that, many of the historically known human populations lived (and still do) in polygyne societies, which allow men to marry more than one woman. To understand this development, the two researchers created a computer simulation based on data on population development and the spread of infectious diseases. It was shown that the reason for the change to a monogamous life could possibly be related to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, according to a statement from the University of Waterloo.
STDs only threatening larger groups
Since diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia infections often lead to infertility, they can have a major impact on the development of a population. How threatening venereal diseases were for a population group apparently was largely dependent on their size, according to the information. In smaller groups with no more than 30 adults, such infections disappeared relatively quickly, since spreading was only possible to a limited extent given the small number of people. In larger societies, as they developed in the course of the emerging agriculture, however, the diseases spread rapidly and thus represented a massive danger to the continued existence of the group. The settled farming communities could therefore ultimately survive only by giving up the Secure "polygamy".
"This research shows how events in natural systems, such as the spread of infectious diseases, the development of social norms and, above all, our group-oriented assessment can have a significant impact," said Bauch in his university communication. "Our research shows how mathematical models are used not only to predict the future, but also to understand the past."
Environment is shaped by social norms
According to the scientists, the development of social norms is a complex process that is characterized by interactions with processes in our natural environment: “Our social norms were shaped by our natural environment. In return, we understand more and more that the environment is shaped by our social norms, ”continues Professor Bauch. In addition to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, other mechanisms would probably have ensured that more and more people chose a monogamous life. These include the choice of women in the search for a man, pathogenic stress or technological influences, according to the university. (No)