“[This book] brings together high-quality papers from many different fields: endocrinology, evolutionary biology, demography, economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology… It can be seen as a practical tool for researchers in the field, and it provides a large amount of data across a wide range of populations and helps to find a common ground between theories emerging from different fields. It is the kind of book that will never end up in the last dusty row of your shelves because you will continually refer to it, picking up here and there empirical and theoretical data for the next decades.” · BioOne. Research Evolved
From a comparative perspective, human life histories are unique and raising offspring is unusually costly: humans have relatively short birth intervals compared to other apes, childhood is long, mothers care simultaneously for many dependent children (other apes raise one offspring at a time), infant mortality is high in natural fertility/mortality populations, and human females have a long post-reproductive lifespan. These features conspire to make child raising very burdensome. Mothers frequently defray these costs with paternal help (not usual in other ape species), although this contribution is not always enough. Grandmothers, elder siblings, paid allocarers, or society as a whole, help to defray the costs of childcare, both in our evolutionary past and now. Studying offspring care in a various human societies, and other mammalian species, a wide range of specialists such as anthropologists, psychologists, animal behaviorists, evolutionary ecologists, economists and sociologists, have contributed to this volume, offering new insights into and a better understanding of one of the key areas of human society.
Gillian Bentley is a biological anthropologist and reproductive ecologist and a Royal Society Research Fellow at University College London. Her prior work focused on explaining why different human populations occupying a range of environments have varying levels of reproductive hormones. She now directs projects that interface with reproduction and reproductive health, working with the migrant Bangladeshi community in London. Recent publications include Infertility in the Modern World: Present and Future Prospects, edited with C.G.N. Mascie-Taylor (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Ruth Mace is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at University College London. She works on the evolutionary ecology of social and subsistence systems. Particular interests include parental investment, mainly in African populations but also in the UK, and also macro-evolutionary studies on the evolution of cultural diversity. Recent publications include The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach, edited with C. Holden and S. Shennan (UCL Press, 2005).
It seems that alloparenting is a necessary but flexible phenomenon
for humans that may have co-evolved with other life-history traits such as our larger brain size, short birth-intervals, long life spans and extended juvenile period. The
heavy investment of parenting typical for humans whose offspring need nurturing for several years has led to the evolution of multiple patterns of allocare and parenting strategies which shape themselves around the particular ecological circumstances of societies. What works well in one context, or for one family may not for another, but the most important outcome is the long-term well-being and health of the next generation.
The Biological Basis of Alloparental Behaviour in Mammals
Nancy G. Solomon and Loren D. Hayes
In this chapter, we have reviewed the biological basis of alloparental care, summarizing
proximate (mechanistic) and ultimate (functional) explanations for alloparental care in mammals. Can these hypotheses apply to alloparental care in humans? We
argue that many of the proposed proximate and ultimate explanations can be applied to human behaviour. Species of cooperatively
breeding mammals are likely to provide useful comparative data for examining human alloparental care because we should be able to identify the biological basis
for alloparental care in societies that lack cultural overlays.
Kin, Demography and Child Health in a Rural Gambian Population
Rebecca Sear and Ruth Mace
In this study, we focus on a traditional society, and assume
inclusive fitness arguments largely provide an explanation for allocare. Hamilton's rule states that help will be provided to recipients by their relatives, provided that the costs of helping are less than the benefits to the recipient, discounted by the degree of relatedness between recipient and donor: rb>c where r represents the coefficient of relatedness (the probability that any gene will be shared by recipient and donor), b the benefits of helping and c the costs. For allocare to become common between a given set of relatives, the benefits of allocare (b) must be relatively high, the costs (c) relatively low, or both.
Cooperative Breeding and the Contributions of Maya Siblings, Parents and Older Adults in Raising Children
Karen L. Kramer
This chapter uses time allocation data to observe first how Maya mothers resolve the allocation trade-off of investing in childcare and economic activities that support
older children, and second, the role that fathers, children and older adults play in subsidizing the cost of reproduction. The Maya are an ideal population to examine
the relative contribution of different classes of helpers since they are a natural fertility
population, have large families, and mothers draw on help from a number of individuals. Emphasis is placed on cross-cultural comparison.
The study of allomothering has received increasingly more attention from anthropologists
and evolutionary biologists during the last decade. It is now well established that, compared to other primates, human children require extensive maternal care or investment. Considerable evidence shows that they also require non-parental investment as well if they want to improve their chances of survival.
Beng Perspectives on Mothers, Neighbours and Strangers as Caretakers
I begin this discussion by exploring the multiple social ties that Beng infants forge with a large range of familiar Others and then investigate the striking
case of 'strangers' who form part of the social universe of village-dwelling Beng babies. Throughout the chapter, I aim to demonstrate that the Beng child-rearing agenda emphasizes as a major goal the teaching of the value of sociability. The strategy has foundations most obviously in women's labour practices but also, perhaps even more interestingly, in religious ideology.
