Advertisement

Human Nature

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 309–329 | Cite as

Who Responds to Crying?

Maternal Care and Allocare among the !Kung
  • Ann Cale KrugerEmail author
  • Melvin Konner
Article

Abstract

!Kung San (Bushman) hunter-gatherers have unusually high levels of mother-infant contact and represent one of the environments of human evolutionary adaptedness (EEAs). Studies among the !Kung show that levels of crying—the most basic sign of mammalian infant distress—are low, and response to crying is high, and some suggest that responses are overwhelmingly maternal. We show that although !Kung mothers respond to crying most often, one-third of crying bouts are managed solely by someone else. Mothers responded to all bouts lasting ≥30 s, but in half of these responses they were joined by one or more others. Mothers are the most consistent responders, but multiple caregiving is common. The mother is rarely alone when her baby cries; others often substitute or join her in interventions. This social support may facilitate the high levels of maternal responsiveness characteristic of the !Kung, and of hunter-gatherers generally, but it is also consistent with recent theory emphasizing nonmaternal care (allocare) and cooperative breeding.

Keywords

Infancy Crying Maternal care Allocare Alloparental care Cross-cultural research Hunter-gatherers Cooperative breeding 

References

  1. Axia, G., & Bonichini, S. (1998). Regulation of emotion after acute pain from 3 to 18 months: a longitudinal study. Early Development & Parenting, 7(4), 203–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baildam, E. M., Hillier, V. F., Ward, B. S., Bannister, R. P., Bamford, F. N., & Moore, W. M. O. (1995). Duration and pattern of crying in the first year of life. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 37, 345–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bakeman, R., Adamson, L., Barr, R. G., & Konner, M. (1990). The social context of object exploration. Child Development, 61, 794–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bakeman, R., Adamson, L. B., Konner, M., & Barr, R. G. (1997). Sequential analyses of !Kung infant communication: Inducing and recruiting. In E. Amsel & K. A. Renninger (Eds.), Change and development: Issues of theory, method, and application (pp. 173–192). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  5. Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., Van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Juffer, F. (2003). Less is more: meta-analyses of sensitivity and attachment interventions in early childhood. Psychological Bulletin, 129(2), 195–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barr, R. G. (1990a). The early crying paradox: a modest proposal. Human Nature, 1(4), 355–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barr, R. G. (1990b). The normal crying curve: what do we know? Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 32, 368–374.Google Scholar
  8. Barr, R. G., Bakeman, R., Konner, M., & Adamson, L. (1987). Crying in !Kung infants: distress signals in a responsive context. American Journal of Diseases of Childhood, 141, 386.Google Scholar
  9. Barr, R. G., Konner, M., Bakeman, R., & Adamson, L. (1991). Crying in !Kung San infants: a test of the cultural specificity hypothesis. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 33, 601–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Barry, H. I., & Paxson, L. (1971). Infancy and early childhood: cross-cultural codes 2. Ethnology, 10, 466–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bell, S. M., & Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1972). Infant crying and maternal responsiveness. Child Development, 43, 1171–1190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bereczkei, T., & Dunbar, R. (2002). Helping-at-the-nest and sex-biased parental investment in a Hungarian Gypsy population. Current Anthropology, 43(5), 804–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blurton Jones, N. G. (1972). Ethological studies of child behaviour. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Blurton Jones, N. G. (1990). The costs of children and the adaptive scheduling of births: Towards a sociobiological perspective of demography. In A. E. Rasa, C. Vogel, & E. Voland (Eds.), The sociobiology of sexual and reproductive strategies. London: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  15. Blurton Jones, N. G. (1993). The lives of hunter-gatherer children: Effects of parental behavior and parental reproductive strategy. In M. E. Pereira & L. A. Fairbanks (Eds.), Juvenile primates: Life history, development, and behavior (pp. 309–326). New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  16. Bond, M. J., Prager, M. A., Tiggemann, M., & Tao, B. (2001). Infant crying, maternal wellbeing and perceptions of caregiving. Journal of Applied Health Behaviour, 3(1), 3–9.Google Scholar
