Exploring Genetic and Linguistic Phylogenies as a Framework for Describing Family Behaviour

Joan Ryan , University of Pennsylvania

This paper aims to explore the use of phylogenetic supertrees to identify group-level variability in indicators of family behaviour. A supertree constructed based on genetic and linguistic data (Duda and Zrzavy 2016) describes the evolutionary history of ethnic and linguistic groups. Using Gaussian process regression, the genetic and linguistic evolutionary similarities between ethnic groups is represented in a covariance matrix that indicates each group’s pairwise phylogenetic distance on the supertree relative to each other. We then match ethnic groups as described by the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) to their respective branches on the supertree. Finally, we compare the phylogenetic distances to similarities in family behaviours—also obtained from the DHS—such as age at first childbearing, to see if ethnic and linguistic groups closer to each other on the supertree also display more similar family behaviours. Doing so, we hope to discover genetic and/or linguistic bases of family behaviours.

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 Presented in Session 9. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions; Gender, Race, & Ethnicity