This chapter endeavours to describe how the economic literature on alloparenting has developed. The next section considers how economists have framed the reasons for alloparenting and derived how economic factors may affect alloparenting decisions. The third section shows that while empirical work has provided substantial
evidence on alloparenting choices in the U.K. and identified many key characteristics related to those decisions, finding precise evidence on how these driving forces operate
has proved to be a challenge. The fourth section of the paper presents the arguments for government involvement in influencing alloparenting choices and summarises recent childcare policy developments in the U.K.
Does it make sense to think of the school as an alloparent? Clearly schools and teachers share some responsibility with parents for the care and education of children, but
a more interesting question is whether schools behave like parents, and this is the topic I address here. I argue that, in general, they do not, and that this matters. I limit myself mainly to England, since this is where my data originate.
The Parenting and Substitute Parenting of Young Children
In this chapter, I propose to examine some of the variations in parenting and alloparenting/
substitute parenting which exist cross-culturally. I realize that the word 'cross-cultural' itself raises conceptual and methodological issues about the possibility of comparing very different kinds of experiences, but I am going to take that debate for granted. I assume that although problematic, such comparisons may offer some salutary lessons about variation in experiences.
Although adoption originally was seen as a way of meeting the needs of childless couples, over the century the philosophy has shifted to one of seeing adoption as a way of meeting the development needs of children in need. Adoption therefore appears to be a neat solution solving the emotional needs of child-seeking adults and parent-seeking children. However, these particular arrangements of helping people meet their emotional
needs are not universal.
The Experiences of Commissioning Couples and Surrogate Mothers
Developments in the field of assisted reproduction have resulted in the creation of new family types in which genetic parenthood is dissociated from social parenthood
leading us to a discussion of the concept of alloparenting. In the case of surrogacy, where one woman bears a child for another woman, the mother who gives birth to
the child, and the mother who parents the child, are not the same. There are two types of surrogacy: (i) partial (genetic) surrogacy where the surrogate mother and the commissioning father are the genetic parents of the child, and (ii) full (non-genetic)
surrogacy where the commissioning mother and the commissioning father are the genetic parents.
Alloparenting in the Context of AIDS in Southern Africa
Complex Strategies for Care
Lorraine van Blerk and Nicola Ansell
This chapter examines the various mechanisms by which alloparenting occurs in the context of the AIDS pandemic in southern Africa. The chapter begins by discussing the impacts of AIDS on children and their families and then, using the concept of the inter-generational contract, considers the effect this is having on the care arrangements
of orphans. The remainder of the chapter focuses on the findings from
Alloparental Care and the Ontogeny of Glucocorticoid Stress Response among Stepchildren
Mark V. Flinn and David Leone
The family and other kin provide important cognitive 'landmarks' for a child's understanding of its social environment. A child's family environment may be an
especially important source and mediator of psychosocial stress with consequent effects on health. In this chapter we investigate the effects of alloparental relationships on the development of stress response and concomitant health status among stepchildren
in 'Bwa Mawego,' a rural community on the eastern coast of the Caribbean island-nation of Dominica.
Harmless Side Effect of Modern Care-giving Practices or Risk Factor for Development?
Many types of non-maternal care in industrial societies confront children with a 'cage situation', in which they involuntarily land and over which they have no control. Their wish for 'return as needed' to their primary attachment figure cannot be fulfilled. The wish is intense when the adaptation fails, the quality of the care is
limited, the new caregiving person is not accepted as a secure base, and the other children cannot be used by an inhibited and fearful child as a social attraction and
rather are perceived as a threat.
Over the past thirty years, great changes have taken place in not simply the number of mothers with young children in the labour force, but most especially in the timing
of mothers' return to employment following a child's birth. Consider in this regard that in 1975, 34 per cent of mothers with children under six years of age were in the
workforce in the U.S., though by 1999 the corresponding figure was 61 per cent. More noteworthy, however, are the changes that took
place in the rates of employment of mothers with infants under a year of age. In the U.S. today, the overwhelming majority of mothers who return to employment after
having a child do so before their child's first birthday.
'It feels normal that other people are split up but not your Mum and Dad'
Divorce through the Eyes of Children
Margaret Robinson, Lesley Scanlan and Ian Butler
This chapter draws on finding from a study conducted by the authors and colleagues and funded by the ESRC as part of the Children 5–16 Research Programme. The primary aims of our study were to explore children's views, feelings and understanding of divorce, to examine their roles as active participants during the process and to find out from children what the impact of parental separation and divorce had been on their lives.