Most male mammals have little contact with their offspring. Why are our types different?
Lee Gottler is hard to call on the phone, which is why he usually takes care of his two young children. Although among mammals it makes it cool. p>
Several mysteries regarding how strange human fathers develop remain of great interest, including the hormonal changes of being a father (see sidebar below). A deeper understanding of where parents are raised, and why it is important for parents and children to be parents, can benefit all types of families. "If you look at other mammalian species, parents don't care about doing anything but sperm," says Rebecca Sear, a demographic and evolutionary anthropologist at the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine. Mothers also bear the burden of most other animals looking after their babies. (Whales are an exception - most aren't small at all, but caring parents are usually parents. And pairs of birds are famous for their parents.)
Even among other apes, we are the closest of relatives, most parents don't do much. This means that mothers are caught up in everything and have to make sure they can take care of them. For example, wild chimpanzees give birth every four to six years. Orangutans wait up to six to eight years among the young. Human ancestors were committed to a different strategy. Mothers received help from the community and their relatives, including fathers. This liberated them enough to bring more children together - on average every three years in today's non-industrial societies. Gottler says the strategy is "part of the evolutionary success story of humans." Zoom in / Don't let this male gorilla fool you - he'll probably let the kids hang out. Paul Zinken/Photo Alliance via Getty Images
Dotted Gorilla Fathers
Here are some clues about the paternity origins of the couple close to our prime minister. Stacey Rosenbaum, a biological anthropologist at the University of Michigan studies wild mountain gorillas in Rwanda. These gorillas provide intriguing insights into the origins of ape fathers, as Gottler and colleagues Rosenbaum and Adam Boyet argued in their 2020 Annual Anthropology Discussion
The mountain gorilla is a species of eastern gorilla. They differ in habitat and diet from the western gorilla - a separate species more common in zoos. Rosenbaum is more interested in another thing that characterizes mountain gorillas: "Children spend a lot of time around men." /Advertising
These men may or may not be their fathers. Mountain gorillas don't seem to know males or take care of their young. But almost all men tolerate children. Unlike any other great ape studied in the wild, males—twice the size of females with large muscles and large teeth—basically nurse babies. Some take children, play with them, and even sleep in each other's arms.
This male company can protect young gorillas from predators, and prevent young gorillas from being killed by intrusive men. Rosenbaum speculates that there is another important social advantage. Young gorillas that mingle around an adult male may acquire social skills as young children from their kindergarten peers. Additionally, research has shown that relationships between young gorillas and adult males continue as these children get older.
Another interesting point about the benefits of male gorillas to the young men in their group is a recent article on young mountain gorillas whose mothers have died. The researchers found that losing the mothers of these orphans did not increase their risk of death. Nor did they face other costs such as waiting longer before their children. Orphans' relationships with others in their group, especially dominant men, seemed to protect them from ill influences.
Mountain gorillas aren't the only ones who feud with children. Male macaques also spend time with their young. Male baboons make "friendships" with females and their young, and they are often (but not always) their offspring. These behaviors cost almost nothing to the male primate. Therefore, although men may enhance the survival of their children, it does not matter if they also spend time with some unrelated children.
Are dads sexy? But baby care may be helpful. Mention the gorilla in another way: with more cuteness. "One of our assumptions is that women really prefer to mate with men who have a lot of contact with children," Rosenbaum says. He found that male gorillas, who nursed more children early in life, gave birth to more children in adulthood. Rosenbaum also says that macaques seem more attractive to women who spend more time socializing with children. Anthropologists believed that parental behavior could only change in isolated animals. Species such as mountain gorillas undermine this assumption. They also showed that despite what scientists have long believed, male animals do not have to choose between spending their energy on mating or parenting. It seems that childcare could be a way to get a spouse.
