The government has long promoted two-parent households as the ideal. Promoting marriage was part of President Clinton’s 1996 welfare overhaul. It was part of President George W. Bush’s Healthy Marriage Initiative. President Obama has a Healthy Marriage & Responsible Fatherhood policy.
Independent organizations, like the Brookings Institute, have also touted the importance of marriage. In a study published last December, a group of scholars from both sides of the political spectrum tied the rise in single-family households to rises in inequality and poverty, declaring that “Marriage matters.” “Marital commitment remains the principal foundation upon which most Americans can build a stable and secure family.”
As eloquently stated by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, a primatologist and evolutionary biologist who has written on the evolution of motherhood, “To say that a married mother with children is actually better off than a single mother with just one person taking care of the kids, well, duh, that’s obvious.”
The question–one that is still under-studied—is whether an extended network of support working together to raise a child is best for the family. Said Hrdy, “The studies have all looked at married versus unmarried or nuclear family versus single mother,” but there is little science on other nontraditional family structures.
The Evolution of Alloparenting
The relative lack of science on the subject is puzzling, because modern humans are likely the result of cooperative parenting–also known as alloparenting.
A recent study by Adrian Bell and others found early Homo species likely reared their
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