Anthropology, Department of



Mark Tracy

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Published in Nebraska Anthropologist Vol. 20 (2005). Copyright © Mark Tracy; published by The University of Nebraska-Lincoln AnthroGroup.


There is no common consensus among theorists regarding the nature and purpose of postpartum depression. Evolutionary theorists have proposed that the onset of postpartum depression is an adaptive function that signals a potential fitness cost to the mother i. e. the investment in the child will be cost more than the evolutionary benefits to be gained from rearing this child Many studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between postpartum depression and lack of paternal or social support indicating that when these two variables are absent the mother is more likely to experience postpartum depression. In this paper I hope to outline the evolutionary approach to postpartum depression, discuss the various possible social situations that would predict the absence or presence of postpartum depression and review the cross-cultural literature to see if this evolutionary perspective holds up as a universal across all cultures.

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