Study explores the moment when ancient societies began to 'take a village to raise a child'

When do mothers need others?
Karen Kramer, an associate professor of anthropology, published a study in the Journal of Human Evolution titled, 'When Mothers Need Others: Life History Transitions Associated with the Evolution of Cooperative Breeding.' Her research examines how mothers underwent a remarkable transition from the past - when they had one dependent offspring at a time, ended support of their young at weaning and received no help from others -- to the present, when mothers often have multiple kids who help rear other children. In this photo, a Pumé hunter-gatherer woman both cares for her young child and cooks a meal for her older children. Kramer has worked with the Pumé in Venezuela since 2005. Credit: Karen Kramer

Hillary Clinton once famously said, "It takes a village to raise a child." It turns out that's been true for centuries: New research by a University of Utah anthropologist explains how and why mothers in ancient societies formed cooperative groups to help raise their children.Karen Kramer, an associate professor of anthropology, published a study in the Journal of Human Evolution titled, "When Mothers Need Others: Life History Transitions Associated with the Evolution of Cooperative Breeding."

Her research examines how mothers underwent a remarkable transition from the past—when they had one dependent offspring at a time, ended support of their young at weaning and received no help from others—to the present, when mothers often have multiple kids who help rear other children. "We simulated an economic problem that would have arisen over the course of human evolution—as mothers became more successful at producing children, they also had more dependents than they could care for on their own," said Kramer of her research.

"We found that early in that transition, it was a mother's older children who helped to raise her younger children and only with more modern life histories did mothers also need the cooperation of other adults. This suggests that early human families may have formed around cooperating groups of mothers and children."

Her findings are departure from earlier hypotheses by other anthropologists. Most hypotheses about who helped mothers in point to other adults. Kramer's study, however, found that it is a mother's own children who were the most reliable as helpers.

Other key points in Kramer's study include:

  • Human motherhood has undergone a remarkable transition from a past when mothers likely nursed children until the age of 5 to 6, did not nutritionally support children after weaning, and received no help raising the children. Going back in time, it might be possible to find groups of mothers and cooperating siblings who helped to raise other children. As time progressed, mothers have relied on other adult relatives and fathers to help out.
  • Mothers make tradeoffs. Do they take care of the children they already have, do they have another one, or do they do something else with their time? These same decisions that mothers made in the past are still being made today.

"Human mothers are interesting. They're unlike mothers of many other species because they feed their children after weaning and others help them raise their children. As an anthropologist, I live and work in traditional societies where, like other researchers, I have observed many times that it takes a village to raise a child. Not only do mothers work hard to care for their young, but so do her older children, grandmothers, fathers and other relatives. But this wasn't always the case," Kramer said.

"Deep in the past, mothers likely received no help and consequently had much lower rates of fertility and lost many children. So we have to ask, why do others cooperate with and help them raise their children? This is an important question because you could do many other things with your time beside help someone else raise their children."

Kramer's research methodology used a set of mathematical formulas, plugged different variables into them in order to simulate the evolution of families from the past to the present. She said there is still much to learn in the field of anthropology about how humans began to cooperate and how cooperation became more complex over time.

"Humans are extraordinary cooperators. However, most research has focused on adults and we know very little about how cooperation develops in children," Kramer said.

"We know that the psychological mechanisms that prepare us for a life of cooperation—such as a sense of fairness and the ability to show empathy, share food and help each other—begin to develop in very young children. What we need to explore is what actually do—how they cooperate and at what price—in societies where they still play an important economic role."


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Journal information: Journal of Human Evolution

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May 08, 2015
"It takes a village"? Why do people who haven't raised a kid,always have the advice for others about how to raise a kid... let me clarify... people who have actually, personally raised their children. But, now that I think about it, does anyone actually raise their kids anymore? It seems like society, more often than not, is having the village raise their kids. Let's check the list. Grandma, day care, baby sitter, the TV, the street, creepy uncle, the pedophile boyfriend, gang bangers... yeah. The village raises lots of kids these days. Well, not all of us push off our kids to someone else so we can be the ME generation. Some of us actually help our kids do their homework and follow their cirriculum, cook at least three meals a day, take them to extra curricular activities, teach life lessons, put in the quality time, love and discipline. I don't give out advice to others, not because my kids are not successful, but because I don't see parents who care enough put forth the effort.

