There is a widespread assumption in the West that the nuclear family is the ‘traditional’ human family, particularly the ‘male breadwinner-female homemaker’ version of the nuclear family. In this talk, I’ll use a behavioural ecological perspective to show that this assumption is flawed. Instead, the available evidence suggests that humans are ‘cooperative breeders’, which means that women need help from beyond the nuclear family to raise children successfully to adulthood. For example, there is evidence from around the world that children who are cared for by grandmothers have better health and survival chances than those who don’t receive such care. At the end of the talk, I’ll discuss how the Western focus on the nuclear family is likely to lead to adverse health consequences for mothers, fathers and children. Throughout the talk, I’ll emphasise the importance of taking a cross-cultural approach to understanding the human family, and one which incorporates an understanding that evolutionary processes have shaped human behaviour.
Professor Sear is a demographer, anthropologist and human behavioural ecologist, and uses an interdisciplinary approach to understand human behaviour. In particular, she is keen to promote a greater understanding of evolutionary explanations for human behaviour in the social and health sciences. She works on questions of demographic and public health interest, including fertility, child health and mortality, and health inequalities; and has a particular interest in the family, and how family relationships influence these demographic and health outcomes.
Please e-mail Dr Justyna Miszkiewicz Justyna.Miszkiewicz@anu.edu.au to register and obtain Zoom link