Studies of human parents suggest the same idea. "A lot of kids feel comfortable communicating with them knowing they're not one of them," says Kermit Anderson, a biological anthropologist at the University of Oklahoma. This investment may seem an evolutionary paradox. But Anderson's research shows that men invest in young children and even biological children as an investment from the mother. When this relationship ends, parents become less involved.Advertising
A human father who takes care of his children or grandchildren is different from a monkey or a monkey who only allows children to be around them. But Gottler and Rosenbaum wonder if our ancestors had habits similar to those of mountain gorillas or macaques. Under the evolutionary pressures they have faced, these child-friendly attitudes can turn into sacrificial parenting.
Many Kinds of Parents
Human parents are clearly not unfamiliar with their children. “However, it is also clear that being a father is quite a variable in humans,” says Jarre. Not all parents are spotted, or even absent. Anthropologist Lee Goetler worked on a long-term study of Filipino men, collecting biological data from them in their early twenties and following it up five years later. He and his colleagues found that later, when researchers followed up on this issue, men with higher testosterone were more likely to have a wife and children in their early twenties. But those new parents no longer have high testosterone - it's dropped dramatically, especially if they have a newborn at home. When he was the youngest baby, his testosterone started crawling up. Testosterone is associated with mating and competitive behavior in male animals. The researchers said the "oppression" may be a way to prepare parents to work with their partners and care for children. Although caring parents are rare among mammals and most animals, many of them can be found in birds - bird parents also have low levels of testosterone. Parents of birds have more—and some studies suggest a similar effect on humans. Although we only communicate with birds at a distance, evolution may have used the same mechanisms to encourage parental behavior in both animals. A better understanding of these mechanisms may help us learn how the father develops.
"If we understand the most important physiological pathways in such animals, we can learn whether the same signatures are present in human parents." He says.
But this does not necessarily affect basic survival. In a 2008 article, Sir and author Ruth Mess asked if children who had an absent father were more likely to die. They looked at child survival data from 43 population studies around the world, most of them for people with no access to modern medical care. They found that in a third of the fathers surveyed, children lived longer than the father's age. But in the other two-thirds, orphans did the same. (Conversely, every study of orphans has shown that they are less likely to survive.)
"This is not what you really expect parents to see in their children's development," says Sir. Instead, he believes that what parents do is very important. When the father is missing, others in the family or community can do so. He says that the role of the father may be important, but that it is being replaced by other members of the social group.
What is that? The role? Father. 'Supply' know—they literally bring bacon home. In some societies that Looking for food, more successful hunters have more children.But Gottler hopes he can broaden the definition of a father.Research has shown that fathers can also play an important role in the direct care of their children, for example, and in teaching children social and language skills, he says. Gottler Fathers may also help their children by building relationships in their communities Time to stay, “The network can be anything.”
A father's job is also culturally different, for example in the Republic of the Congo, Gottler works with Two adjacent communities: Bondongo, a fisherman, who are farmers, and value fathers who risk their families for food, and their neighbors, Payaka, are pioneers who provide resources to fathers. They value outside of their families. Says Sir, a self-centered, self-reliant couple where the father takes care of the day and takes care of Mother with everything: “In the West, we have this ideal for the nuclear family. Is a child. But worldwide, such families are very rare, he says. In a recent article, Sir wrote that a child's biological parents may not live alone, for life, or at all. Childcare and food can be from either parent - or none at all. Among the Himba of Namibia, for example, children are often raised by large families.
"Perhaps the main distinguishing feature of our species is our behavioral flexibility." Garlic writes: If we assume that some roles are "normal" for fathers, this makes fathers feel isolated and stressed. He hopes the research will broaden our understanding of what parents are and what the human family is. This may help communities better support different types of families - whether it's parents like Gottler chasing children around them, or parents who are far from hunting or have no father at all.
“I think we say, 'We need to see more non-judgmental view of the human family and the kinds of family structures that children can develop,' to improve the health of mothers, fathers, and children.”
Editor's note : This story was updated on June 16, 2021 to correct the name of the country where Bundongo and Payaka live. As mentioned at the beginning, this is the Republic of the Congo, not the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Elizabeth Preston is a freelance journalist who lives with her husband and two deeply dependent children in the Boston area.
This article was originally published in Danstani, an annual independent journalistic effort. Subscribe to our newsletter.
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