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Adoption, Fostering, and Parental Absence in Vanuatu

Brandl, Eva; Emmott, Emily H; Mace, Ruth; (2023) Adoption, Fostering, and Parental Absence in Vanuatu. Human Nature 10.1007/s12110-023-09456-0. (In press). Green open access

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Alloparenting, wherein people provide care to children who are not their biological offspring, is a key aspect of human child-rearing. In the Pacific, many children are adopted or fostered by custodial alloparents even when both biological parents are still alive. From a behavioral ecology perspective, such behaviors are puzzling: why parent someone else's child at your expense? Furthermore, little is known about how these arrangements are made in Pacific Islander societies today, who provides care, and what kinds of outcomes fostered children experience. A better understanding of these proximate factors may help reveal the ultimate drivers behind custodial alloparenting. Here, we report findings from a survey carried out with the caregivers of 282 children in rural areas of Vanuatu, an island nation in Melanesia. Most fostered and adopted children lived with relatives such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents (87.5%) rather than unrelated caregivers, with a strong preference for maternal kin. The most common reasons for these arrangements were that the parents had separated (16.7%), were engaging in labor migration (27.1%), or a combination of both (27.1%). Results for investment in children's education and their educational outcomes were mixed, although children removed from crisis situations did more poorly than children removed for aspirational reasons. Our findings suggest that custodial alloparenting helps families adapt to socioeconomic transitions and changing marriage practices. Outcomes may depend on a range of factors, such as the reason children were transferred out of the natal home to begin with.

Type: Article
Title: Adoption, Fostering, and Parental Absence in Vanuatu
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s12110-023-09456-0
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-023-09456-0
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Adoption, Alloparenting, Cooperative breeding, Fostering, Kinship, Vanuatu
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10176031
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