Productive work or alloparenting by offspring appears to be dependent on the environmental context and subsistence strategy of a society as well as the need for such labor. We ask if gender as well as age are associated with work activities in our study subjects (n=1455 offspring) of Khasi families in N. E. India who have traditionally been swidden agriculturalists and now live in a mixed subsistence/cash economy. Fertility is fairly high (Total Fertility Rate = 6.7 children) and offspring often remain in the parental home into adult ages so offspring contributions to domestic work, child care and agriculture may be important. Data on children's work activities (child watching/carrying, cleaning, sweeping, cooking, clothes washing, shopping, water carrying, fuel collection/processing, agricultural work, fishing, and hunting) indicate if done or not by each child. Sex and age are recorded within each household roster. We find activities tend to peak in frequency at certain age periods. Activities done preferentially by females which peak during pubertal years (ages 12-14) are child watching/carrying, cleaning and sweeping; during subadult years (ages 15-24) are shopping, cooking, and washing clothes. For males, no activities peak during pubertal years, fishing peaks in subadult years, and hunting and fuel collection during adult years (ages 25-34). For both genders, water carrying peaks as subadults, and agricultural work and fuel processing peak as adults. All age and sex distributions are significant at p<0.01.

Some female sex-specific work activities appear to peak at earlier ages than do male activities, although other activities requiring more strength and knowledge peak in subadult and adult years. Males do not develop peak work contributions until subadult and adult ages.


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Publisher statement

This is the pre-peer reviewed version of an article published in American Journal of Human Biology.



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