Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Couvade (French, from couver, to incubate), the name given by anthropologists to a group of customs prevalent among some races of low culture, in which the father acts - sometimes before and sometimes immediately after the birth of a child - as if the duties and cares of maternity devolved on him. In some cases the feither is bound to abstain from certain foods, lest they should have a prejudicial effect on the unborn infant, as if there were some physical nexus between the two. In other cases, when the child is born, the father takes the infant and retires to bed, where he is treated as an invalid. and in due time receives the congratulations of his friends on the addition to his family, while the mother goes about her usual household work. Dr. Tylor is of opinion that the custom arose from the habit, common among savage races, of mistaking subjective for objective connection. Bachofen saw in the couvade the assertion of the paternal right to the child, and fixed its origin at the period when the matriarchal gave way to the patriarchal system. A more recent view, based on the existence of the usually imperfect but sometimes functional mammary organs in the male, is that the progenitors of the Mammalia were androgynous, and that the custom is a survival from the period when both sexes yielded milk, and thus nourished their young. (See Darwin: Descent of Man, ch. vi.; Geddes and Thomson: Evolution of Sex; Notes and Queries, 7th ser., viii. 442, ix. 9, 54.)