Sarah Blaffer Hrdy and Meredith Small are two prominent writers and anthropologists who are engaged into the history of human development and try to investigate the problem of raising children in the modern society. There is not a single culture in the whole world that provides with the childcare in the same way as any other social community in another culture does.
Meredith Small gives a great number of examples of differences between the ways of raising infants by mothers of Japan, America, some African tribes and other communities, and shows that they are all unique. There is no clear answer to the question what is the right way and what is not.
Sarah Hrdy refers to the genetic closeness of human mothers to those of other primates like chimpanzees or African langurs. She compares the types of behavior in the society of apes and the human one. Concerning the question of general biological needs of human youngsters, there are two sides of one medal. Firstly, all infants have the same biological needs, for instance to hear their mother’s voice, to be fed, to be carried by their parents at any time of the day or night in case they cry, and to demand their parents’ attention. Another side of the medal is the issue of how mothers from different societies interpret these general and common for the infants all over the world biological needs. In their books, both authors investigate the reasons of every nation for their traditional attitudes and the ways mothers and other relatives perform the child caring duties. The differences between the authors and their works lie in the way of their comparison. Speaking about Hrdy, her work shows the parallel between human mothers and society and great Ape ancestors while Meredith Small gives the differences inside the human society concerning various cultures. However, both writers share the same thoughts about the primary needs of human children.
All children need protection, love of their parents and other relatives, and communication. Time spent by mothers with their children plays an important role in the success of the child when it grows into an adult. Relationship with their peers and attention of their relatives build happy environment for the proper development of children in the future. Despite different possible conditions in which the youngsters are up-raised by their families, there is a strong need for good and mostly positive emotions and attitude that will positively influence the future success of each infant. There are some differences though which the authors mention in their works. The attachment theory was developed first by professor Bowlby and he developed the idea that the feelings of attachment occur to people during the whole period of life and the person feels a strong need to have such an attachment. Most of these connections are made during the childhood and the acknowledgements of this research are closely interlaced with the analysis of family relations made by anthropologists Hrdy and Small. The stronger the ties between one of the parents or both of them and the child the more confident and calm the person will be in his or her adult life.
As for Hrdy, she takes into consideration just that part of the upbringing of the child that deals with attention and all necessary care from the side of the mother. She also makes it clear that contrary to the chimpanzee, langur and other primates, human process of up-bringing of the child involves all female representatives that can provide such care. The professor calls it “allomothers” who are all those people who can feed the child and protect him/her from any danger from the outside as well as entertain and give some sort of life education. Human mothers are not afraid to leave their child for the care of other mothers or grandmothers. Women of the same community share the responsibilities, so that all members have their portion of freedom and can dedicate some time to their personal needs or affections. Sarah Hrdy also mentions that the term grandmother is unique for the motherhood of the primate class. There is no kind of Apes that would leave their infant for the care of any other female in their pack. Humans are the total contradiction to this because grandmothers all over the world are glad to take care of their descendants. There is a peculiarity that a mother of a woman who has given birth to a child feels more affinity and has stronger emotional strings than a mother of a male who is a father of that child. It happens for many reasons. Biologically there is no proof that the child is the direct offspring of the male representative while the mother’s mother is one hundred per cent sure that it is her grandchild because her daughter is her own flash and blood.
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However, Meredith Small gives the different side of the problem. She writes that success of a child in the future is understood by different cultures in their own way. For example, mothers from some African tribes would never let go their child from their lap until the age of five. A child will be breastfed as many times per day as it needs, and it does not matter that it might be with a thirteen minute interval or that its mother might be working in the field at the same time. Some mothers prefer not to communicate with their child and not to play with it in order to teach him/her to be independent and strong in the future. Other cultures prefer to communicate with their children and mostly ask them questions, so that their offsprings grow smart and have a good advantage over other children who have not been taught to communicate and think that way. There are hundreds of cultures and nations in the world, and all of them have their own principles and traditions of upbringing a child to make him/her successful as an adult in the future. There are no right and wrong ways of teaching the kids to be smart, but there are such ways that are suitable for this or that concrete culture or nation.
