Children rely on support from parental helpers (alloparents), perhaps especially in high-needs contexts. Considerable evidence indicates that closer relatives and maternal relatives are the most likely to provide this care, as inclusive fitness theory suggests, but whether this is equally true across different family types and in culturally patrilocal societies requires investigation. This structured interview study (N = 208 respondents with 323 dependent children) focuses on who helps raise children in rural Bangladesh after the father’s or mother’s death, or divorce, in comparison to families with both parents present or the father temporarily a migrant laborer. Family types differed in where and with whom children resided, who served as their primary and secondary caregivers, and who provided material support, but mother’s kin played a major role, and were the primary providers of material resources from outside the child’s household in all family types. Despite the patrilineal ideology, only one-quarter of children of divorce lived with the father or his family, and even after the death of the mother, only 59% remained with father or other paternal kin. Household income varied by family type and was a strong predictor of child height and weight. The children of deceased mothers moved between successive caregivers especially frequently, and were uniquely likely to have no schooling. The typology of Bangladeshi society as patrilocal obscures the extent to which matrilateral family support children’s well-being.
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