photo by Paula Ivey-Henry

The study of early social development can provide useful insights into the psychological and biological adaptations to human sociality. Unfortunately, modern cultural influences on child-rearing practices are not necessarily adaptive and provide only limited insights into the developmental processes that interact with adult human social behavior and social structure. Together with Gilda Morelli (Boston College) and Paula Ivey-Henry (Harvard School of Public Health), I investigated the social development of Efe hunter-gatherers in Central Africa. Our analyses uncovered extensive early social integration of infants and toddlers beyond levels previously reported in other human societies. Interestingly, this early social integration occurred in an ecological context that constrains maternal investment and enforces strong dependency on others, indicating the adaptive value of early social bonding in human fission-fusion societies.

This work has thus far been published in an edited volume on the “Ancestral landscapes in human evolution“. Please click here for a PDF version of the chapter, and here for a published commentary. A recent review of the book provides further context and is available here.