Berghahn Books Logo

berghahn New York · Oxford

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Instagram
Substitute Parents: Biological and Social Perspectives on Alloparenting in Human Societies
Volume 3

Studies of the Biosocial Society

Email Newsletters

Sign up for our email newsletters to get customized updates on new Berghahn publications.

Click here to select your preferences

Substitute Parents

Biological and Social Perspectives on Alloparenting in Human Societies

Edited by Gillian Bentley and Ruth Mace

372 pages, 8 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-106-6 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2009)

ISBN  978-0-85745-641-0 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Published (April 2012)

eISBN 978-1-84545-953-6 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


[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).

Subject: Sociology Anthropology (General)
Area: Africa



Sarah Hardy

Gillian R. Bentley and Ruth Mace


Chapter 1. Biological basis of alloparental behaviour in animals
Nancy G. Solomon and Loren D. Hayes

Chapter 2. Family matters: kin, demography and child health in a rural Gambian population
Rebecca Sear and Ruth Mace

Chapter 3. Does it take a family to raise a child? Cooperative breeding in humans using the example of Maya subsistence agriculturalists
Karen L. Kramer

Chapter 4. Changing times for the Argentine Toba: Who cares for the baby now?
Claudia Valeggia

Chapter 5. Who minds the baby? Beng perspectives on mothers, neighbours, and strangers as caretakers
Alma Gottlieb

Chapter 6. Economic perspectives on alloparenting
Gillian Paull

Chapter 7. The school as parent
Berry Mayall

Chapter 8. The parenting and substitute parenting of young children
Helen Penn

Chapter 9. Adoption, adopters and adopted children
David Howe

Chapter 10. Surrogacy: The experiences of commissioning couples and surrogate mothers
Emma Lycett


Chapter 11. Alloparenting in the context of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa: Complex strategies for Care
Lorraine van Blerk and Nicola Ansell

Chapter 12. Alloparenting and the ontogeny of HPA stress response among stepchildren
Mark V. Flinn

Chapter 13. Separation stress in early childhood: Harmless side effect of modern caregiving practices or risk factor for development?
Joachim Bensel

Chapter 14. Quality, quantity and type Of child care: Effects on child development in the USA
Jay Belsky

Chapter 15. ‘It feels normal that other people are split up but not YOUR Mum and Dad’: Divorce through the Eyes of Children
Margaret Robinson


Back to Top