There is a great influence of the way children are nurtured in their families on their success in the future. According to professor Small, there are various differences in the upbringing of a child in families from different cultures and nations. As for the most part of European countries, children are bred to grow independent and have a strong will power as well as not to have problems with sleeping by themselves in a separate bed and in their own room since the early childhood. The way of feeding also matters because there are constant debates among the specialists and feeding mothers concerning breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Most parents in European countries prefer to breastfeed their child till the age of two and a half or even three years while in the U.S. this period does not last longer than five months. The majority of the European specialists recommend to breastfeed infants because it improves their immune system and makes them protected from a great number of viruses in the future. However, there is another point of view that might be considered as important that through the breast milk a mother with HIV can share it with her child. It is a crucial point of those who are strongly against breastfeeding.
Fathers play a very important role in the upbringing of a child. Sometimes, they have even stronger connection with a child than its mother. According to Hrdy, there were a lot of experiments held in the field of researching the emotional state of fathers of the newborns. When fathers were shown the picture of a child with different emotional states, their responses were almost the same as the mothers’. There is an interesting fact that some fathers also felt some unusual feelings similar to the ones of a pregnant woman. It seemed that they cared too much about their child. There was another investigation showing that those males who were present during the process of giving birth to a child were more confident in their feelings and responsibilities towards a child and they were less afraid of taking the baby into their hands and taking care of it. Fathers are usually more active during the time they spend with their children. The activities they choose are more dangerous and not so well thought through as the mothers’. However, this is all that refers to human fathers but professor also researches the role of a male in the groups of langurs under her investigation. She pointed out that male representatives were more eager to fight with the current leader of the group and to take his place as well as to replace all the infants of the previous group leader by their own offsprings. This fact explains that all mothers feel a strong willingness to protect their child from any other male who is not the child’s direct father or relative. Meredith Small pays more attention to the parental influence and their cooperation while upbringing the child. She mentions that the infant is more eager to react to his/her mother’s or father’s voice and that the heartbeat becomes synchronized with the parents’ one the moment he/she appears to be close to them. The same never happens with another person even if the latter has a friendly attitude and smiles all the time.
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According to Hrdy and Small, the outside world plays an important part in the period of the child’s growing and becoming a grown up. Hrdy pays more attention to the so-called “allomothers” and emphasizes the role of a grandmother and another female who can be responsible of taking care of a child. Small compares different traditional ways of thinking of various nations about the process of upbringing a child. She points out that communication with the outside world is important for the child’s development in most European countries as well as in the U.S. The majority of the African tribes think that it is not necessary for their offsprings to talk to strangers and that they can perfectly develop through communication only with their relatives. Some cultures can easily entrust taking care of their child to a six-year-old and not be worried about its safety for the rest of the day.
In general, the works of both writers are thought-provoking and give a lot of issues for the discussion. There is a great number of questionable and debatable points in both of these works. However, they are equal in one thing: they show the variety of thoughts and points of view that may be considered true and effective for this or that community or culture. The most important thing that can be understood from both of these books is that children need protection of their mothers, fathers and other relatives. The emotional connection with the infants’ mothers is stronger than with any other member of the family. There are several points of view concerning the way of feeding the infants, communicating with them as well as reacting to their cries and sleeping in one or different beds. Some of the points of view were familiar, and some were totally different and new. There are some points of view that are quite questionable or need some more investigation, but it is quite courageous of Hrdy to compare people with apes and to say that all males who are not fathers of a child are eager to kill those children. However, it is her personal opinion, and it is up to readers to accept or to debate and question her explanation. All things considered, it is necessary to mention that people are essentially different from human primates, yet they have developed along the similar lines. Moreover, there is still a lot to be observed from other primates of the same kind. There is also plenty of time to carry out investigations and to make various conclusions that may cardinally differ from those stated in both of the works of these outstanding professors-anthropologists.