CANCELLED: “The functional benefits of ritual in a post-industrialised society"
Event type: Seminars22 April 2020 from 12.00 pm - 1.00 pm
Dr John Shaver—University of Otago
Across societies, many aspects of religious rituals suggest they provide adaptive benefits. Studies consistently find that investments in ritual behaviour return high levels of cooperation. Another line of research finds that alloparental support to mothers increases maternal fertility and child quality. Though plausible, whether religious cooperation extends to alloparenting and/or affects child quality remains unclear. Here, 10 years of data collected from 13,859 mothers and their children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) are used to evaluate the predictions that ritual frequency (i.e., church attendance) is positively associated with social support and fertility, and that social support is positively associated with fertility and child quality. Models reveal that: 1) a woman’s church attendance is positively related to her social network support and aid from co-religionists, 2) aid from co-religionists is associated with increased family size, while 3) social network support is negatively related to fertility. Moreover, aid from co-religionists increased over time, while social support decreased over time. These findings suggest that religious and secular networks differ in their longevity, and have divergent influences on a woman’s fertility. Furthermore, models reveal that sibling number is detrimental to a child’s physiological development and cognitive ability. Support to mothers and aid from co-religionists does not affect a child’s physiological development, but positively impacts cognitive ability. I conclude with a discussion of ongoing cross-cultural research on ritual and reproduction.
John Shaver is Senior Lecturer in Religion and Head of the Religion Programme at University of Otago. He is an evolutionary anthropologist who mostly studies religion. He has conducted research in the Czech Republic, Fiji, Mauritius, New Zealand and the United States, and his work has appeared in anthropology, biology, neuroscience, religion, psychology and general science journals.