Foragers challenge key child-care theory.The Efe, a group of forest-dwelling foragers in Africa also referred to as pygmies (a term they dislike), may force psychologists to revise widely held assumptions about child care and infant social and emotional development.
Compared with youngsters in Western cultures and other hunting and gathering groups, Efe babies and toddlers spend an unprecedented amount of time away from their mothers in the care of numerous older children and adults, asserts a research team led by psychologist psy·chol·o·gist
A person trained and educated to perform psychological research, testing, and therapy.
psychologist Edward Z. Tronick of Children's Hospital A children's hospital is a hospital which offers its services exclusively to children. The number of children's hospitals proliferated in the 20th century, as pediatric medical and surgical specialties separated from internal medicine and adult surgical specialties. in Boston. Shared child-rearing of this magnitude challenges the basic precepts of attachment theory Attachment theory is a psychological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for discussion of affectionate relationships between human beings. Most of attachment theory as we know it today is derived from the work of John Bowlby and stresses the attitudes and or what Tronick calls "the continuous care and contact model" of child development.
Over the last 25 years, attachment theorists have generally argued that an infant progresses from a primary relationship with one person -- usually the mother -- or at most a few people to a growing number of social connections, with the primary relationship serving as a model for those that come later.
"Attachment theory has important cultural limits," Tronick contends. "An Efe child experiences several models of parenting and forms a sense of self that is radically different from that observed in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. ."
Scientists currently cannot identify core, universal child-rearing behaviors, Tronick adds. "We don't yet know the full range of human caretaking," he says.
The first phase of Tronick's study lasted from 1981 to 1983, when his team studied the social lives of 23 Efe children whose ages ranged from 1 to 3. The second phase, conducted from 1988 to 1989, examined caregiving arrangements for 17 Efe infants at either 5 months or 8 months of age.
In both studies, researchers first visited Efe camps regularly for five to seven months to learn the group's practices and accustom the foragers to observation by outsiders. Experimenters then gathered data on each participating child's daily activities for up to two weeks.
In the July DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY developmental psychology
Branch of psychology concerned with changes in cognitive, motivational, psychophysiological, and social functioning that occur throughout the human life span. , the scientists report that Efe infants and toddlers spent about half their time with people other than their mothers; for 3-year-olds, that figure rose to 70 percent. Contact with fathers remained stable for all ages, accounting for around 8 percent of the children's social activities.
The proportion of time spent with other children jumped from an average of 29 percent for 5-month-olds to 62 percent for 3-year-olds. Frequency of social contact with other adults held fairly constant at all ages, ranging from an average of 16 percent to 28 percent.
When necessary, Efe women breastfeed breast·feed or breast-feed
v. breast-fed , breast-feed·ing, breast-feeds
To feed (a baby) mother's milk from the breast; suckle.
To breastfeed a baby. the infants of others, Tronick notes.
Efe youngsters seldom find themselves alone, the researchers assert. For example, caregivers hold infants throughout the day, rarely putting them down. And 1-year-olds stay within sight or hearing range of about 10 people at all times.
Efe children maintain close emotional ties to many caretakers, comparable in intensity to those experienced with far fewer caretakers in other communities, the researchers say.
Although Efe infants deal effectively with multiple caretakers, Tronick says the data do not imply that early day care will proceed smoothly in the United States. Caretaking arrangements should feel natural and "culturally appropriate," he says. Efe infants get passed among familiar caretakers whom they see every day. Moreover, Efe caretakers were raised in the same way and consider it normal.
In contrast, US. children leave their homes to go to day-care centers day-care center: see day nursery. that often have a high staff turnover, Tronick says. Even well-trained staff often did not grow up in a day-care setting and probably experience some "disquiet" with the situation, just as parents often report unease or guilt at sending their offspring to day care, he maintains. As today's US. youngsters reach adulthood and bear children, they will approach day care with less ambivalence ambivalence (ămbĭv`ələns), coexistence of two opposing drives, desires, feelings, or emotions toward the same person, object, or goal. The ambivalent person may be unaware of either of the opposing wishes. , Tronick argues.
"I entirely agree with Tronick that babies can form secure attachments to any number of people;' says Tiffany Tiffany, Tiffanie (UK)
a semi-longhaired version of the Burmese cat. It has a fine, silky coat in many colors. M. Field, a psychologist at the University of Miami This article is about the university in Coral Gables, Florida. For the university in Oxford, Ohio, see Miami University.
The University of Miami (also known as Miami of Florida, UM, or just The U Medical School. She finds generally positive effects of high-quality day care, with youngsters forging close bonds with peers as well as with parents.
However, the Efe studies do not conclusively con·clu·sive
Serving to put an end to doubt, question, or uncertainty; decisive. See Synonyms at decisive.
con·clusive·ly adv. topple traditional attachment theory holds Jay Belsky, a psychologist at Pennsylvania State University Pennsylvania State University, main campus at University Park, State College; land-grant and state supported; coeducational; chartered 1855, opened 1859 as Farmers' High School. in University Park. Efe infants and toddlers may prefer some caregivers over others, he notes. The Efe live within large extended families and offer no clear implications for day care or child-rearing in the United States, he adds.
"But these are provocative data," Belsky says.