Others here at CT have been more critical of the whole evolutionary psychology approach than I have, and I imagine their scepticism will be bolstered by a newish book by David J. Buller , a philosopher at Northern Illinois University: Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature . According to the reviews, Buller devotes some attention to the factoids that evolutionary psychologists deploy in support of their view. Many of these “well-known facts” seem to have little more support than the well-known fact that if you step on the cracks in the pavement, the bears will get you. From the Wall Street Journal review (pdf) :
This field claims to explain human behaviors that seem so widespread we must be wired for them: women preferring high-status men, and men falling for nubile babes; stepfathers abusing stepchildren. …. Take the stepfather claim. The evolutionary reasoning is this: A Stone Age man who focused his care and support on his biological children, rather than kids his mate had from an earlier liaison, would do better by evolution’s scorecard (how many descendants he left) than a man who cared for his stepchildren. With this mindset, a stepfather is far more likely to abuse his stepchildren. One textbook asserts that kids living with a parent and a stepparent are some 40 times as likely to be abused as those living with biological parents.
But that’s not what the data say, Prof. Buller finds. First, reports that a child living in a family with a stepfather was abused rarely say who the abuser was. Some children are abused by their biological mother, so blaming all stepchild abuse on the stepfather distorts reality. Also, a child’s bruises or broken bones are more likely to be called abuse when a stepfather is in the home, and more likely to be called accidental when a biological father is, so data showing a higher incidence of abuse in homes with a stepfather are again biased. “There is no substantial difference between the rates of severe violence committed by genetic parents and by stepparents,” Prof. Buller concludes.