I am interested in so-called 'Harmful Cultural Practices' (HCPs) and why such practices exist and persist despite the apparent harm that they cause.
The specific behaviours I am interested in include Female Genital Cutting (FGC), early marriage and early pregnancy, supplementary breastfeeding behaviours, and female autonomy and domestic violence. The UN and WHO recognise many other HCPs including dowry and bridewealth practices, milk teeth extraction, preferential treatment of male children and neglect of female children, nutritional taboos and traditional birth practices.
I am interested in examining whether evolutionary theory (human behavioural ecology and cultural evolution) can be useful in understanding the persistence of these behaviours. Using secondary data from West Africa I am looking to see if there is any evidence that these behaviours could be considered adaptive, in terms of increasing evolutionary fitness, for the women and families who practice them given the social and economic circumstances in which they live.
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