Human Nature

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 73–88 | Cite as

Parenting and Environmental Risk

An Examination of Child Loss and Maternal Involvement among Bofi Foragers in Central Africa
  • Hillary N. FoutsEmail author
  • Lisa S. Silverman


The majority of adaptationist models and research related to parenting strategies have focused on extrinsic or population-level risk as predictors of parenting. However, some researchers have called for greater consideration of cultural factors as well as on intracultural variation in parenting. This study uses a biocultural approach to examine intracultural variation in environmental risk and parenting among the Bofi foragers in Central Africa. In particular, we examine 30 mothers’ experiences of child loss as a predictor of variation in maternal involvement (proximity, holding, and affection) with their young children. Multivariate and univariate analyses indicate that child loss accounted for substantial variation in maternal behaviors and was predictive of maternal holding and the expression of physical affection. In sum, our findings indicate that intracultural variation in child loss is predictive of maternal involvement with young children and that a biocultural approach is useful in explaining this variation.


Biocultural perspective Child loss Environmental risk Foragers Maternal involvement Parenting strategies 



We are deeply grateful to the Bofi forager people for generously sharing their stories and enduring the long observations. We thank the government of the Central African Republic for authorizing this research. We also appreciate helpful comments from Brian Barber and Priscilla Blanton on an earlier draft of this paper and guidance from Barry Hewlett and Michael Lamb that informed this study. This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Child and Family StudiesUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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