What Made Humans Monogamous? Science May Have An Answer

The origins of monogamy have long been debated. When did humans start coupling up and locking it down? What were the biological and social factors that led to this shift? Is it "natural" or a forced construct based on a complex combination of patriarchal body control, resources and/or convenience? These burning questions have been tackled by scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, and everyday folks alike for years, and a new study published in Nature Communications offers up yet another set of answers.

To recreate the conditions found in hunter-gatherer communities and early agricultural societies, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology created a computer modeling program that simulated "the evolution of different social mating behaviours in human populations based on demographic and disease transmission parameters."

After analyzing this model, they learned that when populations increase, men who have multiple partners see decreased fertility rates because of a variety of circulating STIs like syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. This doesn't happen in smaller communities to the same extent, so, over time, as populations settled and grew, it made more sense for humans to basically pair off and (try to) keep it in their pants. The researchers also noted that this is just one part of the equation, and that according to Science Daily, "female choice, pathogen stress and technological impacts" are also partly responsible for the shift from polygamy to monogamy.


Although we may be able to better explain the evolution of monogamy, it doesn't mean the practice is in danger of being explained away anytime soon. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your particular predilection), the one-on-one style of dating and mating will likely be dominant for years to come — although Millennials are seemingly a bit less monogamous on the whole than older generations. What matters most is that folks get to decide for themselves whether they're into monogamy or some variation on non-monogamy, because as this study suggests, humans have tried both for centuries.

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