Journal of Ethology

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 109–116 | Cite as

Behaviour of parents and children in two contrasting urban neighbourhoods: an observational study

  • Daniel NettleEmail author


Studies based on self-report questionnaires suggest that there are social gradients in parental investment within developed societies, with reduced investment occurring in families of lower socioeconomic position. However, these results have not been investigated by direct observation of behaviour in its natural setting. Here, I report the results of an observational study of behaviour of parents and children on the streets of two neighbourhoods of the same city, one affluent and one deprived. In the deprived neighbourhood relative to the affluent one, children were more likely to be on the streets in the evenings, were less likely to be accompanied by adults, infants were more likely to be crying, and babies were more likely to be in the care of children. Where mothers were present, though, they were less likely to be the sole adult with a brood. In particular, there was a greater prevalence of groups consisting of multiple females plus children. Although only two sites have been studied here, the method could be extended to other areas, and the initial results confirm that, under harsh environmental conditions, children receive less care by adults, alloparenting of infants by children becomes more important, and women mitigate the costs of caring for children by cooperating with other adults, particularly other women.


Human behavioural ecology Parental investment Infant crying Cooperative breeding Observational methods 


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Behaviour and EvolutionNewcastle UniversityNewcastleUK

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