May 08, 2015
The 'village' used to be all those in the neighborhood that knew who you were or knew who your parents were and if you misbehaved, they would tell you and your parents would find out.
And you knew you were in trouble.
Today, those in the neighborhood ignore your behavior because they don't want to be yelled at by parents for criticizing their angel.

May 08, 2015
Hilary was not the one who made that statement famous....jeez

May 08, 2015
When they say it takes a village today what they really mean to say is that only a government can properly raise your child. Argue with the governments authority in these matters and Child "Protective" Services will snatch them from you in a blink of an eye.

May 09, 2015
Hilary was not the one who made that statement famous....jeez


Can anyone guess why we are hearing this now? I heard "it takes a village" this morning on NPR.

May 09, 2015
When they say it takes a village today what they really mean to say is that only a government can properly raise your child. Argue with the governments authority in these matters and Child "Protective" Services will snatch them from you in a blink of an eye.


"Hospital Holds West Hartford Girl For 9 Months After Parents Argue Diagnosis"
http://foxct.com/...agnosis/

Justina almost died in govt custody.

May 09, 2015
Oh, wow. The web has truly become a place for trolls, and among them prominently conspiracy nutters, as nearly no one cares for the article except for a platform to make unsubstantiated or irrelevant (anecdotal) claims.

Bu we all know they won't be ashamed, else why would they post futilely in the first place?

Now then, the two actual points raised:

- "Why do people who haven't raised a kid,always have the advice for others about how to raise a kid".

The article describes science that predicts that: "This suggests that early human families may have formed around cooperating groups of mothers and children."" Even if you don't have kids (yet, say), it helps propagate your genes if you help kin procreate. (And this effect, as well as parental feelings, spills over.)

[tbctd]

May 09, 2015
[ctd]

- "Hilary was not the one who made that statement famous".

The article isn't in error, it didn't claim that but that when she said it the event became famous.

Clinton wrote a controversial book with that title (it turns out, since I didn't have the cultural reference but had to google). "The theme of the book, at least as perceived from its title, aroused immediate opposition within the United States." [ http://en.wikiped..._Village ]

Also: "The saying and its attribution as an "African" proverb were in circulation before it was adopted by Clinton as the source for the title of her book. Indeed, the saying previously provided the source for the title of a children's book entitled It Takes a Village by Jane Cowen-Fletcher, published in 1994.[6]

The authenticity of the proverb is debatable as there is no evidence that this precise proverb genuinely originated with any African culture.[7][8] However, numerous proverbs ... convey similar ..."

May 09, 2015
Conservatives think you only need a big stick.

But if we are to have folk who are integrated into society with us, we have to work to do it. Look at the trouble we have in society from "Loners".

May 09, 2015
Hillary and other socialists assert the state IS the village, which is false.

May 09, 2015
Ryggy's disgust for everyone else is apparent. Is there an island where he can live alone and happy? He can build his own roads, his own TV network, grow his own food, produce his own electricity, and all that happy glee.

The rest of us do better when we work together. There are great rewards from it, which Ryggy will never know.

May 09, 2015
As usual Torbjorn_Larsson_OM's comments are spot on, and the usual nut cases are as usual.

@gkam No, he wouldn't. He's the kind of perennial loser that gets intensely jealous of anyone's progress and his raison d'etre now is basically, "I can't accomplish anything...except I can keep you from accomplishing anything!" Add delusion to that and you have a guy that stays up at night , unable to sleep, because, "Somewhere on the 'net someone is wrong!". Yeah, they're at IP 127.0.0.1.

Do you argue with spam mailers that come in the mail? It's just boilerplate stimulus response from him with his parroting conservative fortune cookies each time a trigger word is mentioned. You might as well argue with the sound of the water running in the sink for all he will ever notice/understand/listen/respond genuinely. He's got no mind. I think it's unsporting to fight an unarmed opponent and poor ryg is a naked tortoise wriggling on his back, hissing. SQUAT!

May 09, 2015
Conservatives think you only need a big stick.
...Look at the trouble we have in society from "Loners".


Not all loners are a problem. The difference is asceticism. But politics, world wide has become totally banal. Most accept the "American Dream", getting ahead, as a criterion. But it pretty much comes down to:
Conservative: I've gotten ahead, screw you!
Liberal: Let's identify a group that isn't getting ahead and help them do so.
Progressive: No one gets ahead until everyone gets ahead.