  17. Bowlby, J. (1970–1980). Attachment and loss, 3 vols. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Draper, P. (1997). Institutional, evolutionary, and demographic contexts of gender roles: a case study of !Kung Bushmen. In M. E. Morbeck, A. Galloway, & A. L. Zihlman (Eds.), The evolving female: A life history perspective (pp. 220–232). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Draper, P., & Harpending, H. (1987). Parent investment and the child’s environment. In J. B. Lancaster, J. Altmann, A. S. Rossi, & L. R. Sherrod (Eds.), Parenting across the life span: Biosocial dimensions (pp. 207–236). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  20. Emlen, S. T. (1995). An evolutionary theory of the family. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 92(18), 8092–8099.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Etzel, B. C., & Gewirtz, J. L. (1967). Experimental modification of caretaker-maintained high-rate operant crying in a 6- and a 20-week-old infant (Infans tyrannotearus): extinction of crying with reinforcement of eye contact and smiling. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 5(3), 303–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fouts, H. N., & Lamb, M. E. (2005). Weanling emotional patterns among the Bofi foragers of Central Africa: The role of maternal availability and sensitivity. In B. S. Hewlett & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Hunter-gatherer childhoods: Evolutionary, developmmental & cultural perspectives (pp. 309–321). New Brunswick: AldineTransaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  23. Fouts, H. N., Lamb, M. E., & Hewlett, B. S. (2004). Infant crying in hunter-gatherer cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27(4), 462–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gewirtz, J. L. (1977). Does maternal responding imply reduced infant crying? A critique of the 1972 Bell and Ainsworth report. Child Development, 48, 1200–1207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gray, L., Watt, L., & Blass, E. M. (2000). Skin-to-skin contact is analgesic in healthy newborns. Pediatrics, 105(1), e14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hawkes, K. (2003). Grandmothers and the evolution of human longevity. American Journal of Human Biology, 15(3), 380–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hewlett, B. S. (1989). Multiple caretaking among African Pygmies. American Anthropologist, 91(1), 186–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hewlett, B. S. (1991). Intimate fathers: the nature and context of Aka Pygmy paternal infant care. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hewlett, B. S., & Lamb, M. E. (Eds.). (2005). Hunter-gatherer childhoods: Evolutionary, developmmental & cultural perspectives. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  30. Hewlett, B. S., Lamb, M. E., Shannon, D., Leyendecker, B., & Schölmerich, A. (1998). Culture and early infancy among central African foragers and farmers. Developmental Psychology, 34(4), 653–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hewlett, B. S., Lamb, M. E., Leyendecker, B., & Schölmerich, A. (2000). Internal working models, trust, and sharing among foragers. Current Anthropology, 41(2), 287–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hill, K., & Hurtado, A. M. (1996). Ache life history: The ecology and demography of a foraging people. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  33. Hill, K., & Hurtado, A. M. (1999). The Aché of Paraguay. In R. B. Lee & R. Daly (Eds.), The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers (pp. 92–96). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Howes, C. (1999). Attachment relationships in the context of multiple caregivers. In J. S. P. R. Cassidy (Ed.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 671–687). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  35. Hrdy, S. B. (2005). Comes the child before man: How cooperative breeding and prolonged postweaning dependence shaped human potential. In B. S. Hewlett & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Hunter-gatherer childhoods: Evolutionary, developmental and cultural perspectives (pp. 65–91). New Brunswick: AldineTransaction.Google Scholar
  36. Hrdy, S. B. (2009). Mothers and others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Hunziker, U. A., & Barr, R. G. (1986). Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 77, 641–648.Google Scholar
