Hunter-Gatherer Childhood and Human Evolution
Even compared to other primates, we humans develop slowly, with high levels of parental and non-parental care. Research on infancy and childhood among !Kung (Bushman) hunter-gatherers of northwestern Botswana, the first hunting-gathering group where childhood was quantitatively studied, yielded a distinctive characterization of their patterns of child care and behavioral development, and surveys of prior ethnographic literature suggested that core features of these patterns were seen in other hunter-gatherers. Most of these generalizations have held up well as infancy and childhood have been scientifically studied in other hunter-gatherers. This lecture contextualizes them in the light of recent advances in our understanding of the evolution of human life histories and against the background of basic primate adaptations for infant and juvenile care. Childcare in these cultures, which in some ways represent our environments of evolutionary adaptedness (EEAs), may help explain the success of our species.