Trials and Tribulations of Childhood: An Evolutionary Perspective

Virginia Periss and David F. Bjorklund

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Family Psychology

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195396690
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Trials and Tribulations of Childhood: An Evolutionary Perspective

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  • Social Psychology
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All humans face a prolonged and arduous trek on their way to becoming adults. Humans, compared to other primates, are not only born relatively immature but also take a dangerously long time to reach adulthood. Here we review how our species was able to combat the many diverse challenges faced at different stages between conception and adulthood. We first examine the selection pressures that helped shaped humans’ unique ontogeny. We then examine the many costs associated with each stage of development, focusing in particular on how offspring have evolved specific adaptations at certain times in ontogeny to contend with these trials, all while having to master the many necessary skills needed to become a successful adult. In addition, we discuss the role of social support systems on development, including the importance of caregivers to children, specifically the mother, early in life and the influence of peers later in life.

Keywords: deferred adaptations; ontogenetic adaptations; benefits of immaturity; social-brain hypothesis; cooperative breeding; alloparents; parental investment theory; infanticide; risk-taking; young male-syndrome

Article.  15719 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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