At least conservatives are honest. I get really irritated with Liberals a) courting progressive ideas...so they can make sure they never see the light of day, and b) allowing systemic problems to continue, as long as some banner group gets a new deal. It fosters the cult of "my ego identity is my victimization status". Eg. Pregnancy leave? ALL Americans need more time off; my hobby is cool 2!

May 09, 2015
"It takes a village"? Why do people who haven't raised a kid,always have the advice for others about how to raise a kid... let me clarify... people who have actually, personally raised their children.


The give-away is the goofy names. They spend more time thinking up a cutesy name than they do parenting. But the big tip off is that they're often totally made up. That's the breeders announcing, "I know more about parenting than our whole assembled traditions and I will do everything exactly how it occurs to and satisfies me, screw anyone that disagrees". And they raise useless brats. Shock.

May 09, 2015
" Eg. Pregnancy leave? ALL Americans need more time off; my hobby is cool 2!"
-----------------------------------

I have to disagree with that one as an example, AGW. I am now watching a grandchild, eight weeks old, because my daughter had to go back to work a week ago. Her husband gets no maternity leave, either, so the baby grows up without his parents most of the day.

When I had my kids, I would sometimes ricochet off the walls walking around at work, because I was always sleep-deprived.

May 09, 2015
Oh, wow. The web has truly become a place for trolls, and among them prominently conspiracy nutters, as nearly no one cares for the article except for a platform to make unsubstantiated or irrelevant (anecdotal) claims.


If you look phys.org's move from London to Isle of Man and no Companies House filings in years, coming when we're getting the worst of the worst adverts from scam promoters outbrain, taboola and adblade- ahead of the comments too- I really worry that they are taking direct consideration from groups like KochPAC, The Heritage Foundation, etc. to not delete troll posts. OK. When a post is flagged and you don't delete it because it's a paid troll, just attach, "Paid promotion". People were calling them spammers here before trolls. I think we were unconsciously on to something.

Must be. Look at how many of the serious posters are thinking of leaving because of it. There's a reason they're tolerating it. And adblade reveals their standards for revenue

May 09, 2015
irrelevant (anecdotal) claims.

This is why social 'science' fails.
Individuals are relevant anecdotes.

May 09, 2015
Get out!

Christianity invented children. http://theweek.co...children

May 09, 2015
@tjornborn I've only read the somewhat jumbled press release. I found the whole thing implausible because of the assumption that human (homo sapien?) moms once raised single infants by themselves with no help -- breastfeeding until the child was five or six then apparently leaving the child to fend for himself. This is just "armchair" anthropology -- something like Freud and his primal horde. Where is the evidence for this initial state of maternal isolation with her child? Doesn't sound right. No current 5 or 6 year old homo sapien would survive without being provisioned with food except in the richest of environments and probably not there. Second, the median age of death for these females was probably very low -- in the twenties. Would the average mom be able to raise two infants who would live to adulthood in this environment. Almost certainly not. Butressing things with mathematical simulations doesn't say anything about the author's initial conditions (basic assumption

May 09, 2015
The "Village" strikes again.

http://www.zerohe...ifestyle

May 10, 2015
166, you must be embarrassed to have to use that as a "reference"

Hilarious!

Is that where you get your "science" as well?

May 10, 2015
"166, you must be embarrassed to have to use that as a "reference"
Hilarious!
Is that where you get your "science" as well?"

I see where you are coming from Gkam, all information sources must be approved by the Ministry of Truth or they will be deemed irrelevant. You must be really happy with the direction that net "neutrality" is taking and the government control of websites it will lead to.

May 11, 2015
This is ridiculous. Look at chimp societies, mothers helping mothers predates humanity. As does fear/distrust of those "outside the tribe". Both are intricately woven into humanity.

May 11, 2015
Children don't gather resources, are not much help during illness and can do little to assist in the building of structures. They are unable to assist in defence of the family or of the mother from men.

I think there is some confusion between assistance on day to day tasks of general maintenance, feeding and caring for small children and the bigger issues of food, shelter, defence and the transmission of cultural knowledge, in none of which child siblings are of any help.

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