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Origins, Evolution, and Implications

Edited by Courtney L. Meehan and Alyssa N. Crittenden

This collection is the first to specifically address our current understanding of the evolution of human childhood, which in turn significantly affects our interpretations of the evolution of family formation, social organization, cultural transmission, cognition, ontogeny, and the physical and socioemotional needs of children. Moreover, the importance of studying the evolution of childhood has begun to extend beyond academic modeling and into real-world applications for maternal and child health and well-being in contemporary populations around the world. Combined, the chapters show that what we call childhood is culturally variable yet biologically based and has been critical to the evolutionary success of our species; the significance of integrating childhood into models of human life history and evolution cannot be overstated. This volume further demonstrates the benefits of interdisciplinary investigation and is sure to spur further interest in the field.

2016. 360 pp., 6 halftones, 6 charts, 10 tables, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Courtney L. Meehan, Alyssa N. Crittenden, Robin M. Bernstein, Barry Bogin, Jared Bragg, Courtney Helfrecht, Sarah B. Hrdy, Melvin Konner, Christopher Kuzawa, David F. Lancy, Courtney D. Malcom, Andrew J. Nelson, Daniel Sellen, Jennifer L. Thompson

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Childhood: Origins, Evolution, and Implications provides a timely and much needed step toward the synthesis of research surrounding one of our species’ most distinctive and fascinating characteristics. . . . Drawing upon research spanning human biological, life historical, developmental, ethnographic, psychological, paleoarchaeological, and applied global health approaches, Childhood is a valuable resource for advanced anthropology students and researchers alike looking for a single work offering multiple perspectives on the evolution of human childhood. . . . [It] has much to offer and represents an important contribution toward a holistic anthropological approach that is likely to dominate future discourse on the evolution of childhood.”
Samuel S. Urlacher, City University of New York, American Journal of Human Biology, March/April 2017


“This edited collection is . . . a very welcome, and timely, addition to the field. It works very well as an introduction to the topic, as a critical analysis of research already done, and importantly, it also pays careful attention to the implications of this work for contemporary children. . . . Overall, this book is an important and opportune collection, showing the role that evolutionary anthropologists have in discussing contemporary problems while also illuminating the human past. . . . The editors say in the conclusion that many of the debates at the workshop were ‘lively,’ and for those of us not fortunate enough to take part in these fascinating discussions, reading this book is the next best thing.”
—Heather Montgomery, The Open University, Journal of Anthropological Research, Fall 2017

List of Illustrations

Chapter One: Multiple Perspectives on the Evolution of Childhood
Alyssa N. Crittenden and Courtney L. Meehan

Social and cognitive correlates of childhood and human life history

Chapter Two: Development Plus Social Selection in the Emergence of “Emotionally Modern” Humans
Sarah B. Hrdy

Chapter Three: Childhood, Biocultural Reproduction, and Human Lifetime Reproductive Effort
Barry Bogin, Jared Bragg, and Christopher Kuzawa

Growth and development: Defining childhood

Chapter Four: Childhood and Patterns of Growth in the Genus Homo
Jennifer L. Thompson and Andrew J. Nelson

Chapter Five: Hormones and the Evolution of Childhood in Humans and Nonhuman Primates
Robin M. Bernstein

Ethnographic approaches to studying childhood and social learning

Chapter Six: Hunter-Gatherer Infancy and Childhood in the Context of Human Evolution
Melvin Konner

Chapter Seven: Children’s Foraging and Play among the Hadza: The Evolutionary Significance of “Work Play”
Alyssa N. Crittenden

Chapter Eight: Ethnographic Perspectives on Culture Acquisition
David F. Lancy

Childhood in context: Contemporary implications of evolutionary approaches

Chapter Nine: Implications of Lengthy Development and Maternal Life History: Allomaternal Investment, Peer Relationships, and Social Networks
Courtney L. Meehan, Courtney Helfrecht, and Courtney D. Malcom

Chapter Ten: Integrating Evolutionary Perspectives into Global Health and Implementation Science
Daniel Sellen

Chapter Eleven, Conclusion: Emerging Issues in Studies of the Evolution of Childhood
Alyssa N. Crittenden and Courtney L. Meehan


There are no working papers for this book at the present time.