Title: The Nature of Families Dieter and Netzin Steklis 1. Introduction a. We have studied gorilla families for a long time. b. It naturally led us to ask: what’s unique about the human family? c. Major thrust of Fathers, Parenting and Families research initiative d. We bring a cross-species, comparative perspective on primate families to this initiative e. Contributes to our understanding of what’s “natural” about the human family 2. What do we mean by “natural”? a. A result of evolutionary processes--adaptation b. Forces of Natural Selection produce adaptations-- functionality of traits 3. How do we determine what is adaptive about the human family? a. Comparative method identifies adaptations b. Adaptations functional connections between physiology, behavior, and ecology c. Two well-known primate examples illustrative of these evolved functional connections. d. In the animal world generally, seemingly bizarre mating and rearing behaviors are nevertheless natural or adaptive. (Some examples) 4. Let’s get clear what we mean by “family” a. Some definitions that can work for comparative purposes b. In essence: family system = mating system + rearing system 5. Examples of diverse primate family systems a. Our primate field course as a “tour” of primate family systems: (baboons, colobus, mangabey, chimp, gorilla) b. Could we learn what is adaptively unique about the human family by looking at humans only? Power of comparative method. 6. Adaptive rules of Family Systems: Fathering as an example a. Factors that determine the forms and extent of primate paternal care b. Life without father? (marmosets, gibbons and elephants) c. Was Titus a good dad or a cad?
7. The human family adaptive complex a. Some human families ought to be able to do fine without a father, butâ€Ś b. Single parentingâ€”father absence consequences (Bruce Ellis) c. Optimality and life history adjustment d. Adaptive norms and desired norms: is vs. ought 8. Take home message: a. Studying primates helps us understand human familiesâ€”The Nature of the Human Family b. Applying this understanding helps guide our personal decisions and social policy