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Stephen Beckerman - the Need for Two Fathers

Essay by   •  July 10, 2011  •  Essay  •  290 Words (2 Pages)  •  1,507 Views

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Stephen Beckerman conducted a study that investigated births involving multiple fathers and the subsequent effects on the children and the way anthropologist view human coupling. He led a group of ethnographers including Roberto and Manuel Lizarralde and others down to Southern America where they interviewed 114 different Bari Indian women from Venezuela.

Although the Bari people believe that the first act of sex should be between husband and wife, women are encouraged to have a lover during the pregnancy process. This is where the second father role comes into play. Because "a fetus is built up over time with repeated washes of sperm" one cannot determine only one father. When a man is determined to be the secondary father, they are expected to provide fish and game for the mother and child. By increasing their food supply, the mothers have a better chance of not having a miscarriage or stillborn. Consequently, children with one father and one secondary father are statistically the most likely to live into their teens. By allowing his wife to have a lover, the primary fathers are doing all they can to ensure their wife and children receive adequate food if they die.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Na of Yunnan Providence in China participate in a "female-centric society in which husbands are not part of the picture." Women never marry or move out of the family compound. The father has no responsibilities toward their child. However, it is often difficult to determine the biological father since the women have sex with so many partners.

In the Western society, the family is a clearly defined as two partners with children. The Bari show that there are other ways to organize the flexible family unit.

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