New research shows hunter-gatherer family structures may have produced nicer people. We smell a new parenting fad — and maybe some useful ideas.
The Daily Beast's Danielle Friedman writes about research by psychologist Darcia Narvaez, who says, "The way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well being and a moral sense." Her solution: go back in time, to the practices of hunter-gatherer societies who, according to Friedman, "committed minimal acts of violence and were remarkably generous and cooperative." Of course, this isn't the first time people have looked to prehistory for the cure to modern life — for some people, the so-called Paleolithic diet is now an entire "caveman lifestyle." So is "caveman parenting" just the latest hyper-retro fad?
Sort of. Actually, Friedman points out that several of Narvaez's key tenets will be familiar to practitioners of attachment parenting. At least a couple — home birth and breast-feeding (Narvaez recommends women continue the latter for two to five years) — aren't necessarily possible for everyone, and advocating them as the way to raise a moral child leaves out a lot of people. Others, however, might have interesting implications for how we structure our society. Narvaez recommends that kids receive care from a number of adults, not just their parents — and that they be allowed to play with kids of a variety of ages. Explains Friedman, "hunter-gatherers weren't separated into age-specific play circles, exposing them to kids at different stages of development."
Obviously, school provides modern kids with both varied caregivers and playmates, to a certain extent. But Narvaez's recommendations also seem like an argument for shared-care arrangements — and against the idea that a biological mother is the only person who can adequately care for a child. Perhaps "traditional family" advocates should look a bit farther back for their traditions. And perhaps we should all be embracing policies that help families pool their resources and child-care duties, rather than encouraging the kind of nuclear family isolation that sometimes seems to prevail today. I'm not generally a fan of the theory that everything was better in the past — but in this case, teaching kids to get along with a lot of different people may just be smart.
Parent Like A Caveman [Daily Beast]
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