Differences in Parent/Child Relationship: an evolutionary approach

In the past few decades the world evolved very rapidly and, logically, that affects children and their parents too.

If we look backward, children used to have to grow up way faster than they do now, becoming independent at a much younger age. However, even when we’re looking at older cultures, we can spot something very curious: even then, grandmothers had a major role in child care, leading us to think about how important they always have been throughout human evolution.

As a species, we have the longest childhood out of all beings we know, and lately, it seems to have become even longer. We are more and more dependent on our parents for more and more years. Why? Well, comparing ourselves with other animals, there are a few things to keep in mind. The average lifetime of a species seems to have a great impact on the length of their childhood, for example. Thinking of a species that have lots of children, with rapid growth, they’re usually species where most of the young do not reach the state of adulthood. In our case, it’s quite the opposite, and even more-so: we demand a great deal of investment.

Another important fact is the brain size. A bigger brain, that provides the animal with more skills is, in the great majority of times, equivalent to a bigger childhood, which is not that surprising since they need more time to learn all of the skills they can muster, so they end up needing their parents care and guidance for a longer period of time. Seems unfair perhaps, but, this learning will be fundamental for the evolution of the species.

Talking about our species, this is especially true. Our children need us and even after becoming independent adults, we still need our parents for so many things at times! Sometimes, it seems like we’re never truly independent, but in fact, we are independent way before we realize that, we just need some help from time to time, due the fact that there are so many skills to learn, that it’s impossible to know them all.

The human being is always changing and this change occurs really quickly because our world changes in the blink of an eye and each generation has new problems to face, new skills to learn and sometimes a completely different environment they’ll have to grow up in. So, as easily as we can learn what our parents can teach us, it’s even more easily that we try to find new solutions for emerging problems and new uses for tools. But these things require time and patience.

With all those changes, adaptation is the most valuable lesson a parent can give their child, and personally, I think that’s one of the reasons for the decrease of an authoritarian parenthood. Parents more and more, are aware that they don’t know everything, so instead of telling their children how to do it, they help them find their own way to a solution that works for them. This is the best way we have found to get our children to face the future without fear.

Attachment and Caregivers

Most of the studies about this are made with mothers, however, with women’s emancipation, many children have different caregivers during the day, sometimes not related to them or not even from the same culture.

A child will develop attachment for different people, with different personalities, points of view and reactions and that will have an important impact on the said child. They learn in different ways, from different people and that will have a reflection on them as human beings.

Also, nowadays, our children receive lots of information from so many different sources. Parents are no longer the only model. That will allow them to observe and realize how confident the adults are about something and compare different reactions in different people.

According to Gopnik “from a very early age, they make judgments about whether other people are credible and reliable” and that includes parents. This means that as parents we might have a harder situation educating them, forcing us to be more open and talk with our children instead of merely spouting “that’s it, because I said so”, as our parents or grandparents used to say to us.


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