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Publication Detail
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Emmott E, Abigail P
  • Publisher:
    Springer, Cham
  • Publication date:
  • Editors:
    Shackelford T,Weekes-Shackelford V
  • Book title:
    Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science
  • Keywords:
    Alloparenting, Caregiving, Babysitting, Childcare, Cooperation
Who helped you develop into the person you are today? Most of us may think about a parent or parents, but many of us would also recognise the important role of other people. Perhaps it’s a teacher, a grandparent, or a neighbourhood friend. The fact that we are supported by many people in our childhood is, in fact, very unusual: In non-human mammals, support –or investments- for juveniles are typically and solely provided by the biological mother. Only 9-10% of mammals display parental care, where biological fathers are additionally involved in raising offspring, without the support of other helpers (Kleiman & Malcolm, 1981). In humans, we see a notably different system of facultative fathering, where biological fathers may or may not provide investments into their children, combined with a range of additional caregivers beyond the biological parents. These additional caregivers, or alloparents, can include siblings, grandparents and extended kin, as well as non-relatives such as step-parents, friends and neighbours. Support from alloparents, meaning “other parents,” is arguably an obligate human characteristic. This is because, compared to other primates, humans have an extended childhood and adolescence: while the conceptualisation and timing of adulthood does somewhat vary between cultures, broadly speaking, humans do not become “mature” and self-sustaining until their mid-teens to early 20s. During childhood and adolescence, we experience a prolonged period of physical growth and skills development, making us depended on sustained support from parents and alloparents to survive, develop and successfully reach adulthood. Non-parental caregivers are therefore necessary for successful reproduction and childrearing in humans- although who supports parents and how varies cross-culturally. But how did alloparenting evolve? Why do alloparents help in childrearing, and how do they influence parental fitness? This chapter provides an overview of alloparenting in humans, outlining different types of alloparenting, broadly addressing the evolution of alloparenting, and providing a brief review of key alloparents in humans across cultures.
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