My elves are hermaphrodites, but they need another partner to actually reproduce. Their pregnancies last for about two years, and pregnancy is very physically tolling. They usually give birth to one child, rarely two, never more. Not only that, but these elves are pretty sickly, and they have to take a ton of precautions to keep their infants from dying. It also takes 35 years for the children to mentally mature, and their lifespans are 500-900 years. In case you're curious, it's 40 years to physically mature and they aren't considered sexually mature until 45 years.

There's no homophobic folks or sexism in their society seeing as they're all considered one gender (unless they identify more with human genders).

They are also strong believers in the whole 'it takes a village to raise a child' type thing, which means that nuclear families are practically unheard of.

All this in mind, what would their family units look like? How many people would care for the children and pregnant people? What kinds of bonds would be formed?

Clarification: they are not nomadic. They live in cities nowadays just like humans. I'm asking about immediate and/or extended family, depending on the structure, and it's not matriarchal or patriarchal seeing as they don't really get those concepts.

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    $\begingroup$ How many humans rear a human child until "maturity"? Dozens? Hundreds? are we including every teacher and babysitter? Every coach and crossing guard? The wealthy will have servants to perform childcare: nannies, and cooks, and music teachers…. The poor will rely on extended family and neighbors. Childcare has nothing to do with sexual positions and who has innie and outie genitalia. Since "it takes a village" is amped up, I guess it is a village and a half? or more? How big are the elf villages? How nomadic? Do they live in matrilineal pods? This is way too broad. $\endgroup$
    – wetcircuit
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 2:19
  • $\begingroup$ They are extinct, they can't even manage replacement levels of reproduction, injuries and disease will have wiped them out generations ago. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ @wetcircuit i'm moreso meaning immediate family, and i'm not really looking for sexual positions, but thank you. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ If these elves are very sickly its likely (though by no means certaun That they prefer monogomy (at least as far as sex is concerned) to prevent the spreading of STI's. Also when you say that they have 1-2 kids is that per pregnancy or per person per lifetime? $\endgroup$
    – Ummdustry
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 6:52
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    $\begingroup$ The word "family" means different things in different cultures. For example, in ancient Latin (the Latin spoken by actual Romans) the word "familia" designated the persons who owed obedience to the head of the family ("pater familias") -- the wife, the children, the wives of the sons, their children, the servants in the house, and their children. The Romans didn't even have a word word for just "the husband and wife and their children". "Family units" they are a western invention of the late 19th century; why on Earth do the elves live in a society similar to the modern western world? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 8:03

1 Answer 1


Families of an intelligent long-lived bipedal species would look a lot like human families, but with a twist as it'll depend on the number of sexual partners the hermaphrodites have:

  • If monogamous:
    Just like human families: a child takes a lot of care and though they're long-lived, 2 to 3 children will be the norm.
  • If serially monogamous:
    They would end up like the extended families you see in divorced / remarried families nowadays: multiple children from diverse partners travelling daily / weekly / monthly to the other parental family. (distance from the other partner plays a role)
  • if one sexual partner per child:
    This would be like the small tribes of early humans: as you cannot marry your "brosister"¹, "auntcle"², cousin, ... tribes would meet regularly and new tribes would split off to ensure genetic divergence.

¹ Brother-sister but without the gender
² Aunt-uncle genderless as well

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    $\begingroup$ Surely a "brosister" is just a "sibling"? (And, I guess, technically an aunt/uncle would be a "zeroth cousin, once removed", or even "sibling, once removed" - but that's even more of a mouthful than "auntcle"..) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ These are elves, so I hope another language with different concepts isn't totally off the map? 0:-) $\endgroup$
    – Fabby
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 17:54

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