  38. Ivey, P. K. (2000). Cooperative reproduction in Ituri Forest hunter-gatherers: who cares for Efe infants? Current Anthropology, 41(5), 856–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kagan, J. (1977). The uses of cross-cultural research in early development. In T. H. Leiderman, S. R. Tulkin, & A. Rosenfeld (Eds.), Culture and infancy. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  40. Kaplan, H., & Dove, H. (1987). Infant development among the Ache of Eastern Paraguay. Developmental Psychology, 23(2), 190–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kaplan, H., Hill, K., Lancaster, J., & Hurtado, A. M. (2000). A theory of human life history evolution: diet, intelligence, and longevity. Evolutionary Anthropology, 9(4), 156–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Konner, M. J. (1972). Aspects of the developmental ethology of a foraging people. In N. G. Blurton Jones (Ed.), Ethological studies of child behavior (pp. 285–304). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Konner, M. J. (1976). Maternal care, infant behavior and development among the !Kung. In R. B. Lee & I. DeVore (Eds.), Kalahari hunter-gatherers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Konner, M. J. (1977). Infancy among the Kalahari Desert San. In P. H. Leiderman, S. R. Tulkin, & A. Rosenfeld (Eds.), Culture and infancy (pp. 287–328). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  45. Konner, M. J. (1981). Evolution of human behavior development. In R. H. Munroe, R. L. Munroe, & B. B. Whiting (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural human development (pp. 3–51). New York: Garland STPM Press.Google Scholar
  46. Konner, M. J. (2005). Hunter-gatherer infancy and childhood: the !Kung and others. In B. S. Hewlett & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Hunter-gatherer childhoods: Evolutionary, developmmental & cultural perspectives (pp. 19–64). New Brunswick: AldineTransaction.Google Scholar
  47. Konner, M. J., & Worthman, C. (1980). Nursing frequency, gonadal function, and birth spacing among !Kung hunter-gatherers. Science, 207, 788–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kramer, K. L. (2005). Children’s help and the pace of reproduction: cooperative breeding in humans. Evolutionary Anthropology, 14(6), 224–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lee, R. B. (1979). The !Kung San. Men, women and work in a foraging society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Lee, R. B. (1984). The Dobe !Kung. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  51. Lee, K. (2000). Crying and behavior pattern in breast- and formula-fed infants. Early Human Development, 58(2), 133–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lee, R. B., & Daly, R. (Eds.). (1999). The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Lee, R. B., & DeVore, I. (Eds.). (1976). Kalahari hunter-gatherers: Studies of the !Kung San and their neighbors. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Leiderman, P. H., & Leiderman, G. F. (1977). Economic change and infant care in an East African agricultural community. In P. H. Leiderman, S. R. Tulkin, & A. Rosenfeld (Eds.), Culture and infancy. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  55. Leiderman, P. H., Tulkin, S. R., & Rosenfeld, A. (Eds.). (1977). Culture and infancy. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  56. LeVine, R. A. (1997). Mother-infant interaction in cross-cultural perspective. In N. L. Segal, G. E. Weisfeld, & C. C. Weisfeld (Eds.), Uniting psychology and biology: integrative perspectives on human development (pp. 339–354). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lorberbaum, J. P., Newman, J. D., Horwitz, A. R., Dubno, J. R., Lydiard, R. B., Hamner, M. B., et al. (2002). A potential role for thalamocingulate circuitry in human maternal behavior. Biological Psychiatry, 51(6), 431–445.Google Scholar
  58. Lozoff, B., & Brittenham, G. (1978). Infant care: Cache or carry. Meeting of the Society for Pediatric Research. New York: Society for Pediatric Research.Google Scholar
  59. Lozoff, B., & Brittenham, G. (1979). Infant care: cache or carry. Journal of Pediatrics, 95(3), 478–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Lummaa, V., Vuorisalo, T., Barr, R. G., & Lehtonen, L. (1998). Why cry? Adaptive significance of intensive crying in human infants. Evolution & Human Behavior, 19(3), 193–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. MacLean, P. D. (1985). Brain evolution relating to family, play, and the separation call. Archives of General Psychiatry, 42, 405–417.Google Scholar
  62. McGlaughlin, A., & Grayson, A. (2001). Crying in the first year of infancy: patterns and prevalence. Journal of Reproductive & Infant Psychology, 19(1), 47–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Meehan, C. L. (2005). The effects of residential locality on parental and alloparental investment among the Aka foragers of the Central African Republic. Human Nature, 16(1), 58–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Monroe, R. H., Monroe, R. L., & Whiting, B. B. (Eds.). (1981). Handbook of cross-cultural development. New York: Garland Press.Google Scholar
