The Adolescents Family Context Social Structure

What is known of the social situation of ancestral adolescents? Aside from the likelihood that hominid adolescents underwent intensive training for adulthood, several facts can be adduced about the social context of adolescence in our species. A virtually universal feature of not just forager societies but all preliterate human societies is the extended family, if we define it as three generations of family members dwelling together or nearby (Stephens, 1963). The great majority of ancestral adolescents' social contacts would have been with kin, including clan members of more remote consanguinity. Through the genetic benefit of kin altruism, this arrangement would have rewarded cooperation in endeavors such as hunting, gathering, warfare, and child care. In addition, because foraging communities tend to be small (hunting requires low population density), ancestral human settlements were limited to perhaps 60 individuals (van den Berghe, 1980). This would have meant that adolescents had few age mates and therefore socialized extensively with older and younger kin. Contact with neighboring bands and their adolescents, that is, members of the same tribe sharing a language, would have occurred occasionally.

This pattern of limited age segregation would have fostered adolescents' assisting and teaching younger children. In turn, there would have been ample opportunity for observing and being instructed by adults. In most preliterate cultures, children and adolescents perform important work for their families, especially instructing and supervising younger children (Cicirelli, 1994). As they grow older and more competent, they undertake increasingly challenging and valuable tasks, and their prestige increases concomitantly. For example, contemporary Mayan children become net producers in their teens (Kramer & Boone, 1999). In traditional cultures adolescents typically begin full-time work at age 10-12 and assume an adult workload at 14-16 (Neill, 1983). The labor contributions of children and adolescents, unique among the primates, are thought to have allowed women to wean their children sooner and hence to bear more children (Zeller, 1987).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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