It really takes a village to raise a child: Experts say Western parents should follow the example of modern hunter-gatherer groups and see other adults not as babysitters, but as partners to raise their children
- In hunter-gatherer societies, babies are cared for by about 14 different people
- Experts say this takes the pressure off the mother, who is still seen as the primary caregiver
It really can take a village to raise a child, as experts suggest that it is better for children to have multiple people take care of them rather than just their parents.
Families may benefit from a “hunter-gatherer” approach to raising children, suggests a new paper published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
In modern hunter-gatherer societies, such as that of the Efé tribe living in the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo, babies are cared for each day by some 14 different people who are not their parents.
They are transferred between different caretakers on average eight times an hour and spend about 60 percent of daylight hours in physical contact with caretakers other than their parents.
The authors of the paper, an evolutionary anthropologist and child psychiatrist, say this takes the pressure off the mother, who in Western societies is still often expected to do most of the childcare alone, and therefore risks exhaustion and depression.
Families may benefit from a “hunter-gatherer” approach to raising children, suggests a new paper published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
The authors advise that we can learn from the hunter-gatherers — seeing other adults not just as babysitters who can step in when parents are busy, but as co-guardians who can help raise children.
Hunter-gatherers also typically have physical contact with babies, which the authors say could mimic families by carrying children around in sling-like baby carriers or giving them baby massages.
Modern day hunter-gatherers have a lot to teach us about parenting, the experts conclude, because we’ve lived more than 95 percent of our evolutionary history as hunter-gatherers and only relatively recently transitioned from living in a community to a small, self-serving life. . trapped families.
Our children may therefore be evolutionarily adapted to the hunter-gatherer approaches used in the past, and benefit psychologically from them.
Dr. Nikhil Chaudhary, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, and co-author of the paper, said: ‘Parents now have much less childcare support from their familial and social networks than they probably would have during most of our evolutionary history. . .
Such differences seem likely to create the kind of evolutionary mismatches that can be detrimental to caregivers and children alike.
“The availability of other caregivers can reduce the negative consequences of stress within the nuclear family and the risk of depression in the mother, which has a knock-on effect on the child’s well-being and cognitive development.”
The journal article is based on Dr. Chaudhary’s own observations of the Congo’s BaYaka hunter-gatherers and research by other anthropologists who study hunter-gatherer groups.
Remarkably, hunter-gatherer children can have more than 10 caretakers per infant or toddler in their society, the article said, so help and personal attention are likely always close at hand.
In UK day care centers there may be one carer for every three children under the age of two, or one adult for every four children aged two to three.
Dr. Chaudhary said: ‘Almost all day, hunter-gatherer babies and toddlers have a skilled caretaker within a few feet of them.
Hunter-gatherers also typically have physical contact with babies, which the authors advise families can replicate by carrying children around in sling-like baby carriers
“From the baby’s perspective, that closeness and responsiveness is very different from what is experienced in many UK nurseries.
“If that ratio becomes even thinner, we have to consider the possibility that this could have consequences for the well-being of children.”
Of course, in camps of 25 to 70 people, the hunter-gatherer approach is difficult to replicate and about 40 percent of children in these societies die before the age of 15, so researchers advise that we should not idealize hunter-gatherer societies. .
But they say increasing staff-to-child ratios in daycare centers to bring them closer to hunter-gatherer ratios could improve the well-being of both children and adults.