  65. Morelli, G. A., & Tronick, E. Z. (1991). Efe multiple caretaking and attachment. In J. L. Gewirtz & W. M. Kurtines (Eds.), Intersections with attachment (pp. 41–51). Hillsdale: L. Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  66. Robson, S. L., & Wood, B. (2008). Hominin life history: reconstruction and evolution. Journal of Anatomy, 212(4), 394–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Rogoff, B. (1997). Evaluating development in the process of participation: Theory, methods, and practice building on each other. In E. Amsel & K. A. Renninger (Eds.), Change and development: issues of theory, method, and application (pp. 265–285). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  68. Rogoff, B., & Morelli, G. (1989). Perspectives on children’s development from cultural psychology. The American Psychologist, 44, 343–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sear, R., Mace, R., & McGregor, I. A. (2000). Maternal grandmothers improve nutritional status and survival of children in rural Gambia. Proceedings Biological Sciences/The Royal Society, 267(1453), 1641–1647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Scelza, B. A. (2009). The grandmaternal niche: critical caretaking among Martu Aborigines. American Journal of Human Biology, 21, 448–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Soltis, J. (2004). The signal functions of early infant crying. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27(4), 443–490.Google Scholar
  72. St James-Roberts, I., Conroy, S., & Wilsher, K. (1998). Links between maternal care and persistent infant crying in the early months. Child: Care, Health and Development, 24(5), 353–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Tronick, E. Z., Morelli, G. A., & Winn, S. (1987). Multiple caretaking of Efe (Pygmy) infants. American Anthropologist, 89, 96–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tronick, E. Z., Morelli, G. A., & Ivey, P. K. (1992). The Efe forager infant and toddler’s pattern of social relationships: multiple and simultaneous. Developmental Psychology, 28(4), 568–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Tulkin, S. R. (1970). Mother-infant interaction in the first year of life: An inquiry into the influences of social class. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Psychology, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  76. Tulkin, S. R. (1977). Social class differences in maternal and infant behavior. In P. H. Leiderman, S. R. Tulkin, & A. Rosenfeld (Eds.), Culture and infancy. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  77. Tulkin, S. R., & Kagan, J. (1972). Mother-child interaction in the first year of life. Child Development, 43, 31–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Turke, P. W. (1988). Helpers at the nest: Childcare networks on Ifaluk. In L. Betzig, M. B. Mulder, & P. Turke (Eds.), Human reproductive behaviour: A Darwinian perspective (pp. 173–188). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Hubbard, F. O. A. (2000). Are infant crying and maternal responsiveness during the first year related to infant-mother attachment at 15 months? Attachment & Human Development, 2(3), 371–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Sagi, A. (1999). Cross-cultural patterns of attachment: Universal and contextual dimensions. In J. S. P. R. Cassidy (Ed.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 713–734). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  81. Wendland-Carro, J., Piccinini, C. A., & Millar, W. S. (1999). The role of an early intervention on enhancing the quality of mother-infant interaction. Child Development, 70(3), 713–721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Whiting, B. B., & Whiting, J. W. M. (1975). Children of six cultures: A psychocultural analysis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Wolff, P. H. (1969). The natural history of crying and other vocalizations in early infancy. In B. M. Foss (Ed.), Determinants of infant behavior IV: Proceedings of the Tavistock Seminar on mother-infant interaction (pp. 81–109). London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  84. Wood, R. M., & Gustafson, G. E. (2001). Infant crying and adults’ anticipated caregiving responses: acoustic and contextual influences. Child Development, 72(5), 1287–1300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Zeifman, D. M. (2001). An ethological analysis of human infant crying: answering Tinbergen’s four questions. Developmental Psychobiology, 39(4), 265–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Psychology and Special EducationGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations